Good Rising and Blessed BLACK August
Everything in life has its beginning…. its entry point…. its opening up…. its arrival. Today marks the initiation for captured Africans in the Americas on that journey. In late August of 1619, the arrival of some 20 or so Angolans at Jamestown who had been stolen from West Central Africa, then stolen from aboard the Sao Joao Bautista, and then traded, sold, or brought to indentured servitude is a pivotal turning point for African people in world history.
This was our entry point to some game-changing, life, legacy, and history altering ish… not to mention there was A LOT of STEALING going on and about to go down. So whether chosen or stolen/ borrowed or broken we landed in Jamestown and the trajectory of our existence has changed dramatically since that arrival.
Today also marks the first day of “Black August.”
“Black August is a month of divine 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.”
YES…according to Mumia Abu Jamal, one of the most recognized and significant political prisoners in the history of America, Black August is the reason why we continue to survive the Jamestowns, Watts’ and Fergusons. It is the collective, resilient thread of our refusal to go away and die quietly.
Conceptually, Black August is a time that is crucial for Black people of the Diaspora. The month of August is populated by a number of significant events, rebellions, resistance movements, birthdays, transitions, and solidarity based events that draw individual and collective attention to this time of year. Black August has also been used as a thematic galvanizer for hip-hop artistry and the Black liberation arts movement along with other mediums of communication, it is considered a time of reflection, “harambee”, Sankofa with purposeful projection, observation of fasting for solidarity, and delving deeper into scholarship to contribute to the progression of the people.
Brothers George and Jonathan Jackson, sit at the crux of the Black August and the New African resistance movement that exploded throughout the 1960’s into the early 1970’s and reverberates today as loudly as it did then. Born in Chicago on September 23rd, 1941, George Jackson migrated with his family to Los Angeles, California during his mid teens. He was in and out of juvenile confinement as a youth but was sentenced to 1 year to life in 1961 for a $70 gas station robbery that he was found innocent of. He still ended up serving time in solitary confinement while in prison. Jackson’s Soledad Brother is a text that features some of Jackson’s writings and prison letters condemning the institutionalized injustice of the very powers that incriminated him.
Jackson’s experience of receiving an unreasonable punishment for the crime he was accused of committing, his written account of his ideological perspectives, and his growth in political awareness continues to provoke conversations of influence to this day. He used his imprisonment as a platform for his voice to be heard and his critiques of a broken system were supported by his studies of Marx, Fanon, Zedong, Castro, and other global scholars.
Naturally, Jackson’s letters put me in the mind of Chance the Rapper’s 10 Day mixtape, an album that he wrote while he was on a 10 day school suspension. The mixtape was the catalyst for his emergence onto the music scene and was the foundation for his later, greater success. Similar to George Jackson, Chance used his punitive isolation to create written expression that would intimately connect folks to his ideas, viewpoints, and perspectives.
Sadly, Jackson’s younger brother, Jonathan Jackson, was killed at 17 years old while attempting to negotiate the freedom of his brother and comrades during a kidnapping/ hostage incident on August 7th, 1970. George Jackson was killed a year later on August 21st, 1971 during an escape attempt.
What does this mean for educators?
As educators, we use this information in a number of significant ways and consider how it might impact our school culture and classrooms.
We can juxtapose excerpts of Soledad Brother with Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow, School to Prison Pipeline literature, and an examination of the Restorative Justice movement. And as we see with Chance the Rapper, those students who are constantly isolated through suspensions and removal from classes have a story to tell, a story that George Jackson and many of our brothers and sisters in the system can relate to and have been telling since the advent of prisons.
Black Lives Matter also released their platform one year ago today. (Have you all gone over there to look at it because we stay repping it for a reason.) For the month of August we ask that you analyze the ways the platform and its initiatives impact the social awareness and agency of you and your students?
For example: To all my math teachers out there how does the Economic Justice Platform fit into your year long curriculum?
We demand economic justice for all and a reconstruction of the economy to ensure Black communities have collective ownership, not merely access.
From revising the tax code, (which 45 and the Republicans say they will be focusing on now) to financial support of Black institutions. In what ways, will what you be teaching this year be responsive and reflective of issues happening in our urban communities and allowing your students to solve real world problems.
How can we ensure that our students stay engaged in social activism and not become deterred by the numbing repetition of Black homicide at the hands of law enforcement without much consequence?
For Example: To all the Government teachers how does the Community Control Platform bring to life the ideas of direct democracy, federalism and civics. Have you ever wondered why 18-24 year old’s have the lowest voter turnout after 13 years of schooling? Some of us may accept that as just the way it is, or that young people just don’t care. But I ask you to think about why would they care if civics seem so removed from their every day lives.
We demand a world where those most impacted in our communities control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us – from our schools to our local budgets, economies, police departments, and our land – while recognizing that the rights and histories of our Indigenous family must also be respected.
The BLM platform on Community Control covers topics from direct democracy, the end of privatization of education and participatory budgeting.
Lastly, I have a question for you, do you believe as educators it is our job to ensure that activism and new century mediums (social media) should support the development of socially conscious beings? There is a strong case for using social media as activism. I mean check out all the ways Black Twitter impacts society. You peeped how Black Women are out here using social media to check HBO on their plans to further marginalize Black identity with their show Confederate.
You may not see that as activism and so you have to ask yourself, what is my definition of activism versus what are my students definition, do they even have one? And do you believe you have a duty to ensure their activism and your own.
It’s the 1st day of August, our “G” check. We all know that “summer is about to be a wrap so we need to get our life” because we know that September and all the other “legendary elements of the Fall” are right around the corner. And we here at CREAD are asking you, how will you approach this school year differently than you ever have before?
Counting down the days….
and with Blessings