Today i am reflecting on the life and work of George Jackson who was assassinated 50 years ago this day. Jackson was a prison activist, revolutionary, writer, educator, care-giver, truth teller.
Jackson was killed under dubious circumstances attempting to escape his captors. The legality of the proceedings which placed him in San Quentin prison are still contested. Other incarcerated comrades of Jackson were either killed or tortured by the incarcerators after the uprising.
In Jackson’s words:
All black people, wherever they are, whatever their crimes, even crimes against other Blacks, are political prisoners because the system has dealt with them differently than with whitesGeorge Jackson, Blood in My Eye
To expound on brother Jackson’s words most of us have experienced first hand how america creates and recreates the conditions that maintain Black imprisonment as the status quo: we have kin who’ve experienced the school-to-prison pipeline, we have kin who are either formerly or now imprisoned, we have kin who have experienced the violence perpetrated by the prison industrial complex, we have seen with our eyes and grieve with our own hearts the generations lost to imprisonment.
Yet, we are, we Black folk, witness to the revolutionary genius that emerges from the prison cell: Assata, Angela, Malcolm, Mumia, George.
One of the most compelling and incisive analyses of Jackson’s life and work is given by Dr Joy James in a recent podcast . James describes the maternal care that Jackson engaged in as a means of supporting and sustaining other inmates. i encourage you to read Dr James’s George Jackson: Dragon Philosopher and Revolutionary Abolitionist. James articulates the link between Jackson’s work and the Attica uprising that drew inspiration from his resistance, linking them with the theoretical framework of The Captive Maternal
Prison is the most tangible domestic war zone. War zones are destabilizing. The Attica rebellion, on this its 50th anniversary, exemplifies the torturous growth of new bones by Captive Maternals. Those in Attica, an ungendered mass of captives (not all identified as male although the state classified them as such), maintained the prison structure as trustees and laborers. Under pain of torture, death, or boredom, they cooked meals, tended gardens, did laundry, nurtured, and nursed each other. They also loved, hated, befriended or violated others in their community of captives. Laboring under penal slavery codified in the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution., they stabilized the prison that preyed upon them as captives. Rejecting the early stage of contradiction in caretaking, they collaborated to organize a prison strike for human rights and dignity sparked by their outrage over the killing of George Jackson.Joy James, “New Bones” Abolitionism, Communism, and Captive Maternals, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/5095-new-bones-abolitionism-communism-and-captive-maternals
The Captive Maternal is also illustrated in Orisanmi Burton’s article Kinship, and Black-Masculine Care Work under Warfare. Burton’s work is based on a detailed ethnography of the experience of Black political prisoner Absolute, and in it Burton describes how Absolute — who has spent some decades imprisoned — nurtured the younger Quay.
For Absolute, Black people exist amid a condition of permanent intergenerational warfare. Prisons are sanctuaries of white supremacy that exist beyond the public gaze and are therefore a key domain of this protracted war. Through prisons, “old oppressive tactics” adopted from colonialism, chattel slavery, and Jim Crow apartheid can be deployed with no need to disguise, modify, or “filter” them through liberal notions of humanism.Orisanmi Burton, Captivity, Kinship, and Black Masculine Care Work
i reflect upon how the constant refrain in the murders of Breonna Taylor, Rekkia Boyd — they were not good enough to merit concern — the many victims of this war who were not worthy of concern because they were sex workers, because they were queer, because they were “criminals”, because to be honest, they were somehow outside the bounds of “acceptable” humanity.
Ultimately the legacy of George Jackson is the unrelenting struggle to reclaim humanity within landscape of this intergenerational war. Abolition in action.
What does revolutionary love really mean?
There are so many organizations working to birth a new world. Consider donating to is Critical Resistance