As we head into the thick heat of summer, Equality North Carolina is inviting our communities all across the state to join us in observation of Black August — a month-long period of remembrance about the history of anti-Black, violent, systematic oppression in this country and the giants and revolutionaries who laid the foundation for the work of our movements today.
Black August, like many parts of BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) American history, is not taught in public schools. As a result, you may not be familiar with it. But there’s never been a more crucial time for people from all walks of life to familiarize themselves with the histories and traditions of BIPOC experience in America.
Black August first officially began in 1979 following almost two decades of organizing and resistance by folks like George Jackson, James Carr, Hugo Pinell, W.L. Nolan, Khatari Golden and others while within the walls of the California penitentiary system. These men took it upon themselves to form a brotherhood that solidified a collective consciousness surrounding the unjust treatment of Blackness by the American judicial system, and the horrific atrocities they experienced as Black individuals enduring incarceration.
Black August began as a way to honor these fallen Freedom Fighters and others who lost their lives while fighting back against racialized violence and oppression within California prisons. Today, we also recognize the numerous people of color movements and acts of resistance that began within the month of August, including the March on Washington, the Haitian Revolution, Nat Turner’s Rebellion, Watts Uprising and so many others.
However, Black August is more than just a month of observation — it’s a celebration of the resilience of Black people in America and the sacred tradition of Black survival, particularly when it comes to our LGBTQ brothers, sisters and siblings.
Black and Brown LGBTQ people have always been at the forefront of the battle for civil rights, even if they didn’t stand in the spotlight. You only have to look as far as Bayard Rustin, an openly gay Black man in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s circle who taught Dr. King nonviolence and organized the March on Washington. Or Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman who is credited with throwing the first brick at the Stonewall Riots.
The movement for LGBTQ equality began as an uprising against police brutality at places like Stonewall Inn and Compton’s Cafeteria. Over half a century later, we are still coming together to resist oppression and fight against police brutality targeting the most vulnerable members of our communities through the Black Lives Matter Movement, with queer Black women like Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza leading the charge. Other prominent Black liberation organizations are also led by revolutionary queer folks who are changing the world, such as BYP100’s founder Charlene Carruthers.
This Black August, we’d like to make it known that Black and Brown LGBTQ people have always been here. From Miss Major to Alicia Garza, without the unrelenting passion and sacrifice of these giants, the movement to end racialized violence and oppression in this country would not be where it is today.
From all of us at Equality NC, we hope you’ll spend some time this month reflecting on the legacy of the LGBTQ rights movement and its position within the larger fight for civil rights in this country. Keep your eyes peeled to your inbox and our social media channels for more on #BlackAugust in the days and weeks to come.