At the risk of losing my credibility by seeming juvenile or lost, I will provide an anecdote to prelude this post. Lost in a mirage of emotions sparked from a series of unfortunate events, a close friend provided me with a tarot reading. The reading was a compilation of guidance and foresight, however being the twenty-five year old I was at the time, the mention of a male figure in my future was of particular interest. For months I sought this individual at every turn. Every male encounter faced the following query of my conscious – could he be the man in my reading?
Perhaps more extremely than before the reading, door after door shut in my face romantically. I have been evaded, lead on and brushed off, proving this premonition to be anything but true. Then, out of no where I come across this name and book title in a Yelp comment. In my informal research on the San Quentin Prison. I was introduced to comrade George and his brother Jonathan. Being a graduate student in the Bay area at the time made me feel so close to their spirits. Born 17 years after his assassination, a number that bears an eerie connection to the age his brother was when his act of courage preceded his death-I am eternally grateful to whatever metaphysical existence lead me to comrade Jackson.
The man in my future was without a doubt you Comrade Jackson, placed in my path to fill the void of infatuation with direction and love for my people. Buried under a selective history benefitting from your exclusion, in finding you I have found myself. I have found a portion of my puzzle and fuel for my purpose – mama, I’m in love with a revolutionary.
As a millennial my infatuation should be stereotypically invested in Zac Efron or Augustus Waters, or maybe because I am a black woman (woman of color), Trey Songz, or Chris Brown. Yet, every time I close my eyes I see the fro and that boyish smile of late revolutionary George Jackson. Perhaps this infatuation marks a shift from popular culture to strictly culture-making my rock stars not Marlon Brando or Sidney Poitier but X, King, Garvey, Evers and now Jackson. My introduction to Jackson has enchanted me with an infatuation quite inappropriate-not in its execution but in its impossibility. As the world has seemingly forgotten a man I have only recently discovered, I dream to gain access to him. What to do when the man of your dreams is confined to your dreams? Not because he has yet to exist but because he ceases to exist. John Green cites the love of his protagonists as happening slowly then all at once, like how we fall asleep-but baby, this love was instant, intense and above all inspiring.
As a political prisoner George was placed behind bars for the same reason that he was kept behind bars. Jackson was placed in prison because his alleged petty crime deemed him a potential threat to society, and he remained behind bars because his ideology and dedication to the advancement of the disenfranchised was a threat to a racist and capitalistic society. Society is functional only in the ability of black men to conform not reform, and for this- George is most definitely guilty. His captivity was founded on ideas of deprivation, yet it has birthed a revolutionary mind and prolific writer. The prison system may have killed his humanity but this death fostered his metamorphosis-birthing a warrior and revolutionary. So despite in his assassination, Jackson’s activism and authorship worked to defeat the purpose of an institution designed to defeat him.
The echoes of my mind whisper his words, long after I have read him. To call the contents of his manifesto “words” almost seem an understatement, down casting the passion, vulnerability, strength and love seen in his delivery. Comrade Jackson’s legacy acts in accordance to a stolen legacy that has birthed this nation. While Comrade Jackson spent a decade behind bars, he has declared the astute observation that his incarceration began at birth. Thus perhaps his remarkability lies in his ability to sever the chains of ignorance, negating their existence through mental liberation. His feat intertwines with what I would argue is the central theme of blackness, which is to make something out of “nothing,” a curse into a blessing, the devil into an angel. Created not discovered, mental liberation reveals the chains as constructs,implemented for the sole purpose of control.
“ I haven’t seen the night sky for a decade” Jackson remarks in a letter from June 1970. Although relayed rather matter-of-factly, Jackson captures the deprivation of something that most of us have come to take for granted. Interestingly, this deprivation and void that Jackson describes encompasses the exact sentiment that I have regarding my ignorance of Jackson’s role in the prison revolution. To be unaware of the revolutionaries is to be unaware of the revolution and to be unaware of the revolution is to be unaware of the struggle.To live in the light without darkness is to be deprived of a complete experience- encompassing the highest level of oblivion. The convenience of oblivion performs to maintain what we have come to see as a natural order. The debauchery of oblivion lies in the injustice of continued oppression, as it is impossible to know anything without knowing yourself.
Despite whoever you think you are comrades, aspiring doctors, lawyers, professors, accountants-you know George Jackson. He is your father, brother, uncle and to a large extent he is you. He is the emblem of societal deprivation. He is who society let down, what is wrong with a capitalistic society. Referenced in his discussion of the assassinations of revolutionaries X, King and Newton, the strong produce anxiety in a society that functions largely on the presumed fear of blacks. Fear becomes the default emotion of this deprived of humanity. Jackson lost his humanity in the same way you obtain it, suddenly and without knowledge*. However, through this loss, Jackson allowed for his people to gain. This is demonstrated most directly through his brother Jonathan, who he would come to refer to as his ‘alter ego.’ Jackson’s efforts bred a scholar and the ultimate revolutionary, a young man who exuded the courage of a thousand lifetimes embedded in his youthful seventeen years. Together the Jackson brothers epitomize courage strength and most importantly solidarity as the enabler of victory. His writing and his life demonstrate the ultimate sacrifice and love for the people.
In a letter to the phenomenal Angela Davis, Jackson writes “I don’t believe in such things as free speech when it is being used to rob and defame me.” Well, I hope that wherever his spirit lies he looks down favorably upon my efforts to pay homage to his life, writings and contribution to our culture. I sincerely thank you Comrade Jackson for the tender experience of tomorrow, with the enlightenment you have created of today.
In his first book Soledad Brother, Jackson suggests that “ We die too easily. We forgive and forget too easily.” I cannot forgive a past or present that encourages me to disassociate from a past that has afforded me the privilege of all I have today. I can’t forgive a society that buries our heroes under volumes of “his” story, a he who never has my people’s best interest at heart ( unless somehow it benefits him or his story). I can forgive Jackson for the sometimes sexist and chauvinistic undertone evident in some of his book, as the strongest rays from his ego melt in the presence of fellow revolutionary Angela Davis. Through his correspondence with Ms. Davis, I have never been more proud to be a woman, or felt more empowered to be that certain and special kind of a woman. The kind who makes even the most assertively sexist males reconsider their stance. None worthy of admiration are without flaws, and even this flaw works to inspire.
So, mama I am love with a revolutionary. Zac Efron’s eyes and Trey Songz’s lips oddly equate to the physical appeal of the Jackson brothers, which crumble in comparison to the seduction of their intellect. They have conquered my mind across the boundaries of life and death, and become an impossible act to follow. To become enamored with a revolutionary is to become impregnated with his seed of change. With this proclamation of a blog post, I not only join the revolution, I become the revolution. Welcome to my blog…
* Taken from his June 1970 letter labeled ‘7’ in Soledad Brother