By Aswad Walker
We recently lost three giants: Nichelle Nichols, Bill Russell and Mary Alice. Alice starred in countless movies, one of which was the original “Sparkle” where she played the mother of three daughters trying to make it in the music biz. She was also the House Mother on “A Different World.” But more than that, she was greatly respected by her peers. Additionally, the “Lord of the Rings,” Bill Russell made his transition. If you measure greatness by championships alone, who was better? Russell was undefeated in “winner-take-all” games (11-0, NBA; 9-0, NCAA; and 2-0, Olympics). But more than that, it was his constant stance for Black people that made him a giant among men. And speaking of giants, it’s impossible to calculate the impact Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Upenda Uhua, had on the culture. Beyond being fine as “all-da-be-dayyum,” her leadership role on the Star Ship Enterprise during a late 60s opened the minds of countless Black boys and girls to finally see themselves “going where no one has gone before.” Safe passage, all.
If you haven’t heard, Brandon Calloway, a young brother spooked by police lights after allegedly running a red light, got out of his vehicle and ran to his girlfriend’s home. Cop, guns drawn, chased and caught him, bogarting into said girlfriend’s house, then beat the living sh-crap out of Calloway. We already know policing is broken, or not broken, and just functioning the way it was created to function—as a tool to keep Blackfolk in our place. Either way, something needs to change. Our white “cousins” say “Just comply and cops won’t get violent.” And we respond: Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, John Crawford, etc. Where was this deep well of cop “bravery” they display while beating and shooting unarmed Blackfolk, when those children in Uvalde were dialing 911 and cops stood in the school hallway for over an hour? Where is that training they deploy to de-escalate situations with whites who slap, spit on and cuss out cops, yet receive no bruises when they encounter us? We have to give our kids “The Talk” and teach them the entire police stop ritual just so they have a chance to not get killed over a traffic violation. Yes, Calloway ran. But do you blame him?
What do the start of the Haitian Revolution, the arrival of the first acknowledged Africans to the Americas, the Watts Riot of ’65, Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the Ferguson Uprising after the murder of Michael Brown have in common? They all took place in August. But the annual commemoration of Black August was founded by Black political prisoners, spurred by the assassination of revolutionary George Jackson by San Quentin prison guards (Aug 21, 1971). In protest, the brothers chose too fast and focus their readings on the plights of oppressed people globally. Soon, the practice spread beyond prison walls, and has come to commemorate the long list of Black History moments that fall in August, including the March on Washington (1963), birth of Marcus Garvey (1887), death of Emmett Till (1955) and more. Organizations and communities nationwide hold various celebratory and empowering events and gatherings, from book or topic discussions to community service projects and more. If this is the first you’ve heard of Black August, don’t fret. Just use this August to celebrate our people and our story.