Here at MMI, August is Black August.
If you’re not familiar with the tradition, Black August is a celebration of Black activism and resistance in the U.S. It’s a time to acknowledge and pay homage to Black revolutionaries and incarcerated freedom fighters past and present. To activists who have and continue to work toward collective liberation.
Black August began in 1979 in response to the racism endemic to the American prison-industrial complex—specifically, as a way to honor and reflect on the lives of incarcerated Black activists Khatari Gaulden, who died August 1, 1978, and George L. Jackson, who died August 21, 1971. Although the tradition has roots in the 1970s Black Liberation Movement, it feels as resonant today as ever. Whether it’s the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (which has disproportionately impacted communities of color), police violence, or the everyday racism that underscores every social, economic, and legislative policy that governs our lives, we are constantly reminded that there is still much work to be done.
But it’s also important that we pause to celebrate the work and sacrifice of all the Black revolutionaries who continue to affect social change in Memphis and across the country—whether through music and art or through policy. This month, and every month. Below, we’ve compiled a few resources and links below to help you honor Black August, Memphis style.
Want to add to our list? Leave us a comment!
Black August - A Celebration of Freedom Fighters Past and Present
What Is Black August?
Study, Fast, Train, Fight: The Roots of Black August
The Memphis Memorial Committee Honoring Ida B. Wells: Visit the statue memorializing journalist and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
National Civil Rights Museum: The museum offers 260 artifacts, more than 40 new films, oral histories, interactive media and external listening posts that guide visitors through five centuries of history—from the beginning of the resistance during slavery, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the seminal events of the late 20th century that inspired people around the world to stand up for equality. Click here to check out the exhibits!
Ernest Withers Collection: Dr. Ernest Withers, Sr. (1922 – 2007) a native Memphian, is an internationally acclaimed photographer recognized for his iconic photographs in Memphis and the broader south during the Civil Rights era. His well-known images of musicians during Memphis’ early days of legendary blues, soul, and rock and roll scenes; his chronicling of Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and participants in Memphis’ 1968 “I AM A MAN” sanitation strike; and his preservation of the end of the Negro Leagues comprise an unequaled time capsule of the heartland of Mid-Century America.
Hattiloo Theatre: The only freestanding Black repertory theatre in five surrounding states. Each year, Hattiloo features an eight-production season, running from August through June.
Memphis Heritage Trail: The Memphis Heritage Trail (MHT) is a cultural district and expansive community redevelopment plan to celebrate the rich business, cultural, and musical heritage of African American achievements in Memphis. It aims to educate and promote an appreciation for diversity, history, and culture to a global audience through authentic interactive experiences. MHT covers a historic 20-block redevelopment area in South City and also links to the historic Orange Mound and Soulsville communities.
Memphis Music Museums: Rock, soul, hip-hop, and country—American music is Black music. Visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, the Blues Hall of Fame Museum and more, to learn about the history, legacy, and activism of Memphis’ Black musicians.
Tone: An arts and culture nonprofit founded by Victoria Jones that amplifies Black artists. Check out their upcoming events here!
Collage Dance Collective: A ballet company and conservatory that is one of the largest Black-led performing arts organizations in the South and one of a few professional ballet companies in the world.
Community Youth Music Programs
Choose 901's guide to Memphis' Black-owned businesses and cultural institutions (2022)
Cxffeeblack: Cxffeeblack is primarily an entrepreneurial venture with specific social implications, started by Bartholomew Jones and Renata Henderson to reclaim the Black history of coffee and remain its Black future. The goal is to generate a profit from apparel and events and consultations and then use those funds to provide opportunities for people of origin to create and generate inspiring work. Check out this article from High Ground News highlighting Cxffeeblack’s education and anti-gentrification work!
Mbabazi House of Style: A boutique featuring apparel, accessories, and home goods crafted from traditional African fabrics.
Terra Cotta Memphis: A Black-owned plant shop featuring gifts from local artisans.
Chef Tam's Underground Cafe: Chef Tamara Patterson serves classic dishes like chicken & waffle sliders, shrimp and grits, peach cobbler, and more!
Da Guilty Vegan (food truck): Da Guilty Vegan specializes in traditional comfort food with a plant-based twist. Their specialty is the Jail Bird!
Situational Cravings (food truck): Situational Cravings connects innovative multicultural fusions between Southern, Spanish, and Caribbean cuisine. Voted best birria tacos in the city.
Da Sammich Spot (food truck): Da Sammich Spot is a new Black-owned business in Memphis providing the community with fresh foods from afternoon to late evening.
MMI’s database of Black-owned Memphis restaurants
Edible Memphis' Black-owned restaurants guide
Black Power Mixtape
Summer of Soul
Night Catches Us
Judas and the Black Messiah
A Black August Mood (CCR Events)
What We’re JaMMIng To: Juneteenth Edition (2021)
What We’re JaMMIng To: Black Music Month Edition (2021)
Call & Response: The Sound of a Black Arts Revolution
This post has been updated for August 2022.