Black August Resolution

On Aug. 1, the Black August Organizing Committee led a coalition of community groups to Sacramento City Hall to deliver a resolution recognizing the month as Black August. BAOC along with Anti-Police Terror Project Sacramento, Sacramento for Black Lives (formerly Black Lives Matter Sacramento), the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and members of the community gathered at 9 a.m. before entering and delivering the resolution. They are calling for a unanimous vote in favor of the resolution at the City Council meeting Aug. 20. – Photo: Jacques Johnson

by the Coalition of Black Sacramento for Black August

The Coalition of Black Sacramento for Black August presents this RESOLUTION request, standing in SOLIDARITY with the original Black August Organizing Committee to make sure the City of Sacramento is cognizant of the importance of Black resistance and how it has shaped the Black community with respects to the continued slavery via the Prison Industrial Complex. Since Aug. 20, 1619, with the arrival of the first documented slaves planting their feet on the soil of American land, Black resistance has been an important aspect of what it means to survive while Black in America.

We, the Coalition, are asking the mayor and City Council of Sacramento to proclaim the month of August as “Black August” to honor the efforts of those who fought against the building of the Prison Industrial Complex in California. With Sacramento being the capital of California, it would be a step in the right direction for the City of Sacramento to take a leadership position and set a precedent for honoring Black resistance.

Black August began inside of prison walls, when Black inmates organized around the importance of educating themselves on Black history and Black contributions to this country and asserting a position of power and respect for Black existence inside of prison cells and on every city block throughout this state and country. The Black August movement is deeply rooted in the Black experience, linking the historical context of that experience to the Prison Industrial Complex as a replacement for the system of slavery, where Black bodies were used as a commodity in a for-profit capitalistic venture.

The month of August is littered with several Black resistance events – from the Haitian Revolution to the Nat Turner Rebellion; from the Fugitive Slave Law Convention and the foundation of the Underground Railroad to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; from the March on Washington to the Watts Uprising; from the births of Marcus Garvey, Russell Maroon Shoatz and Fred Hampton to the deaths of W.E.B. DuBois and George Jackson’s younger brother Jonathan, killed while attempting to free the Soledad Brothers from prison. We celebrate Black August, commemorating the anniversary of George Jackson’s death while understanding his life as a revolutionary in a long and unbroken line of resistance and sacrifice of Black people throughout history, especially the documentation of the first slaves arriving in America.

Today, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, we, the Coalition are submitting this RESOLUTION request to the mayor and each City Council member of the City of Sacramento. It is our hope Mayor Steinberg and each City Council member votes in favor of this RESOLUTION at the Aug. 20, 2019, City Council meeting.

We are urging you to take a stand and lead in a movement to recognize how the prison system has polarized citizens in Sacramento, the state of California and throughout this country. When it comes to the plethora of oppressive experiences shared by Black people in America, California and Sacramento, we need to and should take the lead on what it means to be a voice for those who have been disenfranchise based on the color of their skin.

Black August and the Black August Organizing Committee (BAOC)

The Black August Organizing Committee, each year since 1979, has used the month of August to focus on the oppressive treatment of our brothers and sisters disappeared inside of the state run gulags and concentration camps America calls “prisons.” During this time we concentrate our efforts to free our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts and all other captive family and friends who have been held in isolation for decades beyond their original sentences.

Many of these individuals are held in the sensory deprivation and mind control units called SHU, or Security Housing Units, without even the most basic human rights. They suffer this torture and injustice for years and decades based on biased decisions of Prison Boards filled with ex-prison guards, prison officials and political appointees, whose agenda is to maintain the status quo. Under complete control, these individuals grow old, succumb to illnesses untreatable in the prison system, and eventually die.

According to the World Health Organization, research confirms that sollitary confinement has a negative impact on the health and well-being of those subjected, especially for prolonged periods of time. Those with pre-existing mental illness are particularly vulnerable, and solitary confinement can affect rehabilitation efforts.

“The month of August is littered with several Black resistance events – from the Haitian Revolution to the Nat Turner Rebellion.”

Former prisoners’ chances of successful reintegration into society following their release are jeopardized when solitary is used in excess. International human rights experts recommend solitary confinement be kept to a minimum and be reserved for the few cases where it is absolutely necessary, and again should be used for as short a time as possible.

BAOC has attempted to impress upon the prison system, political structures at the city, state and federal level, and those who commemorate Black August the urgency of fixing the systems that continue to fail our communities – from education, where the school-to-prison pipeline begins, to law enforcement’s over-policing and police terror tactics. They warn against the systemic perpetuation of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, criminal injustice such as excessive bail and sentencing, and the further criminalization of Black folks inside of prison walls.

Our communities have been stripped of our most vital resources due to policies like sharecropping, grandfather clauses, taxation without representation, loitering laws, lynching, burning of Black communities, redlining, gentrification, educational inequity, medical genocide, school-to-prison pipeline, excessive bail and sentencing and so much more – and the most exploited are our youth and elders.

Our youth and elders are the source of our strength, vitality and future building. The spirit of our youth represents our possibilities and our elders endow them with wisdom. The impact is wide reaching and deeply layered, reshaping our cultural existence, equating to the continued rise in body count tragedies experienced inside and outside of prison walls; hence the importance of connecting every prison cell to every city block.

Black August is a focal point for collective unity with the purpose of empowering Black people. Black August is a time of sacrifice and to fortify within oneself principles and habits that help us heal and grow as a people. If the Black community is supported in efforts to grow and heal, it will directly affect and alleviate the destructive patterns that have long plagued the Black community. Black August perpetuates better outcomes for Black communities, households and individuals living and working around Sacramento.

Black August resistance has its origins in the Black Movement behind California prison walls in the 1960s, led by George Jackson, W.L. Nolen, James Carr, Hugo Pinell, Kumasi, Howard Tole, Warren Wells and many other conscious men who ultimately made it safer for Blacks to walk the yards of California’s racist prisons. As years passed, the tradition began to include honoring our fallen freedom fighters and their accomplishments, including revolutionary wars of resistance and self-determination, such as Harriett Tubman’s Underground Railroad and the Haitian Revolution.

To address the microcosm of the problem, Black August also includes the commemoration of the lives and struggles of events that transpired at the Marin County Courthouse on Aug. 7, 1970, where Jonathan Jackson, James McClain, William Christmas and Khatari Gaulden ultimately died and the sole survivor, Ruchell Cinque Magee, was excessively sentenced to life, experienced excessive solitary confinement and remains in prison nearly 50 years later.

One year later, on Aug. 21, 1971, in what was a well-established setup, George Jackson was ultimately murdered on the yard of San Quentin by prison guards.

From cellblock to city block, Black folks have embraced with great pride and inspiration the Black August movement, as it compellingly connects folks inside and outside of prison walls, with great consideration to the fact that many innocent Black folks are loved and supported through the trauma of being intentionally stolen, enslaved and isolated from the greater community and “American Dream.”

Since the tragic events on Aug. 7, 1970, and Aug. 21, 1971, those associated with the Black August movement inside and outside of prison walls have experienced severe targeting, torture, revenge and silencing, with very few living to tell their stories. Ruchell Magee is enduring his 49th year in Corcoran’s maximum security prison, classic representation of what Black men experience under racist and oppressive policies.

Ruchell, like so many young Black men, was only 16 when tried as an adult when he was first incarcerated in the South. It was in the California prison system where he was railroaded again over a $10 bag of weed.

We have to look at and address the criminalization of Black men for petty crimes, especially those associated with the war on drugs that dates back decades before the “established” war on drugs. We have long realized the interest of the state and ruling class are one and the same; and the present political system exists only to balance the productive forces in favor of the ruling class and governing elite (information from George Jackson’s books, “Blood in My Eye” and “Soledad Brother.”)

Our ask

We are asking for you to activate your power in RESOLVING a historical problem experienced by the Black community, so we as a community can eradicate racist norms that continue to divide our communities and hold us all back from true progressive intentions. We need allies in positions of power to take a stand for the Black community right here in Sacramento; and those allies are the mayor and City Council members of Sacramento.

There is a powerful enemy in policy and it will take all of you standing your ground, setting precedent as leaders in moving the pendulum of true equity for all citizens of Sacramento. We urge you to vote in favor of RESOLVING to recognize the significance of August in honor of all that Black August has come to represent to the Black community and Black RESISTANCE.

Respectfully submitted,

The Coalition of Black Sacramento for Black August

Contact the Coalition of Black Sacramento for Black August via Allegra Taylor at allegrataylor@gmail.com.