“Black August But for Irene” by Sundiata Acoli

Black August But for Irene
by Sundiata Acoli

The following is the outline (fleshed out) of a speech i would have delivered for BLACK AUGUST had not Hurricane Irene shut down the Compound.

1. BLACK AUGUST originated in the California prisons to honor the fallen FREEDOM FIGHTERS: GEORGE JACKSON, JONATHAN JACKSON, WILLIAM CHRISTMAS, JAMES McCLAIN and KHATARI GAULDEN. All/most were killed in the month of AUGUST, in California in the ’70s.

2. BLACK AUGUST is rooted in the wanton killing of Black prisoners by California prison guards and in those prisoners’ resistance to that lethal repression.  On Jan 13, 1970, a prison guard shot down W.L. NOLEN, CLEVELAND EDWARDS, and ALVIN “Jugs” MILLER  in the  SOLEDAD PRISON yard then let them lay where they fell until they bled to death.

3. NOLEN was a prison leader who had agitated and protested the recent past killings of WILLIAM POWELL and CLARENCE “Dopey Dan” CAUSLEY, who was a friend of GEORGE JACKSON’S.

4. So what we had in California in the ’70s was a history of Blacks being blatantly shot down by prison guards with impunity. And when it came across the radio, 2 weeks afterwards, that the guard had been exonerated of the triple killing of NOLEN, EDWARDS and MILLER, the prisoners retaliated by throwing a guard off the tier.

5. Enter GEORGE JACKSON, as he, FLEETA DRUMGO and JOHN CLUCHETTE were charged with the guard’s killing and came to be known as the SOLEDAD BROTHERS.

6. California prisoners solidified around the defense of the SOLEDAD BROTHERS and created the BLACK GUERILLA FAMILY (BGF) which was co-founded in 1970 in the SAN QUENTIN Adjustment Center by BIG JAKE, ULYSSES and LITTLE JAKE GORDON, who were all BLACK GUERILLAS who GEORGE JACKSON had spoken of that he met. JAMES “DOC” HOLIDAY was an early BGF member. Also the BLACK PANTHER PARTY spearheaded a massive Defense Campaign for the SOLEDAD BROTHERS that united the many local, separate and disparate  Defense Committees across country into a massive NATIONAL PRISON MOVEMENT.

7. Enter JONATHAN JACKSON, younger brother of GEORGE, on AUGUST 7, 1970, when he brought a duffle bag of weapons into  a Marin county court and distributed them to trial prisoners: RUCHELL MAGEE, JAMES McCLAIN and WILLIAM CHRISTMAS. They bound the judge, prosecutor and 3 jurors as the media took photos, then herded their hostages into a van and headed out of the court complex. A SWAT team was waiting and riddled the van with bullets. JONATHAN, McCLAIN, CHRISTMAS, and the JUDGE were killed, the PROSECUTOR was paralyzed and MAGEE and 3 wounded JURORS survived.

8. JONATHAN’s weapons were traced to ANGELA DAVIS: a striking, Afro-ed, PhD Prof at UCLA , open member of the COMMUNIST PARTY and regular visitor and companera to GEORGE JACKSON. ANGELA had purchased guns for JONATHAN’S use as her bodyguard but he had used those same guns at the Marin County Courthouse which triggered an immediate nationwide “womanhunt” for ANGELA. Months later she was captured in NYC and returned to Marin County to face a Capital Murder trial with RUCHELL MAGEE. The COMMUNIST PARTY initiated and orchestrated a colossal Defense Campaign on behalf of ANGELA.

9. GEORGE JACKSON took about a year to finish his book: “BLOOD IN MY EYE” and on AUGUST 21, 1971, at SAN QUENTIN prison he returned from an ATTORNEY visit with a gun supposedly concealed under his wig which the guard discovered but he was taken back into the CONTROL UNIT by GEORGE and there 3 guards and two trustees (inmates who worked for the guards) were then killed.

10. GEORGE knew the officials were mainly gunning for him so he took a vial of liquid, purported to be nitroglycerine, and bolted from the CONTROL UNIT toward the wall. A tower guard shot him in the heel and the bullet was said to have traveled thru his artery to his head, killing him instantly. The vial of liquid turned out to be battery acid. A nationwide “manhunt” went out for the young White-radical ATTORNEY, STEPHEN BINGHAM, who was suspected of providing a gun and wig to GEORGE JACKSON.

11. GEORGE’S assassination stunned and outraged the revolutionary world. His legend was such that less than 3 weeks later ATTICA PRISON erupted in rebellion, partly in protest of GEORGE JACKSON’S assassination, in which they took 10 guards hostage. NY State Troopers killed 9 guards and 31 prisoners in retaking ATTICA; 43 people died altogether.

12. Meanwhile back at SAN QUENTIN, six prisoners: FLEETA DRUMGO, DAVID GIAPPA JOHNSON, HUGO “YOGI” PINELL, LUIS BATO TALALMANTEZ, JOHNNY SPAIN AND WILLIE SUNDIATA TATE, were charged and later tried as the SAN QUENTIN 6 for the killings and assaults that arose out of the takeover of the SAN QUENTIN CONTROL UNIT. SPAIN was convicted of murder and the rest were either acquitted or convicted of assault. Of the 6, only HUGO “YOGI” PINELL remains in prison; 40 years later.

13. ANGELA and MAGEE started trial together on Capital Murder charges but  couldn’t set horses on a trial strategy and their cases were severed. ANGELA was represented by an attorney at trial and was acquitted. MAGEE represented himself at trial and was convicted of lesser charges.

14. Thirteen years after the fact, ATTORNEY STEPHEN BINGHAM surfaced, stood trial on the gun/wig smuggling charges and was acquitted.
15. Over the years the Commemoration of BLACK AUGUST has spread to prisons all across the u.s., outside to the streets and even into other countries. Today BLACK AUGUST is used to honor those original Californian fallen FREEDOM FIGHTERS  plus notable Black events that occurred in the MONTH OF AUGUST plus other deserving FREEDOM FIGHTERS who fell at different times and places thru out our long struggle for BLACK LIBERATION and SELF-DETERMINATION. Prison observances during the MONTH OF BLACK AUGUST include fasting during the daylight hours, studying revolutionary works, especially those of GEORGE JACKSON’S, working out, wearing black arm/wrist bands and refraining from boisterous and frivolous activities. But wherever BLACK AUGUST is observed: whether inside, outside or overseas, it is a time to embrace the PRINCIPLES OF UNITY, SELF-SACRIFICE, POLITICAL EDUCATION, PHYSICAL TRAINING AND RESISTANCE.

My sincerest appreciation to San Quentin 6, David Giappa Johnson, for his Oct, 2011 S.F. Bayview article, “The 40th anniversary of the Assassination of George Jackson,” which enabled me to correct some inaccuracies in my original script.