August is well underway, and for those who are in activist circles, August is month of great significance.
Welcome to Black August.
Black August began in the 1970s to honor the life and legacy of incarcerated Black revolutionary George Jackson, who was killed during a rebellion in the San Quentin correctional facility; his brother, Jonathan Jackson, and other activists who advocated for prisoners’ rights, giving way to the rise of the prison abolition movement.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham is an educator, a writer and host of the podcast Undistracted with Brittany Packnett Cunningham. The lifelong activist joins this episode of Unpack That and starts by offering a bit of historical context into the month of reflection.
“A man named George Jackson was imprisoned in California reportedly for stealing $7 and he got a term of one year-to-life. He died in 1971 inside that California prison.” Packnett Cunningham continues, “Freedom fighters, resistance organizations, Black liberation organizations have really been taking the month of August, not just to honor the memory of George Jackson’s life, but really to challenge the multiple systems that killed him—the systems that continue to criminalize Black bodies, the system that continues to imprison and enslave, the systems that continue to render our communities unhealthy and over policed.”
Packnett Cunningham—who learned of Black August as a child—says that during the month, some observants discipline themselves by fasting or refusing to watch television. But reflecting on the meaning of liberation—a term that has evolved since the days of the Black Power movement—is critical.
Danielle Moodie, host of the Woke AF Daily podcast, says that our understanding of Black liberation has become more and more inclusive since the ideology was introduced decades ago. “[Black] liberation isn’t about just being liberated from whiteness and white supremacy. It’s about being liberated to live in your full and complete truth without the gaze of anyone.”
In this, The Root’s final episode of Unpack That, we explore the revolutionary spirit of Black August and the fight for a future when all Black lives matter. See the entire episode with Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Danielle Moodie above.