Black August is a time to reflect on the rich history of Black resistance, resilience, and revolutionary struggle. As we honor this month, it’s crucial to highlight the key figures who have shaped the movement. 

Today, we have the unique privilege of gaining insights and stories from C-Note, a renowned prison artist and activist, who sheds light on these influential individuals.

California prison artist C-Note

George Jackson (1941 – 1971)

George Jackson was a revolutionary icon whose legacy continues to inspire. As a member of the Black Panther Party, and co-founder of the Black Guerilla Family, his writings and actions emphasized the importance of solidarity and resistance against oppression. Jackson’s book, Soledad Brother is a powerful collection of his letters from prison, illustrating the brutal realities of incarceration and the necessity of the struggle for freedom.

C-Note’s Insight: “George Jackson’s courage in the face of systemic oppression was unparalleled. His ability to articulate white prisoners’ willings to be the tip of the spear for a white oppressive prison administration, opened the public’s eyes to the pain and hope of our people from behind bars. Jackson’s life and tragic death remind us that the fight for justice often comes with great personal sacrifice.”

Jonathan Jackson (1953 – 1970)

Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson’s younger brother, also played a pivotal role in Black August history. At just 17, Jonathan attempted to free three Black Panthers from the Marin County courthouse, an act that ended tragically. His bravery and commitment to the cause symbolized the lengths to which individuals would go to challenge injustice.

C-Note’s Insight: “Jonathan Jackson’s actions were a powerful testament to youthful determination and radical love for our people. He was willing to risk everything for freedom, demonstrating the intensity and urgency of the struggle during that era.”

Angela Davis

Angela Davis, a prominent activist, scholar, and author, has been a significant figure in the fight for civil rights and prison abolition. Her arrest and subsequent trial for allegedly aiding Jonathan Jackson’s courthouse attempt drew international attention. Davis’s work continues to inspire movements for social justice and equality worldwide.

C-Note’s Insight: “Angela Davis is the most authentic out of everyone. She never left the prisoners’ rights movement. For decades, she was the lone intellect creating content on the Prison Industrial Complex. Since the 2010s, this movement has gained an air of sexiness, but Professor Davis has been feeding us intellect food for decades. Her intellect and activism have always been a guiding light for me. Her ability to connect the dots between different forms of oppression and her relentless fight for liberation is nothing short of inspirational. Her story is a reminder that the struggle is multifaceted and requires both intellectual and practical efforts.”

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, is another key figure in Black August history. Her autobiography, “Assata: An Autobiography,” details her journey through activism, imprisonment, and eventual escape to Cuba. Shakur’s story is one of resilience and resistance against systemic racism and oppression.

C-Note’s Insight: “I’m big on Black Love, and Black Love is struggle love. It always has been, since we were brought here to North America in those slave ships. Assata Shakur’s journey is a profound example of resistance, survivall, and community. I know most folks won’t understand how I equate homegirl and homeboy community love in a gang setting, and that’s because most folks ain’t never been in a gang. But Assata niggas, had her back. To this day, she is the reality of the phrase, “Strong independent woman.” Despite her vilification by mainstream outlets and the dominant culture, I pay that no never mind. You’re not going to erase from my memory how the mainstream press, and the dominant culture vilified boxer Muhammad Ali, minister M.L.K., only to give them their flowers in the end. Mark my words, she will be getting her wings in Heaven, and flowers here on Earth, in the halls and institutions of our great universities. Her words and experiences have taught many of us the importance of perseverance and staying true to the cause, no matter the odds.”

The Significance of Black August

Black August originated in the California penal system as a way to honor fallen freedom fighters and to educate others about Black history, particularly the struggle for justice and equality. It’s a month of reflection, study, and action, emphasizing the need for continuous resistance against racial oppression.

C-Note’s Insight: “Black August is a time to honor the past and draw strength from it for our present struggles. It’s a reminder that our fight for justice is ongoing and that we stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. Their sacrifices fuel our resolve to continue pushing forward.”

W.L. Nolen (1943 – 1970)

W. L. Nolen was a Black Panther, a co-founder of the Black Guerilla Family, and a significant figure in the movement. His life was tragically cut short during the infamous Soledad Prison incident, where he was killed by a guard. Nolen’s dedication to the cause and his untimely death highlight the dangerous and often lethal conditions Black activists faced within the prison system.

C-Note’s Insight: “For me, as a jailhouse lawyer, he brings the most inspiration. Despite the glory that comes with being a gladiator, he had the intellectual foresight to use the pen, rather than his fist. Hotheads want the immediacy of violence, cooler heads are going to keep the community safe, and play the long-range strategy of petitioning the government for relief. But most folks don’t know, that is the most lethal fighting tactic against those who have authority over you. But guess who knows this, these departmental authorities know this. That would be your Department of Corrections or any Police Department in America. And they ain’t playing that game. They want nothing to do with their authority being challenged, how they operate and do things, and being up under some sort of oversight. So if you the “N,” bringing that type of heat on their heads, that kind of unwanted attention, they gots to get rid of you. The prevailing school of thought within law enforcement communities is to be more of a monster, than the monster. So everything is overkill with them. But if you’re sleep, and not woke, or hip to the selective enforcement of our penal codes, then you will become numb to the minority abuses when it comes to the enforcement of the criminal laws in the United States. W. L. Nolen’s story is a stark reminder of the brutality Black revolutionaries endured. His commitment to justice and the ultimate sacrifice he made continue to inspire those of us who fight for change from within the prison system. Nolen’s legacy is one of unyielding resistance and courage.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a journalist and former Black Panther whose case has drawn international attention and sparked a movement for prison abolition and racial justice. Arrested in 1981 and convicted for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer, Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence. His writings and broadcasts from death row have highlighted systemic racism, the failures of the criminal justice system, and the struggles of the oppressed.

C-Note’s Insight: “We have to have our touch passers, and Mumia Abu-Jamal was given the baton from George Jackson to be the voice that has been a beacon of truth and resistance, even from within the confines of death row. His unwavering commitment to justice and his eloquent critiques of systemic oppression inspire many, including myself. Mumia’s story underscores the power of the written word and the enduring fight against injustice.”

Mutulu Shakur (1950 – 2023)

Mutulu Shakur, a key figure in the Black liberation movement, is known for his work with the Republic of New Afrika and his involvement in the acupuncture program for drug addiction at Lincoln Detox. Arrested in 1986, Shakur was convicted for his role in the 1981 Brink’s armored truck robbery. Despite his incarceration, Shakur continues to be a symbol of revolutionary struggle and resilience, advocating for the rights and dignity of political prisoners.

C-Note’s Insight: “Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s contributions to the Black liberation movement and his innovative approaches to healing and resistance have left a lasting impact. The coffers of prison beds are not filled with the well-to-do, or well off, but the poor. And poor communities have a whole host of health issues, one of which being the mindset of hopelessness. To combat or alter walking around in that mindset, we turn to mind-altering substances. Yet these fantasy, escape from reality, addictive drugs have a devastating impact on the individual, financially, physically, and mentally. Dr. Mutulu took the time out of his life to serve this community. He could have been off in Manhattan servicing the rich, but he didn’t, he brought his skill, knowledge, and expertise to the poor. His work in holistic health care for marginalized communities and his steadfast commitment to the struggle, even from prison, serve as powerful reminders of the many ways we can fight for justice. In this instance, health care justice. Mutulu’s legacy is one of compassion, intellect, and unwavering resolve.”

Kevin Rashid Johnson

Kevin Rashid Johnson, a prominent figure in the struggle for prisoner rights and Black liberation, is an incarcerated activist, artist, and founding member of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC). Johnson has used his art and writings to expose the harsh realities of prison life and advocate for systemic change. His work focuses on the intersection of race, class, and incarceration, aiming to build solidarity and raise awareness about the conditions faced by prisoners.

C-Note’s Insight: “When it comes to the new school, you’re not going to get someone as big as Kevin Rashid Johnson. It is fundamentally important as Black August has been snowballing into mainstream recognition, that our yung’ns be recognized. Kevin is not young, but because the leaders and to those in whom we pay homage are dead and gone, it is vital we become vigilant in recognizing the continuing roses that are growing from the concrete. Kevin’s relentless activism and powerful artwork have been instrumental in shedding light on the injustices within the prison system. His dedication to the cause, even while enduring the hardships of incarceration, is a testament to his unwavering commitment to justice. Kevin’s contributions remind us of the vital role that art and advocacy play in the fight for liberation.”

Minster King X (aka Pyeface)

Minster King X, also known as Pyeface, is an influential activist and artist (artivist), known for his work in the Black liberation movement and his advocacy for prison reform. As a member of the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist (NARN), which are Black Guerilla freedom fighters and Panthers, Minster King X has been deeply involved in organizing and educating others about systemic racism and the need for social justice. MinsterKingXPyeface served 24 straight years behind bars, 6 years in federal prison, and 18 years in California’s worst prisons. Upon his release, he became Co-director of the quarterly prisoner newsprint paper, California Focus. His work often highlights the struggles of incarcerated individuals and calls for comprehensive reforms to the criminal justice system.

C-Note’s Insight: “I have worked with this young man, both inside and outside the wall. His influence over how I have walked and the art I’ve created have been profound. I met this brother in solitary confinement in High Desert State Prison, California’s worst general population, maximum security prison. There, he introduced me to and solicited me into, K.A.G.E. (Kings Against Genocidal Environments). It would take a book to tell our history, but it was told at the Art on Abolition, curated by Freedom and Captivity in a ten minute video short, Abolish It. After his release, I asked MinKingX what his name means? He replied, “I’m both, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.” No one epitomizes the struggle behind-the-wall as a peacemaker than MinsterKingXPyeface. Prison administrations do not want peace amongst prisoners. Unity is power, and that is a power structure guards and prison administrations do not want. As a person who grew up in the Crip organization in Los Angeles, local law enforcement do not want the gangs at peace, because it hurts their budgets when crimes are low or down. Municipalities now have a justification to reallocate resources somewhere else. So the general public is clueless that law enforcement for their own job security will stir the pot of discontent to justify a higher portion of a city’s budget. 

MinsterKingXPyeface was a leader in advocating for Proposition 17 that restored the voting rights to felons and parolees in California. His advocacy for Pamela Y. Price helped her get elected as the District Attorney of Alameda County, whereby she has brought a progressive approach to the criminal justice system to that Northern California County, which includes the City of Oakland. His “Liberate Our Elders” campaign which focused on the release of the signatories of the “Agreement to End Hostilities,” a prisoner created racial peace agreement throughout the mainlines of prison, the county jails, and even the streets of California has led to the release of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, a signatory.

Let’s not let this jewel go unnoticed. On July 15, 2021, MinsterKingXPyeface was outside California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California, in support of Ruchell Magee, the longest serving political prisoner in the United States, who was having his 16th parole board hearing. MinsterKingXPyeface and other Magee supporters were accosted by prison security forces who had MinsterKingXPyeface arrested for being a parolee on prison grounds. The security forces also noted that MinsterKingXPyeface was a member of a Black Extremists Ideology (B.E.I.). The community rallied around MinsterKingXPyeface with legal representation and outrage these security forces was calling this man a Black Extremists Ideologue. At the arraignment and packed courtroom full of MinsterKingXPyeface supporters, his Facebook live video proved he was never on the prison grounds as these prison security forces alleged. In a twist of fate, all charges were dropped, including a parole violation and MinsterKingXPyeface walked out of the jail. 

Just for showing up for the longest political-prisoner in US history, and sole prisoner survivor of Johnathan Jackson’s ill-fated last day on Earth, the State scandalously opposed such support, even to the extent of lieing on people and having them arrested.

Conclusion

As we celebrate Black August, let us remember the key figures who have shaped this movement. Their stories, as shared by C-Note, remind us of the importance of resilience, resistance, and the relentless pursuit of justice. In honoring their legacies, we find inspiration to continue the fight for a more just and equitable world.

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