Commemorating Black August


Hannah Michelle Bussa

Kiara Williams and Bear Alexander at an essential items distribution with the Revolutionary Action Party. Photo courtesy Kiara Williams

Black August is a revolutionaries’ month that originated in 1979 by the Black Guerilla Family in San Quentin Prison to commemorate Jonathan Jackson and George Jackson.

Bear Alexander and Kiara Williams, two organizers with the Revolutionary Action Party, explained the significance of Black August.

“The way I view it, Juneteenth and Black History Month recognize Black people being emancipated and allowed into white society,” Alexander said. “Black August represents the resistance against our colonial system because we recognize the oppression and degradation.”

Alexander said many dates representing Black resistance and Black rebellion fall in August.

“This month we celebrate the births of some of our greatest ancestors, like Fred Hampton and Marcus Garvey, while we mourn some as well, like W.E.B. DuBois, George Jackson and a lesser known, Jonathan Jackson,” he said.

Though August includes these monumental dates, Alexander said the most important aspect of Black August is commemoration and solidarity with political prisoners.

“Some people confuse the significance of Black August by allowing celebration to be sufficient in our acknowledgement,” he said.

Alexander said Black August is a month to commemorate rigorously. While doing so, he said people should listen to Sundiata Tate of the San Quentin Six.

“He describes Black August as to ‘embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and resistance,’” Alexander said. “I implore every revolutionary reading this to read that thoroughly.”

Williams said she finds Black August to be extremely significant, and it pains her that not many individuals know about it.

“I look at Black August as a time to celebrate, honor and admire the trailblazing Revolutionaries that came before us,” she said. “Individuals such as Fred Hampton, Huey P. Newton, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, Assatta Shakur, Elaine Brown, Malcolm X, George Jackson, Jonathon Jackson, and more.”

Beyond celebrating her predecessors, Williams looks at Black August as a time of reflection and growth for Black Revolutionaries. She said revolutionaries can utilize this month to reflect on organizing strategies and the revolutionary work they do so that they can continue building the movement.

“I think that Black August allows us a time to reflect on what we’ve done and where we’ve been in relation to Revolution so that we can build upon that vision passed down to us from our ancestors and continue the much-needed work in relation to Black Liberation,” Williams said.

Alexander said he is commemorating Black August by fasting from sun up to sun down until Sept. 1.

“This is a small sacrifice in comparison to the sacrifices our ancestors and comrades who have been subjugated to political incarceration have endured [and are enduring],” he said.

Williams is commemorating Black August by reading literature of revolutionaries and Black liberationists. She said she is doing this to gain knowledge on these individuals—the work they did; the theories, ideologies, and practices they followed; and how they put these things into practice each and every day.

“I find it imperative for anyone who deems themselves a revolutionary to do the same,” she said. “Not just in August, but each and every day of the year.”

Williams said the more she learns, the more knowledge she gains.

“The more knowledge I gain, the better equipped I am to effectively and intentionally organize my people and my community,” she said. “The more knowledge I gain, the better equipped I am to actively deconstruct and combat the oppressive forces at play in our current society, as well as envision and then plan for a totally liberated society.”

Williams said that during Black August, it is important to uplift, praise, honor and give rightfully deserved credit to all of the Black women who paved the way.

Kiara Williams at a protest this summer. Williams is a grassroots community organizer. Photo courtesy of Kiara Williams

“Black women have always played such an instrumental and imperative role in Revolution, the Black Liberation Movement, and community organizing within the Black community as a whole,” she said.

She said behind many of the men in the movement, there was usually a strong and dedicated Black woman. Many of the men that are seen as the “face” of the movement had Black women behind the scenes making instrumental moves in the organizing taking place.

“However, we were not—and still aren’t—always given credit where credit is due,” Williams said. “And these sentiments aren’t meant to take away from the amazing work that Black men have done and continue to do, [but to] shine a light on how much time, effort, work, and literal blood, sweat and tears Black women have given toward the liberation of our people. Especially given the immense lack of recognition that is given to us for our sacrifices.”

She said when it comes to the Black community, Black women have always ensured their people and community are taken care of, fought for, and stood up for, whether they are recognized or not.

Williams said: “Black women are creators—we birth life into the things we touch. We are healers, nurturers, and caretakers. We are trailblazers, and we make what many think is the impossible become reality. Black women are love and we exude it in such a way that is so selfless when we have every right to be extremely selfish, given the way we are treated in this society.”

She said she gains inspiration and drive from Black women and the work they have tirelessly put into her people and communities.

As for RAP, they are practicing self-discipline and unity. Alexander said there have been no events yet because they are focusing on building up their infrastructure, but there might be one soon.

“Take this month of discipline and learn,” Alexander said. “Use the tools you forge throughout these days to build your infrastructure of resistance.”