MUHAMMAD: Time to Celebrate 'Black August'

Askia Muhammad | 8/21/2013, 3 p.m.
Askia Muhammad

Black August. On Aug. 13, 1965 in South Central Los Angeles, the Watts Riot — the most spectacular urban uprising in the 1960s — erupted. I was there in Watts, and even in my unsophisticated, un-politicized mind, I recognized it as a rebellion against unjust police brutality – old school “racial profiling,” if you will.

George Jackson’s career began as a petty criminal in South Central Los Angeles. He was convicted for a $70 gas station robbery. California’s now-unconstitutional “indeterminate sentences” allowed a judge to sentence him to prison for five-years to life.

In prison he was politicized. There, he was transformed from “Corner-boy to-Castro” because of his reading and study, and his sensitivity to the prevailing Black Panther Party and revolutionary literature available in the 1960s. Jackson’s continued denial of parole was nothing more than punishment for his political beliefs.

Black August. On Aug. 7, 1970 George Jackson’s 17-year-old younger brother Jonathan attempted to win the elder’s freedom, by taking a judge hostage. Jonathan was killed in a shootout. One year and two weeks later (Aug. 21, 1971), George Jackson was killed by San Quentin prison guards who said he was trying to smuggle a gun into his cell from the visiting room concealed in his Afro. Impossible. You try concealing a gun in your Afro. George Jackson was assassinated, pure and simple, during what’s now called: “Black August.”