Local organizer Ashley Daniels believes in justice for the people, by the people.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Liberation
What does Black August mean to you?
The annual holiday, Black August, is commemorated yearly to honor the fallen freedom fighters of the Black Liberation Movement, to put a call out for the release of political prisoners in the United States, to condemn the bleak conditions of U.S. prisons and to place emphasis on the importance of the Black Liberation struggle, according to https://www.theblkcollective.org.
For some who recognize Black August, they might also choose to abstain from food and drink for a period, up their physical exercise and political study and engage in political activities. The principles of Black August are: “study, fast, train, fight,” the website added.
Black August began after 19-year-old George Jackson was convicted of armed robbery in 1961 and sentenced to 1 year-to-life in prison – the criminal justice system had control over his sentencing fate, according to the website.
Jackson was an inspiration to other revolutionaries of his generation after he faced solitary confinement, extreme racism and more behind bars.
Today, Michigan Liberation’s Ashley “Ash” Daniels looks to inspirational figures like Jackson who have gone before her and, as a revolutionary in her own right, she advances the causes of her people.
The millennial Detroit native is involved in the nonprofit organization that tirelessly works toward helping residents and their families dealing with incarceration and for good reason – her family and future.
She was quoted as saying that her greatest hope with the criminal justice system is that “one-day poverty will not be criminalized.”
“That the police will be disenfranchised,” Daniels said, adding that she fights her fight so that she doesn’t have to worry if her daughter “will have a future bed in jail waiting for her” or if her teenage son “may never come home because he ‘fit the description.’ “
“My greatest hope is that freedom and liberation can and will exist. I hope I don’t have to die for it, but in turn, live for it in my everyday life and in the seeds that I planted,” Daniels said.
She told the Michigan Chronicle that, “We keep us safe” when groups like Michigan Liberation organize so that “we win” as a Black community.
“We are the voices for the voiceless,” Daniels said, adding that she sees the community winning when the decriminalization of substance use and mental health becomes a reality.
Daniels said that Michigan Liberation has been on the ground “since day one” with the unjust murder of George Floyd last year by attending protests and other activities.
“Some roles that we have played there [is] wanting to help ensure people’s First Amendment right to protest [was protected],” she said, adding that the organization helped upwards of 500 people with bailouts while documenting officers who she described as “abusing their power.”
“We were out there — we had some folks recording incidences; some folks recording names of folks to know who to bail out,” Daniels said.
Daniels, who often de-escalated situations to keep protestors safe, said that commemorating Black August should be known around the Black community and remembered so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
“Thirty to 40 years later we’re still fighting for the same thing,” she said, adding that it’s time to celebrate the leaders “we don’t hear much about.”
“We have Black History Month [where] we tend to hear about the same folks,” she said, adding that this month celebrates on-the-ground organizers. “People doing it for a lifetime [who] lost their lives due to state-sanctioned murder … imprisonment.”
Daniels, who learned about Black August last year, said that the struggles of yesterday are the present-day issues needing to be addressed now.
“My great-grandparents were enslaved, that was only twice removed away from me. These issues are not as far behind us,” she said, adding that the more people learn about this month the more relevant the recognition of Black community-centered issues become.
Daniels likened the commemoration to Juneteenth with a lot of people in the Black community “just becoming aware” that the celebration is to effect change.
“We have the power to change it,” she said, adding that it starts with community members loving and respecting each other and grows from there to the judicial system and beyond. “Empower the community and not criminalize them.”
For more information visit https://miliberation.org/.