KN: It's not anywhere as bold. We had the BPP newspaper and all kinds of badass tabloids. Today they censor you. To me, with a few exceptions, the Black press and other alternative media have fallen down on the job.
(ARTWORK BY KIILU NYASHA): From left to right: Ruchell Magee, George Jackson, Jonathan Jackson.
HB: Your recent Black Commentator article titled “Black August 2008” focused on the legacy of the late prison author and BPP leader, George Jackson, who was assassinated by guards at San Quentin Prison on August 21, 1971.
KN: I initiated a correspondence with George in early 1971, and months later, got a one-hour visit in the holding cell of San Quentin. I’ve met no one before or since more dedicated to revolutionary change. George’s book of prison letters, Soledad Brother, was a best seller, and his second book, Blood In My Eye, had just been finished at the time of his death, and was published posthumously.
George was one of the three “Soledad Brothers,” whose story began on January 13, 1970 when a tower guard at Soledad State Prison shot and killed three Black captives on the yard, leaving them unattended to bleed to death: Cleveland Edwards, “Sweet Jugs” Miller, and W. L. Nolen, all active resisters in the Black Movement behind the walls. Others included George Jackson, Jeffrey Gauldin, Hugo L.A. Pinell, Steve Simmons, Howard Tole, and the late Warren Wells.
After the common verdict of “justifiable homicide” was returned and the killer guard exonerated at Soledad, another white-racist guard was beaten and thrown from a tier to his death in retaliation. Fleeta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and Jackson were charged with his murder, and became known as The Soledad Brothers. A campaign to free them was led by college professor Angela Davis, and George’s brother Jonathan. The three were awaiting trial, with a mandatory death sentence if convicted, at the time of George’s death.
HB: You wrote that we should honor Jackson’s legacy by working to free two California prisoners: Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell and Ruchell “Cinque” Magee. Currently housed in Pelican Bay State Prison’s notorious “Security Housing Unit," Pinell has been in continuous solitary confinement since at least 1971. On January 14, 2009, Pinell was denied parole for 15 years, a virtual re-sentencing.