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We take this opportunity to express our support for this historic event that supports prisoners’ human rights and to amend the 13th Amendment’s slavery exemption clause, so that legal slavery is finally abolished. When you consider the historic application of slavery in America, slavery in any form should not be tolerated in our society. For years we have struggled to defend the civil and human rights of prisoners both during our incarceration and upon our reentry back into our respective communities.
On this 37th anniversary of Black August, first organized to honor our fallen freedom fighters, George and Jonathan Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, William Christmas and the sole survivor of the Aug. 7, 1970, Courthouse Slave Rebellion, Ruchell Cinque Magee, it is still a time to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical fitness and/or training in martial arts, resistance and spiritual renewal.
When I received the sad and shocking news about our loss of Brother Hugo Pinell, aka Yogi Bear and Dahariki, I must say it felt like a big blow to my gut. In losing our Brother Hugo Pinell, I lost not only a brother, but a comrade, hero, motivator and educator. This bold and principled revolutionary will be sorely missed. However, Brother Yogi would want for us to push ahead in the struggle. That way we’ll be paying our beautiful brother a great honor.
On Aug. 12, Hugo “Yogi” Pinell (1944-2015) was killed in the California State Prison-Sacramento. Pinell was a comrade of George Jackson, W.L. Nolen, James Carr and other founders of the modern prison movement. He was released from solitary confinement in 2014 after 45 years, the longest any state prisoner has spent in solitary.
Hugo Pinell was assassinated at New Folsom State Prison. Like Comrade George, Hugo has been in the crosshairs of the system for years. His assassination exemplifies how racists working in conjunction with prison authorities commit murderous acts like this. We saw it on the yard at Soledad in 1970 and we see it again on the yard at Folsom in 2015. It comes at a time when prisoners are collectively trying to end decades of internal strife. Those who took his life have done a disservice to our movement. Their actions served the cause of the same oppressor we fought against!
Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll. By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo “Yogi” Pinell was assassinated Aug. 12. Prison guards celebrated on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.
Lifelong freedom fighter and field secretary and founding member of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party Ronald Elder Freeman made his transition on Oct. 8, 2014, after a long and valiant battle with cancer. Ironically, Elder Freeman’s brother, Roland Freeman – the two were born only a year apart and were, they say, as close as twins – died exactly a week after Elder as he was preparing to bring Elder’s ashes back to California.
I’m delighted to report the rally for Yogi Bear was just wonderful. Headlined “49 Years of Injustice: Release Hugo Pinell,” decrying Yogi’s 49 years in prison, 43 years in solitary confinement and 23 years in the infamous Pelican Bay SHU (Security Housing Unit), the rally was held Sunday, June 9, 4 p.m., at Freedom Archives, 518 Valencia, San Francisco.
After years of the abuse of authority by Adjustment Center (A/C) committee members and unit staff, a collective group of Death Row prisoners in the A/C will be joining in the statewide non-violent, peaceful hunger strike in July 2013 to demand that the warden of San Quentin use his power of authority to bring about positive change to prisoners housed in the A/C SHU.
A now famous quote from Ernesto Che Guevara says, “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” The legacy of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense has proven this repeatedly, even though the city in which the party was born continues to shower those who struggle within her boundaries with the most heinous disrespect.
Black August is a month of reflection on the losses that we as a people have suffered. It is a month of high elation and extreme sorrow – elation for our resistance, sorrow for our losses. For me, the three most significant events of August are Jonathan Jackson’s raid on the Marin County Courthouse in 1970, the August 1971 liberation of the San Quentin Adjustment Center by Comrade George Jackson and Nat Turner’s slave uprising.
When the Occupy San Quentin rally ended, San Rafael police followed us to the Richmond Bridge. I don’t know if it was Jabari Shaw’s orange CDCR jumpsuit that kept them wondering – Is he an escapee, one of ours? – or if it was the sheer magnitude of fearlessness represented by women like Kelly, a former prisoner who would not let her traumatic experience silence her. One brother got so full looking at the guards on the other side of the gate watching that he looked like he was going to leap the gate and hurt someone as he recalled the violations of his person over and over again. Members of All of Us or None dropped everything to embrace him when he left the stage.
We have just finished commemorating the 40th anniversary of the assassination of our beloved Comrade George Jackson. Not forgotten by us was the horrific massacre perpetrated by the state of New York at Attica. At the time, we were in the adjustment center at San Quentin mourning our loss and recovering from the brutality inflicted upon us in the aftermath of the Aug. 21 incident when the state murdered our comrade.
“Imprisonment is an aspect of class struggle from the outset. It is the creation of a closed society which attempts to isolate those individuals who disregard the structures of a hypocritical establishment, as well as those who attempt to challenge it on a mass basis.” – Comrade George Jackson, field marshal of the Black Panther Party
Black August is a month of great significance for Africans throughout the Diaspora, but particularly here in the U.S. where it originated. “August,” as Mumia Abu-Jamal noted, “is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”