Friday, August 24, 2018
Marilyn Buck: "Black August"
On August 19th last year, I was in Washington, D.C., across the street from the White House with hundreds of other people from all over the country marching, chanting, speaking, and hanging out in support of the incarcerated people of America. Called the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March, it had been planned for more than a year and inspired similar marches and demonstrations across the United States that weekend.
I got to catch up with other prison abolitionists I know well but don't see often. I got to meet formerly incarcerated leaders in the struggle, some of whom had been heroes of mine for a long time. And I got to connect face-to-face with some wonderful and dedicated younger people committed to prison abolition going into the future. I had already been to both Cuba and Montreal that summer and had just begun a new semester of teaching, so I was beyond exhausted. But I felt strongly that I needed to be there, needed to say my piece, needed to represent those I knew that are gone now, needed to renew my vow, as it were, to fight till I can't no more.
I knew I would only have five minutes. So I read a rant I wrote in the 1970s and then a poem by Marxist revolutionary Marilyn Buck who spent decades as a political prisoner before she was released in 2010, less than a month before she died of cancer. Comrade Marilyn went to prison in the first place at least partly for her role in helping to spring Assata Shakur from prison in 1979. Thirty years later, her poem "Black August" appeared in Issue 13 of 4StruggleMag, a publication featuring the written work of political prisoners.
I am posting it here in memory of Comrade Marilyn, to look back for a moment to the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March last year, and to honor those who live or have died in the struggle to set themselves and others free. May those who are striking inside the walls across this country right now feel the love and the solidarity out here that is focused on them. And may we never forget that nobody's free until everybody's free.
by Marilyn Buck
Would you hang on a cliff's edge
sword-sharp, slashing fingers
while jackboot screws stomp heels
on peeled-flesh bones
"let go! die, damn you, die!"
could you hang on
20 years, 30 years?
20 years, 30 years and more
brave Black brothers buried
in US koncentration kamps
they hang on
Black light shining in torture chambers
Ruchell, Yogi, Sundiata, Sekou,
Warren, Chip, Seth, Herman, Jalil,
and more and more
they resist: Black August.
Nat Turner insurrection chief executed: Black August
Jonathan, George dead in battle's light: Black August
Fred Hampton, Black Panthers, African Brotherhood murdered:
Kuwasi Balagoon, Nuh Abdul Quyyam captured warriors dead:
Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, Ida B. Wells
Queen Mother Moore -- their last breaths drawn fighting death:
Black August: watchword
for Black liberation for human liberation
sword to sever the shackles
light to lead children of every nation to safety
Black August remembrance
resist the Amerikkan nightmare
NOTE: The photo at the top is of me at last year's march with my close friends Robert King and Albert Woodfox, two of the Angola 3. The photo at the bottom is of Marilyn Buck and co-defendant Mutulu Shakur in the early 1980s.