Date: Thu, 5 Sep 1996 12:42:19 -0500
> S * IN ACTIV-L --> Database ACTIV-L, 8598 hits.
> print 08577
FORWARDED FROM ANTIFA INFO-BULLETIN
‘They will never count me among the broken men’: The political significance of George Jackson
By Jitu Sadiki, People's Tribune, Vol.23 no.10, 27 August 1996
Twenty-five years ago, n August 21, 1971, George L. Jackson, a 29-year-old leader of the Black Panther Party, died from multiple bullet wounds sustained during an alleged escape attempt from California's San Quentin State Prison.
In fact, as fellow inmates would later testify, Jackson died as he had lived, as a revolutionary struggling to save the lives of others.
The author of "Soledad Brother" and "Blood in My Eye" and a charismatic leader among prisoners and the oppressed generally, Jackson combined 10 years of participation in the prison struggle with the study and spreading of scientific socialism. In no small way, Jackson's persistent injection of anti-capitalist class consciousness into the movement was responsible for the emergence of a huge wave of prison struggles and uprisings across the country.
His assassination is said to have helped touch off the September 9-13, 1971 rebellion at Attica State Prison in New York, prompting the bloodiest suppression of an inmate uprising in U.S. history.
Today, as record numbers of Americans languish behind bars, as the political contours of America more and more resemble those he predicted with great foresight, George Jackson re-emerges as a towering figure in America's revolutionary legacy.
George Jackson lives!
LOS ANGELES -- I actually became aware of Comrade George a little over two years after his assassination. At the time, I was 17 years old and incarcerated in a segregated section of Los Angeles County Jail after a confrontation with police.
When I came back from court that day, they had moved everyone out in my section, separated by race. At that point, I was the only African in that section, but next to me was a Chicano brother who had a copy of Jackson's book, "Soledad Brother," and he gave it to me to read.
Years later, in September, 1976, when I was incarcerated in Soledad Prison, I began to find out more information about George and what had happened during that period and general knowledge of the prison movement. Conditions were extremely bad, prisoners really had no rights, the guards used their power to manipulate groups against one another, pretty much as they do now, but without the sophistication. The guards would routinely assault prisoners without repercussions.
Years later, when I ended up in "O" Wing, the same type of conditions were there, but just slightly more sophisticated. There would be open conflict between the races, and the guards openly facilitated that conflict.
In the summer of 1978, I was placed in solitary confinement. There were several incidents that happened that lengthened my stay and, in fact, there was a point where I believed I would never be released because of the commitment I had made to the struggle.
It was a quote from George that really helped me get through Soledad, Vacaville and San Quentin. He once said: "They will never count me among the broken men."
George Jackson, as well as others across this country, ushered in a period of reform in the prison system, one that only lasted about five years. When I came in, the remnants of what they had done were still there, but you could see that the prison administration had begun to re-establish the control they had had, pitting groups against each other, allowing in the flow of drugs as a means of control. They dismantled reforms that had taken place in respect to higher education, different culture groups, things that had provided outlets and education that would assure that when you left prison you would do something more productive with your life. All those things were being dismantled when I entered the prison system and were basically eliminated when I returned to prison 10 years later.
Today, it is definite that there is more repression. In terms of the prison struggle, the ruling class has been really successful in pretty much eliminating those who would be organizing. Most of them are isolated and separated and kept away from the general population. In the 1990s, I see a totally different mindset among prisoners. The type of prisoners who existed during George's time were awakened and conscious of the repression that they were subjected to. The mindset of the prisoners today is one of disorganization. Across the board, across racial lines, they have been so divided.
One thing that is important to note, related to the effort to keep the memory alive, is Black August, which began in 1979 to commemorate Khatari Gaulden, a San Quentin inmate who had been accused years earlier of murder while in prison and who had been acquitted, but was still kept in solitary even after his release date.
During a 1978 football game, he received a head injury and was refused treatment. Eventually, he was transferred to an outside facility that lacked the resources to treat such an injury and died as a result. So a year later, we started Black August to keep alive the memory of those who had died as a result of their commitment to the struggle. Today, it represents an entire month committed to study, discipline and the memory of those who died.
George Jackson's example is still relevant, and 25 years after his assassination, I feel it is important for people to revisit that period for guidance in what's ahead: an even more intense struggle because of the increase in technology and an overt effort to kill people's spirit.
In my office I have a poster-sized picture of Comrade George that I look at every time that I walk in, and any business related to the organization -- paying bills, etc. The logo on our business books is a picture of George Jackson, the date of his birth and of his assassination.
It's important to me as an individual to keep the memory of what he represented in front of me at all times.
[The author is president of BACDO, the Black Awareness Community Development Organization, working extensively with current and former California prisoners.]
This article originated in the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE (Online Edition, Vol. 23 No. 10 / September, 1996; P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, email@example.com or WWW:
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