Black August: The marathon continues!

Larry-Marshall-at-the-Washington-University-Prison-Education-Project-commencement-ceremony-at-Missouri-Eastern-Correctional-Center-in-Pacific-Mo.-by-Joe-Angeles-052522, Black August: The marathon continues!, Behind Enemy Lines
Larry Marshall, who earned a bachelor’s degree, was a speaker at the Washington University Prison Education Project’s 2022 commencement ceremony May 25 at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, MO. – Photo: Joe Angeles, Washington University

by Larry Marshall

Black August: a month traditionally started over 50 years ago in honor of George Jackson and his younger brother, Johnathan Jackson, both killed during two different acts of resistance against the carceral state. August continued to gain significant meaning for many as additional stories of courageous attempts towards liberation surfaced. 

Many freedom fighters throughout America’s sordid history sacrificed life and limb during the month of August. Simply put: Black August is a commemoration of history. A commemoration of OUR ancestors, such as Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Gabril Prosser, Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey and numerous others who dared to sacrifice their lives for the betterment of mankind. 

Over the last 13 years of my incarceration, I myself have found strength and purpose from participating in Black August, and it has been a transformative and a constant beacon of hope in my life. However, over the last few years, Black August has slowly but surely evolved even further in its meaning with its connection to education.

This Black August – my last Black August behind enemy lines – it is important for me to indulge in one last thought-provoking intellectual conversation about what the spirit of Black August means to me, and what it should mean to all those who call themselves liberation or freedom fighters. In addition, this essay will inform the uninformed of the power of education and how it is effective at changing lives in the most transformative ways. 

Black August is more than just a physical commitment – working-out, fasting, militant training – it is a quintessential commitment to self-discovery, self-education and the education of others, particularly for Black prisoners. Black August is, and should be, a constant way of life.

Before being educated at one of the most prestigious schools in America, I followed in the footsteps of Comrade George and educated myself in the art of being able to blend political radicalism, physical militancy and cultural ideology into an art form of constructive realness in preparation for the next generation. 

The name George Jackson, one of the most polarizing political prisoners of all time, has stood the test of time for the past 50 years plus. Sentenced to one-year-to-life in prison for stealing $70 worth of goods from a gas station in 1960, a crime he vehemently denied, Comrade George spent the first part of his incarceration much like most newly incarcerated individuals spend theirs: playing basketball, gambling, fighting and at odds with staff as well as inmates. 

It wasn’t until he “transformed his Black criminal mentality into a Black revolutionary mentality” that he began to see the American system in a new light. Similar to Malcolm X, Comrade George educated himself with painful awareness and clarity to be able to combat the racism and classism he was now more enlightened to see through his studies. 

Unfortunately, this knowledge came with a price. With alarming charismatic qualities and the uncanny ability to communicate his perspective to the masses – particularly prisoners – Comrade George displayed characteristics that frightened the U.S. power structure, so much so that many argued that their only means of survival was to eliminate Comrade George permanently. 

Yet, Comrade George’s contributions, which have stood the test of time, are an example of what education can do for prisoners. Through his many years of brutal oppression at the hands of the state, Comrade George still managed to educate himself and publish two books. “Soledad Brother” and “Blood in my Eye” – completed days before his death and published posthumously – hold insight into the power of education and its transformative power at freeing the chains that to this day still bind many of US.

Before being educated at one of the most prestigious schools in America, I followed in the footsteps of Comrade George and educated myself in the art of being able to blend political radicalism, physical militancy and cultural ideology into an art form of constructive realness in preparation for the next generation. 

As an example, I operate a New Afrikan library that consists of material aimed at informing like minded individuals of the true nature of capitalism, imperialism and colonization. The library also consists of self-help material and literature that help people, particularly young Blacks, who find themselves in the carceral system. The books don’t tell you who to be, but simply give you tools and lessons that you can use to create a new path in prison. 

And in doing so, my hope, as was Jackson’s, is to plant the tree of freedom that I myself may never be able to enjoy the fruits of, but millions will be able to enjoy in the future. Black August is a month where WE draw strength and courage from OUR ancestors who met their deaths resisting. Black August demands that WE teach the next generation of warriors that precede US in the same way WE preceded OUR ancestors. 

To resist means taking OUR common criminality, through arduous education and study, and transforming OUR mindsets into a more productive consciousness of liberation and struggle.

It is from such a rich legacy of resistance that Black August was bred, committed to maintaining the legacy of resistance, vowing to combat the established state at every corner that WE see injustice. But, if WE are to succeed in continuing what OUR ancestors started so long ago, the formula is undoubtedly education.

In a nutshell, Black August is a month of resistance. To resist means taking OUR common criminality, through arduous education and study, and transforming OUR mindsets into a more productive consciousness of liberation and struggle. Then, and only then, can WE begin to attempt the transformation of others who still are afflicted with criminality. 

Fasting, physical training and education are integral parts of what Black August is. To capture the true essence of Black August, you must transcend from just the surface aspect of Black August and turn education into meaningful action the same way so many of OUR ancestors did. 

Black August isn’t just about George Jackson and OUR heroic ancestors. It is about arming OURselves with the educational tools necessary to create sustainable change that, as WE have seen over the past three hundred years, WE must demand and take for OURSELVES.

Whatever your creed, your economic or class status, religion, race or whatever your sexuality or gender, Black August is for those who dare to challenge the established state. It is for those who dare to dream big enough; to see real, concrete and tangible change for the betterment of OUR society. And to anyone reading this: Black August is for you.

I dedicate this piece to Maggie Garb, who for years fought tirelessly to bring back education into the penal system, because she knew how powerful knowledge could be. I owe her my entire academic development. And also, I dedicate this piece to Donald “Gihad” Belford, who showed me what a New Afrikan was and what the true meaning of resistance looked like and to never settle for reformism. May you both Rest in Power.

In solidarity, 

Kamau

Uhuru Sasa!

My name is Larry Marshall, 34, born and raised in Kansas City, MO. I have been incarcerated since 2009 and currently set to be released later this year. I came into the teachings of Comrade George Jackson and many other freedom fighters in the early years of my captivity. My lifelong dream is to create scripted visuals (screenplays) that capture and highlight the essence of what it means to be discriminated against in this country, while also emphasizing the need for the abolishment of mass incarceration and the release of all political prisoners.

Send our brother some love and light: Larry Marshall,1219773, Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, 18701 Old HWY 66, Pacific, MO 63069.