This is Comrade Pitt, Peter Kamau Mukuria, over in Red Onion State Prison in the state of Virginia. This commentary is titled “Black August,” commemorating the life and work of George Jackson—long live the dragon.
imagine being 18 years old, got arrested for allegedly stealing $70 from a gas station. You being unfamiliar with the legal system, your court-appointed attorney convinces you that it’s a good idea to plead guilty, because you’re receiving a life sentence. After you plead guilty, you then learn that this life sentence will range from anywhere between one year to life in prison.
This was the case with George Lester Jackson. During his incarceration, he spent the next 10 years at Soledad Prison in solitary confinement. In the midst of his unjust imprisonment, George Jackson, [inaudible] were falsely accused of murdering a white prison guard based from nothing more but circumstantial evidence. In fact, there existed strong evidence which proved them innocent. These three became known as the Soledad Brothers.
August 7th, 1970, George Jackson was transferred to San Quentin Prison. In August 21st, 1971, he was murdered by a prison guard. About three days prior to his execution, George Lester Jackson wrote a letter to his mother for her birthday in which he said, “Dear mama, I hope this year’s birthday finds you well. I’d like to be able to give you things and take you places, but I’ve been unfortunate in slow learning, but I’ve learned well. Perhaps next year, I’ll be able to give you a villa in Tanzania.”
Having predicted the possibility of being murdered by prison guards, in a letter he had previously written to his mother, he said, “If they kill me momma, I would just be dead, but I’ve never kissed their feet.”
On Saturday, August 21st, 1971 afternoon, his mother Georgia Jackson rushed to San Quintin to learn her son’s fate. The guards at the gate said to her, “Last year, we killed one of your sons, and today, we killed another. If you aren’t careful, you’ll have no sons left.” The other son whom they were alluding to was Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson’s younger brother whom he actually consider his alter ego.
George Jackson’s mother responded to the guards and said, “I have sons throughout the world wherever people are fighting for freedom.” When as by a news reporter of what she thought about what occurred, she responded by saying, “I think it’s the same thing that goes on in prison day in and day out. It’s nothing new. It just happened to be my son this time instead of some other black woman’s son or some white woman’s son they wanted to kill.”
Upon learning of his murder, Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton issued these words describing who George Jackson was and continues to be: “George Jackson is a legendary figure and hero. He set a standard for and inspired prisoners, political prisoners, for people to put his ideas into practice. And so his spirt became a living thing because his ideas lived.”
The significance of George Jackson imprisonment is that he transformed a criminal mindset into a revolutionary political mindset. Through his studies, he fathomed that all imprisonment is political, and it was this political consciousness that kept him incarcerated for 11 years, ultimately ending his life.
April, 1917, he wrote: “It falls into place. I see the whole thing much clearer now, how fascism has taken possession of this country. The interlocking dictatorship on county level on up to the grand dragon in Washington, D.C.”
George Jackson never pointed to race as being the problem. While he was well aware that race was an issue was nearly a symptom of capitalism used to pit segments of the population against each other.
This didn’t just apply to society but also in prison. In fact, here’s what George Jackson often remind his incarcerated peers: “Always telling brothers, some of those whites were willing to work with us against the pigs. When the race stop fighting, all you have is one [inaudible] group against another.”
No matter the brutal conditions of his confinement, George always dedicated his life to fight for the humanity and dignity of all people. He used his life to serve others and no amount of retaliation was enough to deter his focus. He did understand that his revolutionary attitude placed him in grave danger.
In his book, Blood In My Eye, he wrote: “I’m in a unique political position. I have a very nearly closed future, and since I have always been inclined to get disturbed over organizing justice or terrorists’ practice against innocence, wherever, I can now say just about what I want. Yeah, I’ve always done just about that without fear of self-exposure. I can only be executed.”
On August 21st, 1971, George was executed by prison guards. Having predicted his death, he had previously stated: “We understand the opposition uses the ‘kill the head, kill the body’ principle. And we sent safeguards around that sort of thing. I could die tomorrow, but there will be 2 to 300 people that will take my place.
Just as George Jackson’s mother said that she has sons throughout the world wherever people are fighting for freedom, George Jackson has had an impact on far more than 2 to 300 people. George Jackson never died. His ideas, his principles, his politics continue to live through so many of us. He was not just a phenomenal theoretician but a man of principles in action.
In fact, his favorite line by Franz Fanon was, “The time for talking is ending. The time for action has begun.” He also articulated how sacrifices were critical in a revolutionary struggle. On August 21st, 1971, George Jackson sacrificed his own life to save other prisoners from a massacre. Such heroic action was consistent with who he was and who he continues to be.
The month of August pays tribute to freedom fighters, a month which was born out of the prison resistance movement in the seventies. Historically, Black August has also had a deeper meaning. It was the month which the first enslaved Africans were brought to America, the Nat Turner Rebellion, the March on Washington, the birth of Marcus Garvey and Fred Hampton, etcetera.
To quote Mumia Abu-Jamal: “August is a month of meeting of repression, of radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice, of righteous rebellion, of individual and collective efforts to fre the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”
The month of August is also a time for us to reflect and commemorate the heroic African men and women who fought against all forms of injustice against people of color. The actions to take in commemorate to this murder, August 7th, we should fast all day in honor of Jonathan Jackson, and August 21st, in honor of George Jackson. Furthermore, August 21st through September 9th, prison resistance action will also be taking place in prisons across the country. Above all, it’s also of utmost importance to study and familiarize ourselves with studying our heroic martyrs and their contribution as we continue to struggle for liberation.
In conclusion, rest in power George Lester Jackson and our countless others murdered. Long live the dragon. This is Comrade Pitt.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.