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Black August Through the Eyes of Incarcerated Artist Donald C-Note Hooker

August 2nd, 2022

Black August Through the Eyes of Incarcerated Artist Donald C-Note Hooker

Timely article highlights from the world's most prolific prisoner artist Donald "C-Note" Hooker his experienced perspective on Black August including his visual and poetic works.

Black August was started as a way to draw attention to the struggles of African-Americans both inside and outside of prison walls, but even with its popularity on the rise, most people don't know the real story behind this movement that has now gone international. In an exclusive interview with Donald "C-Note" Hooker, the world's most prolific prisoner artist shares his experienced perspective on Black August including his visual and poetic works.

Black August - A Month of Solidarity

Black August - Los Angeles, 2016, C-Note

Black August is a month of solidarity, when people from all over join together to commemorate those who lost their lives inside prison due to state sponsored terrorism. Black August started in 1979 as a commemoration of Khatari Gaulden, who was killed the year before on Aug. 1 as a result of medical neglect by San Quentin Prison authorities. Instead of adding Aug. 1 to the existing days of observation that marked the deaths of activists like W.L. Nolen, Alvin Miller, Cleveland Edwards, and George and Jonathan Jackson, the prisoners standing in resistance to the massive California prison-industrial complex, declared the whole month to be Black August. While Black August as a month-long in-memoriam occurred after the 1978 death of Khatari Gaulden, it was inspired by the first in-memoriam of the August 21, 1971, Death of George Lester Jackson in San Quentin.

As Black August attempts to bring more of the masses into its conscious-fold, it has been co-opted to give broader meaning to an arduous, centuries-long struggle between White colonization of Black lands, and Black people. While Blacks did enslave other Blacks in the time of the transatlantic slave trade, what does that have to with the World Bank's enslavement of Africa through debt-loan usury schemes? Or racial-covenant schemes practiced by U.S. states not in the South to restrict where African-Americans could or could not live? Even the people's president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had New Deal funding exclusionary rules against African Americans.

What is clear however, is that Black culture has been under attack by White supremacy and capitalism for centuries. This resulted in Black people being forced into slavery, marginalized as second class citizens, discriminated against in housing and employment opportunities...the list goes on. In the past ten years, we have seen many examples of racism through police brutality against unarmed Blacks such as Michael Brown Jr., Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor...the list goes on. In fact these instances are so common they have become normalized within our society creating a social acceptance towards violence against Black bodies.

Although Mumia Abu Jamal has remarked that Black August (at least in the West) begins in Haiti, referring to the Haitian Revolution, which also began in August, we can not be blind to a practice in the United States of co-opting movements or moments. As noted by one African American writer, "As we attempt to engage more people in the tradition of Black August, we must remain steadfast in centering the struggle of political prisoners during this month."

Here, Artivist Rapper Min King X Aka Pyeface poses with a print of C-Note's 2016, first political work, Black August - Los Angeles.

Hip Hop Prison Art & Long Term Solitary Confinement

Reflecting on Black August and his life inside, a new book by C-Note will cover his life in solitary confinement, insights into hip hop prison art (his expertise), and his reflections on racism. This is an excerpt from BAR WORK: The Prison Experience Told Through Paint:

My Dilemma (2009)

9 in. x 12 in.

Wax on paper

Donald "C-Note" Hooker

My Dilemma is the artist's first painting. The artist brought in the Millennium in administrative segregation, the hole, as a result of a prison riot between prison guards and Black prisoners at High Desert State Prison. While in the hole, he began drawing; he was 34 years old. A decade earlier, the seed to be a visual artist was planted after reading the Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, written in 1645. The book informed him that occidental martial arts teach, painting with a brush or calligraphy are extracurricular martial arts exercises. As a student of martial arts, he knew he needed to develop this skill. When he was released out the hole and placed in transitory housing, he had these raps he had written. Writing poetry, songs, and short stories, were a hobby of his as a teenager. Now he was trying to figure out how to get his work out to the public. Does he send them to Death Row Records, where they may be trashed or used without credit? He reasoned, it would be more economical if he did drawings, as a picture has a thousand words. Later he would learn, poetry and painting were considered Sister Arts. The poet paints pictures with words; the painter tells stories with paint.

My Dilemma was done in 2009. It is a highly deceptive work of art. It was made with an ink pen and colored pencils. In 2002, he received a $13,000 life insurance settlement as a result of the death of his mother in 1999. He spent heavily on art books. My Dilemma was his coming out, after extensively studying the techniques deployed by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Another influential teaching guide was a book, From Pencil To Paint. The book demonstrated that pencil work can be developed to look like a painting, and a brush work can be developed to look like a pencil. The artist holds the opinion that colored pencils have not captured the Public's imagination of being a fine art, and classifies these works as wax on paper. He does so based on the medium used to bind pigment, oil for oil paintings, acrylics for acrylic paintings, and wax for colored pencils. My Dilemma was the artist's moment, like Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, or Edvard Munch's Scream. It was not a work he created on his own volition; he was driven to it. It was created out of a mental madness. He had spent several years scrutinizing and studying some of the great works in the Western World; especially Renaissance religious works. Works designed to influence not on a cerebral or mental level, but to affect one on an ethereal or spiritual level. But what he saw on the page did not match the reality of the scene he was witnessing off the page, the drab, dreariness, of the prison setting. My Dilemma was a work created not from inspiration, but from frustration.

The frustration that led to the creation of My Dilemma would manifest itself in the work. A rose placed onto the walkway of a prison cell block is an object that is foreign or alien to that environment. My Dilemma is full of such visual dichotomies. There is the classical versus the contemporary; the trained academia style versus the untrained outsider style. The pen work was chosen specifically to maintain the Integrity of traditional prison art. In other words, the untrained Outsider artist, while the rose was done in The classical academic technique of sfumato. There is the vertical position of the prison bars versus the horizontal position of the rose. The inanimate prison bars versus the animate rose. The static nature of the prison bars versus the dramatic nature of a nascent bloom.

C-Note Speaks About His Artistic Journey as an Artist in Solitary Confinement

Strange Fruit, 2017, Donald "C-Note" Hooker

As The King of Prison Hip Hop, I live by the credo, "The pen is mightier than the sword," and fortunately, I paint pictures with words, and tell stories with paint. So I write and draw your attention to the living Hells that go on behind prison walls, or electrified barbed wire fences.

"Prison culture and Street culture have always played a vital role in Hip Hop," says C-Note.

"One of Hip Hop's founding art forms, Graffiti, was started in prison. I call my work Hip Hop because in the early days of Rap, rappers were called news reporters. The American mainstream press did not cover the plight of the inner city, so our stories reached the public through Rap. Photojournalism can show you what it looks like to be locked up, but only the artist can tell you what it feels like to be locked up, and it's Hell. What mainstream media outlet is reporting these stories? With so many people in our communities locked up, predominantly for quality of life crimes, a real Hip Hop consciousness is right here in prison. So the next time you hear about the death nails of Hip Hop, tell'em nah, 'Hip Hop ain't dead; it went to prison. '"

Black August is when we as African Americans should be looking inward to better ourselves spiritually and mentally. Black August is a time for us to ask ourselves what we can do about our own problems that have been inflicted upon us by the dominant culture (White America) for 400 years.

In 2016, I created Paintoems. Paintoems- are poems inspired by paintings or drawings; or paintings or drawings inspired by poems. They are combined together as a single work of Digital art. All paintoems are classified as Creative Commons (CC). This means the public has the right to freely use these works as long as the artist or artists are acknowledged.

Strange Fruit, is to draw attention to a report that I read in the October 2016, edition of the San Quentin News. It stated, "During an 18-month period in 2014-15, the suicide rate at the California Institution for Women (C.I.W.) was eight times the national average for women prisoners and five times the rate for the entire California prison system."

When the dominant culture refuses to utilize their media to highlight missing Black women or girls, you know damn well they don't care ape-shit what is happening to them behind-the-wall! That is the role of Hip Hop. That's Hip Hop consciousness. And these are the things and the lives we should be reflecting on during Black August.

While there are lots of ways of committing suicide, I think hanging is the most salient in our human consciousness. That being the case, this brings me to Strange Fruit. Strange Fruit is the title of a song, sung by Billie Holiday. The tenor of the song is about all this strange fruit hanging from these trees in the South. What was this strange fruit? Nooses around the necks of dead African-Americans. That's why the piece is entitled 'Strange Fruit.' That's why there's a noose around her neck. The poem is a play on the theme song to the CBS television show Green Acres. Green acres is the place to be/Farm livin' is the life for me/Land spreadin' out so far and wide...'

I hold up Sandra Bland as our 21st Century's Emmett Till. Emmett Till, like Sandra Bland, was a fellow Chicagoan who went down South. Emmett allegedly in 1955 made a whistling sound in the general area of a white woman. He was only 14 years of age. He was bludgeoned to death. His mother, from the North (Chicago), wanted an open casket burial to which a Jet Magazine photographer snapped a picture of his gruesome remains. It was the shot (photo shoot) heard around the world. Well, I've been holding up Sandra Bland to go with the theme of this work. She is our 21st Century version of Emmett Till. What was her offense that caused her to lose her life? It started with a traffic stop; whose legitimacy is dubious at best. But an officer who physically feels the need to pull a motorist out of their car for smoking a cigarette? An activity that is associated with a high degree of stress, to which this encounter with law enforcement obviously was. But I think anytime a person comes in contact with law enforcement, and especially an African-American with a white officer, it is very harrowing; because an African-American never knows where this thing is going. And Ms.Bland allegedly or apparently committed suicide while in a jail holding cell for a nonsensical lane change violation, to which the officer was fired as a result of this incident. In certain activist circles, it's common to hear women say, "Prisons were not designed or intended for women."

This is no different than the isolation felt in those torture-chambers called long-term solitary confinement, and when the opportunity presented itself to put my body on the line for those men and women who were living through that, I proudly did so.

10th Anniversary of Prisoner Hunger Strike: Where Organizers Are Now - IPS Inter Press Service Business

The Importance of Freedom and Self-Determination

Incarceration Nation, 2017, Donald "C-Note" Hooker

Freedom is never free. That's why we celebrate Black August, when our ancestors declared their freedom from oppression and slavery. As C-Note says, "I tell you a tree that grows up in prison ain't gonna have many leaves."

The freedom to make choices and control your own destiny is something that cannot be taken away from you unless you let it happen. By sharing his thoughts and artwork, C-Note reminds us that we must respect ourselves to be able to respect others. We honor Black August by celebrating those who have used their voice to challenge society to be better -- because if we can't do it for ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to do it for us? In C-Note's words" "Our fight isn't over yet."

Just as slaves fought against their oppressors with prayer, so too are modern prisoners doing what they can to speak out against injustice within America's corrupt prison system. In addition to writing letters and speaking out on social media, some prisoners use art as a means of expressing themselves while behind bars. These men (and women) are often referred to as prison artists or incarcerated artists -- whatever you call them, there's no denying that these individuals have an amazing talent for making beautiful things out of trash. Take artist Donald "C-Note" Hooker, for example.

Here, Editor Nube Brown (L) of the Black National Newspaper San Francisco Bay View poses with a C-Note original artwork Incarceration Nation.

C-Note's Incarceration Nation seen high on a billboard in Silicon Valley, California, as headlined in the Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 - The Neo Jim Crow | Black Prisoner Invades Tech World.

C-Note's Incarceration Nation featured in the fashion line Mercy, by Fashion Designer Makenzie Stiles.

Status Quo vs. Speaking Out

C-Note's poetry is designed to invoke deep emotional passions to stir the writing of wrongs done today, or in times past. There is no other better time to do such a deep empathetic dive than Black August. C-Note's poetic thoughts are written as a stream of consciousness, primarily about his perspective on Black lives.

In 2018, C-Note created the paintoem Today We Are Sisters. A paintoem that admonishes Pro-life and Pro-choice advocates for unity to demand reparations for California women prisoners who were forcibly sterilized. Shortly after the 2021 release of 1-Artist; 1-Subject; 21-Works, a video on C-Note's artwork, which ended with Today We Are Sisters, the California legislation finally broke with its tradition of denying these women reparations and authorized $7.5 million reparations package to victims of California's history of forced sterilization.

His 2015 epic poem It Must End! (BLACK FEMALE BOYCOTTS OF BLACK MEN IN THE PEN), warned of the alienation by Black women towards incarcerated Black men were leading some to turn to psychotropic medication as a result of feelings of alienation.

His 2018 epic poem The World's Greatest Threat: Being Black With Self-Respect informed us, this was the greatest fear of the dominant culture.

In 2018, C-Note wrote the epic poem Can't Black Lives Matter Too???. It is a 700 plus-worded comeback poem to the political punditry that "All Lives Matter''. "All Lives Matter'' is a political reactionary cry to the political statement "Black Lives Matter."

C-Note's approach to "All Lives Matter" in his poem was to acknowledge the American tragedies to most of America's minority and ethic groups from Chinese exclusionary laws, mass lynchings of Italians, and the millions who died in Poland as the result of simultaneous invasions by Hitler's Germany, and Stalin's Russia. But ultimately, his poetic storytelling of 400 years of Black life in the United States did warrant the political statement "Black Lives Matter," without it being seen as an infringement on the rights or lives of other Americans that would justify their outcry by stating "All Lives Matter."

His 2020 poem Journey to Afrofuturism was recited at the 30th Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry. Speculative City Magazine paid him for the piece to be published in its Winter 2020 Issue, #10 Afrofuturism. Speculative Fiction critic Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews called it, "The 'true' path of afrofuturism," and at the conclusion of the 2021 fall event Afrofuturism Then and Now, held by the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), Journey to Afrofuturism was recited to close the event.

In what some are calling a blatant act of plagiarism, his 2003 epic poem THE CRIMINALIZATION OF OUR AMERICAN CIVILIZATION (This Is Not A Manifesto), which was recorded and published on SoundCloud in 2015, is the impetus behind conservative news outlet Newsmax TV's 60 minute news show The Balance, where host Eric Bolling at minute 51:13, recites his C-Note inspired epic Labor Day 2022 poem ERIC'S ODE TO BIDEN NATION.

Here, composer, pianist, vocalist, and Juilliard trained Samora Pinderhughes, who is known to hear music everywhere, as he weaves poetry, music, and theater together to address issues like prison reform, racial capitalism, and police brutality in his lyrics, poses with a C-Note Incarceration Nation Paintoem flier.

Urban Creativity Behind Bars

Decarcerate Now! (Protest Poster), 2020, Donald "C-Note" Hooker

Black August, named after a month in which African Americans were killed in disproportionate numbers during slave revolts and protests, is an ongoing call to action for incarcerated artists who are rarely heard from beyond prison walls. While C-Note's work is not explicitly political-very little of his work is-his words come from an honest place and highlight his personal thoughts on Black August: My heart goes out to those who have been lost due to racism and prejudice. I believe that if our ancestors did not fight so hard against slavery and oppression we would not be where we are today. His artwork gives us a rare glimpse into life inside a prison cell. It shows us how art can help transform lives, even when they're behind bars.

Here, California Prison Focus Editor-in-chief Kim Pollak with Watani Stiner, who spent 40 yrs. in prison, with C-Note's 2020 Protest posters, Decarcerate Now! and #SayHerName


Here, Silicon Valley Fine Art and Real Estate Broker Anna D. Smith poses outside of the Alameda County Jail with a C-Note #SayHerName Protest Poster.

Black August is a necessary time for us to reflect on how we've as a society contributed to a justice system that disproportionately places African Americans behind bars. C-Note is using his art to raise awareness about his personal experiences, and I hope you were able to learn from them as well.

C-Note's Advocate: Silicon Valley Fine Art & Real Estate Broker, Anna D. Smith
email: [email protected] | Phone: (408)502-0102 |
Donald "C-Note" Hooker | CDCR# K94063 | P.O. Box 4490 | Lancaster, CA 93539

Slavery Exception Clauses How Black August Informs Us

August 2nd, 2022

Slavery Exception Clauses How Black August Informs Us

Black August is a month long in memoriam to those who have died resisting inhumane treatment from the 13th Amendment's Slavery Exception Clause that allows local, state, and the federal government to enslave citizens with crime convictions.

Convict Slave Labor

On August 20,1619, the first English North American slave ship landed in Jamestown, Virginia. On August 2, 1776, John Hancock, the President of The Continental Congress, had boldly written his signature on the official version of The Declaration of Independence, and other delegates followed.

The Civil War in the United States began on April 12, 1861. On January 1, 1863, the 16th President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, "That all persons held as slaves within the rebellious areas are, and henceforward shall be free." The Civil War ended on
April 9, 1865, and on December 18, 1965, The 13th Amendment was ratified. The 13th Amendment which reads as follows:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
If someone were to tell you that slavery does not exist in the United States, they would be lying. It is explicitly written in the U.S. Constitution that there exists a slavery exception. If slavery can legally be practiced, who would make the best slave? Would it be women? Especially White women? No. The rigors of physical labor would not make women, especially White women, the most desirable choice.

Who would be left? They tried building this English speaking civilization with their Street people and prisoners and found that lacking. They next tried the Native Americans, but that did not work out. There was a reason that 12.5 million Africans we're imported to the New World to do manual slave labor.

So when the United States transitioned out of private slavery ownership rights to public sector slave ownership, African Americans had already proven to be a known commodity for forced labor. This being the case, we just need to create new criminal laws to put them back in slavery.
These newly created re enslavement laws began immediately after the Civil War ended in 1865. They were given the nickname Black Codes and had their roots in the Slave Codes. According to Encyclopedia Britannica "The black codes enacted immediately after the American Civil War, were intended to secure a steady supply of cheap labour, and continue the inferiority of the freed slaves. There were vagrancy laws that declared a black person to be vagrant if unemployed and without permanent residence; a person so defined could be arrested, fined, and bound out for a term of labor if unable to pay the fine.

The following Section is from a 1865 Mississippi Black Code vagrancy law:

Section 5. Be it further enacted, that all fines and forfeitures collected under the provisions of this act shall be paid into the county treasury for general county purposes; and in case any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto shall fail for five days after the imposition of any fine or forfeiture upon him or her for violation of any of the provisions of this act to pay the same, that it shall be, and is hereby made, the duty of the sheriff of the proper county to hire out said freedman, free Negro, or mulatto to any person who will, for the shortest period of service, pay said fine or forfeiture and all costs.
This state law gave local control to the counties, the specific authority to target African Americans as a labor pool source for slavery. Riddle me this; involuntary servitude, indentured servant, forced labor, all these flowery words to in effect, avoid calling it what it is, slavery! To the man or woman who must labor at the point of a gun, these flowery descriptions don't mean a darn thing to them. The bottom line, it's slavery!

Nor are these targeted African American laws a relic of the past. In 1986, the U.S. enacted into law The Anti-Drug Abuse Act. It established a minimum mandatory sentence of five years for a first-time trafficking offense involving over five grams of crack, as opposed to 500 grams of powder cocaine. In other words, it enacted a criminal liability scheme that $125 of street value crack cocaine, is the moral and criminal equivalent of $12,500 of street value powder cocaine. A low bar entry of $125 to run afoul of federal law is targeting consumers, whereas a $12,500 price tag is targeting dealers.

This criminal liability scheme created racial disparity in sentencing, as it was known at the time of its enactment, African Americans were the consumers of crack, while White Americans were the consumers of powder. African American incarceration rates in federal prison went from 50 in 100,000, to 250 in 100,000. While there was no change in the number of Whites incarcerated in federal prison.

In a 2020 ACLU news article "A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform," it made the following observation:

Racial disparities vary in severity across states. Colorado has the lowest disparity, at 1.5, while in Montana, Kentucky, Illinois, West Virginia, and Iowa, Black people were more than seven times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. However, one commonality among all states— legalized, decriminalized, illegal — is that Black people are still significantly more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. And at the county level, there are places where Black people are more than 20, 30, 40, or even 50 times more likely to be arrested than white people.

These ACLU findings match the widely accepted statistical research; that White America's involvement in illicit drug activity are at the same levels of African Americans. But nevertheless, African Americans are treated more harshly in America's criminal justice system.

Convict Slave Labor Conditions

The following was written on a June 17, 2021, by Library of Congress librarian Lynn Weinstein:
While many believe that the 13th Amendment ended slavery, there was an exemption that was used to create a prison convict leasing system of involuntary servitude to fill the labor supply shortage in the southern states after the Civil War. Black Codes regulated the lives of African Americans and justice-involved individuals were often convicted of petty crimes, like walking on the grass, vagrancy, and stealing food. Arrests were often made by professional crime hunters who were paid for each “criminal” arrested, and apprehensions often escalated during times of increased labor needs. Even those who were declared innocent in the courts were often placed in this system when they could not pay their court fees. Companies and individuals paid leasing fees to state, county, and local governments in exchange for the labor of prisoners in farms, mines, lumber yards, brick yards, manufacturing facilities, factories, railroads, and road construction. The convict leasing fees generated substantial amounts of revenue for southern state, county, and local budgets, and lasted through World War II.

The Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TCI), one of the original 12 companies listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Index, was one of the largest users of prison laborers, mostly African Americans convicted of petty crimes. The number of convicts employed increased after United States Steel, the largest corporation in the world at the time (formerly known as U.S. Steel and USX), acquired TCI in 1907. The working and living conditions for these prisoners were brutal, as companies leasing convicts sought to house, clothe and feed them for minimal expense, with little interest in their survival. Justice-involved individuals were housed in rough board shanties unfit for the habitation of human beings. Torture and beatings were common, and countless individuals perished from abuse; poor and dangerous working conditions; communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and pneumonia; and from environmental conditions like contaminated water.

The nominal wages given to the prison laborers “drives honest labor out of employment and into starvation.” Many institutions in the late 1800s and early 1900s employed convict labor as a way to avoid strikes, shortages of laborers, and high turnover. Convict leasing undermines competitive labor markets and decreases living standards by reducing wage and employment rates among the free population. Government use of prison labor can distort incentives for incarceration, particularly in the for-profit prison system. The Coal Creek War was an early 1890s armed labor struggle across Tennessee that was launched against the state government’s convict-leasing system. The labor movement fought against it, because it resulted in suppressing employee wages and increasing unemployment. At the same time, manufacturers rallied against the system, because they could not compete against companies deploying cheap convict labor.
Forced labor took many forms, including convict labor, debtor’s servitude, and peonage. Self-made industrialists of the southern United States, including John T. Milner and James W. Sloss, built their wealth and industries on this labor. Much of the country’s infrastructure, encompassing roads, railroads, buildings, and levees, was built out of this abusive system. See, "The Convict Leasing System: Slavery in its Worst Aspects."

Others have noted that when the system of involuntary servitude, slavery went from a private enterprise to the public sector, the workforce was treated far better under the private sector system. In the private sector form of slavery, the slave was an investment. The slave was an inheritance. How many people see farmers who rely on the brut labor of the beasts of burden, treat those animals poorly? The well-being and survival of every slave, who did what they were told, was not something to be dismissed so lightly by the small or large business (plantation) owner.

On the other hand, public sector employees had no personal, direct profit-loss fiduciary interest in the involuntary servitude of the prisoner serving time to pay off some debt that is not owed to that employee. Also, these jailers weren't working, nor present when these convicts were working. African-Americans provide an insatiable and unlimited supply of human capital to private interests under this system.

The Cultural Criminalization of the African American Race

In order for such a system to pass the smell taste, African Americans had to be villainized throughout the media. Prior to the Civil War, when slavery or involuntary servitude was legal by private ownership, the media portrayal of African American males were of a docile lot, full of buffoonery, blissful ignorance, and juvenile angst. This all changed in Post Civil War America at the dawn of the Reconstruction era.

During the 10-year-period of Reconstruction, post Civil War, newly freed African-Americans gained political power through the vote, which led to the elections of Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce, as the first two African-Americans sworn in as United States Senators. In education, newly freed African-Americans established institutions of higher learning with the building of schools now known as Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs). It also extended itself into the free markets, prominently on display in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, also known as The Black Wall Street.

These visible displays of a competent African American race, and its resulting mobility were culturally shocking to Southern Whites. These were not their Negroes and had to be stopped; lest the 400-years of brutality visited upon African-Americans by the White race be boomerang back unto the Whites. This fear of a comeuppance, of revenge, was pervasive, and movies such as Birth of a Nation sought to put the genie back in the bottle.

During "America After Ferguson," a live televised town hall discussion which aired on September 26, 2014, on PBS, and hosted by Gwen Ifill, Dream Defenders founder, African American Phillip Agnes stated the following:

I can sit here with a great amount of empathy for George Zimmerman who woke up every day and saw black men were evil. Every single day since he was a little kid he woke up and saw on television, on cops, on the news, on his TV shows, and videos, that black men will feel with malice and had Criminal Intent in every movement they made.

It was quite apparent from the head nodding, that people found this to be a part of America's Black conundrum.

In the Journal of Human Behavior, "From “brute” to “thug:” the demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America," it made the following observation:

On April 28, 2015, President Barack Obama referred to a collection of citizens from Baltimore, Maryland as “criminals and thugs” in response to a question about the recent rebellion that broke following the death of Freddie Grayi while in police custody. The use of the term “thug” by President Obama became the zenith of the word's use to characterize primarily individuals and groups of Black males. In this specific case of the rebellion that began on April 25, 2015, public figures such as President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake both used the term “thug” along with many news reporters and others on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. During an interview with CNN, Baltimore councilman Carl Stokes, a Black male, rejected the notion of calling citizens “thugs” by the news anchor that pushed him to agree with the term to describe the occurrences of looting. Stokes responded by stating, “C'mon, so calling them thugs, just call them niggers, just call them niggers” (WSHH, 2015). Councilman Stokes was calling attention to the use of coded language that is in some ways explicitly and other ways implicitly used as a substitute for personally mediated racism, specifically the term “nigger.”

Convict Slave Revolts

On August 21, 1971, George Lester Jackson was assassinated during a prison riot at San Quentin State Prison. Allegedly, George was in possession of a gun that had been smuggled to him. The year prior, Jonathan Jackson, George's younger brother had been fatally shot while helping prisoners escape from the Marin County Courthouse. George was in San Quentin standing trial for the January 16, 1970, murder of Prison guard John Vincent Mills, at the California Trainig Facility, aka Soledad, along with two other men, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette. They were called the Soledad Brothers and accused of revenge killing Mills in retaliation for the deaths of three African American prisoners three days earlier by prison guard Opie G. Miller. Clutchette and Drumgo were acquitted by a jury for Mills' death.

Three weeks after George's death, prisoners at Attica in New York rioted. It left 44 people dead, 33 prisoners, ten prison guards, and one employee. In "Top 7 Worst Prison Riots in the History of America," it notes: "Riots in prison do not just happen. Most of them originate from inmates’ fury due to their living conditions in the prisons."

Movement to Abolish Constitutional Involuntary Servitude (Slavery Exception Clauses)

Since the streaming of Ava DuVernay’s documentary film 13th in 2016, Colorado, Nebraska, and Utah have written out of their state constitutions forced involuntary servitude. Twenty-one U.S. states have forced involuntary servitude written in their constitutions, 26 states do not, and three have removed their forced involuntary servitude from their constitutions. Colorado being the latest to remove their forced involuntary servitude from their constitution.

In a June 15, 2022, Vera Institute article, "Slavery Is Still Legal for Two Million People in the U.S.," regarding the movement to Amend the 13th Amendment's Slavery Exception Clause, they write:

People who have been convicted of crimes—especially in the unjust U.S. criminal legal system—remain worthy of dignity and human rights. Attempts to dehumanize incarcerated people and justify their mistreatment and enslavement are an ugly latter day reflection of efforts to dehumanize Black people and justify chattel slavery in the early days of this nation.
In 2022, in California, arguably the most liberal state in the union, the legislature rejected ACA3, a bill to remove their forced involuntary servitude language in their state constitution citing budget constraints. The main proponent of the bill was its highly liberal governor, Gavin Newsome.

Meaning of Black August

The grassroots organization Black Men Build sees Black August as a time to commemorate and honor the revolutionary spirit of those who came before. "It is an act of solidarity with political prisoners and prisoners of war within the hold of the State; it is a practice of discipline and sacrifice; it is a time to remember all those who gave their lives behind the walls and across borders, in the name of Black Liberation; it is not a time of celebration but a time of spiritual and political re-commitment."

While the clear abuse of the slavery exception clause has been historically and continues to this day to be targeted at African Americans, it is not solely an African American problem. Black August is not an in memoriam for African Americans, it is an in memoriam for all people, especially the poor, who nine times out of ten face a criminal justice system that is unfair and corrupt due to being underfunded and overwhelmed. Once inside one of the gulags of American prisons, they are forced to work demanding physical labor intense assignments. Refusal to do so will only extend one's stay behind bars.

I have chosen such a path to refuse to work inside the prison kitchen that I have recently been assigned to. For one, I am nearly 60 years old, and refuse to give my life force to a government that will kill prison guards, as in Attica, does nothing but make a mockery, or public disgrace of its treatment towards its wounded warriors. Not one prisoner that I know of said that slaving inside the prison has been viewed favorably by the parole board. So if this system (government) treats its own workforce, the men and women of law enforcement and the military like crap, what makes me think I will be treated any better behind breaking my back doing intense labor at 60?

It is suggested by Black Men Build that each individual is encouraged to observe and commemorate Black August by doing the following:
Eat healthy, natural, and nutritious foods, beverages, and meals to nourish your body and practice discipline;
Observe black August through educational study groups, educational events, entertainment, and commemorations;
Contribute funds and monies made from black August events to men, women, and youth in prison or prisoner legal funds;
Educate your family, community, and loved ones about what is happening to our people in prisons.

Donald “C-Note” Hooker
C-Note has written for Mprisond Thotz, California Prison Focus, Inmate Blogger, Prison Journalist Project, and many more… be sure to check out his essay, “Why Every Prison Abolitionist Should Know About Black August.”