During Black August, an Attica brother pays tribute to George Jackson − a commentary
By Che Nieves
On behalf of the Attica Brothers, I want to take this opportunity to extend our commemoration to all our fallen freedom fighters who have sacrificed their lives for the liberation of all political prisoners and prisoners of war. These fighters have fought to the very end to have our freedom fighters released from U.S. concentration camps.
This empire has for years been in denial of the reality that they have kept many of our fighters in prison for 40, 50 and 60 years, in which many have died as a result of their incarceration.
We, the Attica brothers in this month of August, want to acknowledge one of our fallen warrior brothers, George Jackson. Brother George was born on Sept. 23, 1941, on the west side of Chicago, Illinois. His father was Lester, and his mother was Georgia. He was the second of five siblings. His parents always provided a healthy, stable home life for their children. While growing up, George had a few legal encounters with the legal system, and as a result was placed in a children’s correctional facility for minor offenses.
In 1961, he was charged with stealing $70 from a gas station. As a result, he was convicted and sentenced to one-year to life and sent to San Quentin Prison. As time passed he met brother W. L. Nolen who began educating him on Marxism and Maoism. They became good comrades, and together they formed the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) in 1966.
The BGF theoretical base was Marxism. George once said: “I met Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin and Mao when I entered prison. They redeemed me.”
Consequently, his political prison involvement became a problem for the prison officials, and he was placed in isolation. This gave him more strength to study and write letters to his friends and family. It also gave him the chance to begin writing his books, “Soledad Brother” and “Blood in My Eye.” George and Nolen were then transferred from San Quentin to Soledad Prison. It was in Soledad Prison where eventually brother Nolen was killed by the guards in a racist riot between Blacks and whites.
While in Soledad he developed a strong comradeship with prisoners Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette. Later on, all three were charged with a murder of a guard. They became known as the Soledad Brothers. They were put on trial. George knew that this was a setup by the system to get rid of them. It was all planned. It was all lies; as always the system never tells the truth.
Spirit of George Jackson lives
In one of the court sessions [Aug. 7, 1970] that George didn’t attend, his younger brother, who was 17 years old, was there. His name was Jonathan Jackson, who was fully armed and determined to free the Soledad Brothers. He received help from three other comrades, James McClain, William Christmas and Ruchell Magee.
While in the Marin County Superior Court in San Rafael, California, they took hostages including the presiding judge, Harold Haley. Once they were outside they were shot, and the judge, Jonathan, Christmas and McClain were killed. Magee was shot but was able to survive and for the last 58 years has been imprisoned.
Brother George became well-known and became the Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party. On Aug. 21, 1971, a year after the Marin County courthouse massacre, brother George was accused by guards of bringing a gun into the prison. This was an excuse to murder him, which they did.
That very same day, those of us in the Attica prison were told about George’s death. The next day we organized the prison population for a hunger strike, which turned out very successful. The whole Attica population commemorated brother George. Nobody ate that day. Some of us who were organizers wore black armbands as a sign of resistance. His death gave the prison movement insights and strength to move on to higher levels of struggle, which led to the historic Attica Prison insurrection in September 1971.
Black August was born in 1979. The first celebration took place at San Quentin Prison, where George was first awakened to Marxism and the struggle of the working class.
The aim of people who observe Black August today is to raise consciousness and advocate for the release of all prisoners of war and political prisoners.
Brother George was a true warrior who believed in revolution and scientific socialism. His conviction was so strong that he dedicated his whole life while in prison to fighting for human rights. This is the same fight that we in Attica waged for so many years.
His books are very inspiring; and if you read them, you will never be the same. So let me end by saying free all political prisoners and prisoners of war. Let’s always support our prison movement. Attica means fight back now and always. Power to all the people!
The writer is a survivor of the 1971 Attica Prison Rebellion and a founding member of the Young Lords Party in the Green Haven and Attica prisons in New York state.