Traditionally, during Black August particular attention is paid to the necessity of exercise and self-defense. This particular emphasis comes from the life or death role those things played within the prison. In prison, everybody had to watch their back and be able to defend their lives at any moment. Even the guards were complicit in the chaos by creating situations where Black prisoners would be alone amongst white prisoners which made them vulnerable to attack. The guards would go so far as to pass real weapons and knives over to the white prisoners. George Jackson emphasized the importance of martial arts, particularly a style called Iron Palm, so that his comrades could protect themselves against armed assailants – be they other prisoners or the guards themselves.
Although being in good shape and capable of self-defense is important for anyone, and although this is indeed a life preservation skill. The odds of one being in a situation that requires these skills are relatively small for most of us. When was the last time someone tried to shank you? Do you have to watch your back in the shower? Does someone else have control over the locks to your room or home? These are things that you probably don’t have to worry about. So the question that I came to ask myself during this Black August is whether or not the example set by the comrades who developed Black August to engage in self-defense in close-quarters combat is relevant to our current situation on the outside, or should we be focused on other form of “self-defense”.
I pondered this as I visited a study group that followed a showing of Dr. Jared Ball and Bashi Rose’s new production: George Jackson: Releasing the Dragon (a video mixtape). One of the brothers present posed the question of whether we should start a martial arts group. Another brother asked what we should be doing to engage our children during Black August so that they will take on this tradition. I came to a conclusion that, I think, answers both questions. However, by no means do I intend this writing to provide the only answer to the question presented, but I do offer it as food for thought.
First of all, your martial arts training means jack-shit. The police are using robots to kill Black people now. The government’s present (and future) ability to surveil would make J. Edgar Hoover blush. A generation of kids will be able to use their mastery of video games like ‘Call of Duty’ as a job skill and get paid good money to shoot your Black-ass (or your Arab-Muslim-South Asian ass as the case may be) from behind a computer screen with a drone masquerading as a hummingbird. These maniacs are developing artificial intelligence and computer chips 10x more powerful than the human brain and no bigger than a quarter. Add to that the fact that the military (and police by extension) always have first dibs on new technology. Meanwhile, here we are in our study group talking about martial arts. We must be out of our minds.
Chairman Mao said that revolution comes out of the barrel of a gun. Little did he know as he penned those words, the gun was becoming obsolete. Good luck with your pistol.
We need to be learning computer programming – or more precisely, computer hacking. The battlefield is digital. We need to be learning robotics and other forms of technology and biotechnology. And by we, I really mean our kids. I’m certainly not about to learn computer programming. I can barely type. But these are the kinds of skills that can equip us to protect ourselves in a digital world. These are the types of skills that can equip us to go on the offensive in a digital world. Take for example hacktivist groups like Anonymous and platforms like Wikileaks. This is not to devalue other necessary skills that a collective of people need, such as agriculture, medicine, construction trade skills, etc. and yes, hand-to-hand combat and weapons training; this is just to point out that some of us have to stop playing small ball.
Jonathan Jackson attempted one of the most audacious acts imaginable, but what if he could have hacked into the California Department of Corrections database and made some… adjustments? In 1971, George Jackson wrote that “Revolutionary change means the seizure of all that is held by the 1 percent, and the transference of these holdings into the hands of the remaining 99 percent. If George were alive today and free, he very well may have tried to figure out how to hack into the banks and make it happen. Comrade George was about action – practical, well reasoned action… audacious action. That is one reason that he was so well respected by his admirers and feared by his enemies.