A journalist’s chance encounter leads her to an all-formats project bringing awareness to Black August and hidden figures of the Black liberation movement.
The seed for this story was planted at an open mic night where Washington, D.C.-based video news intern Almaz Abedje came across a Black August commemoration of Black freedom fighters, revolutionaries, radicals and political prisoners. The monthlong observance dates back more than 40 years but is not widely known to the general public.
Abedje initially made a video pitch to Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Jack Auresto, proposing to document Black August, and consulted with Race and Ethnicity editor Andale Gross. Both encouraged her to tell a broader story in all formats.
Abedje dug into the origins of Black August and landed a major get when Jonathan Peter Jackson agreed to sit down for an interview. Jackson is the nephew of Black Panther Party member, author and prison activist George Jackson, who was killed Aug. 21, 1971, during a deadly uprising and escape attempt at San Quentin State Prison in California. First celebrated in 1979, Black August was created to honor George Jackson’s fight for Black liberation. It has become an alternative to Black History Month and is embraced by activists in the global Black Lives Matter movement.
After one of the first and most detailed interviews Jonathan Jackson has given, describing his personal connection to Black August, Abedje used his words to unpack the nuanced history of the Black liberation movement.
Over the course of two weeks, Abedje put together a video, text story, photos and audio to tell the underreported story of Black political prisoners, living and deceased. Abedje produced the video with new interviews, as well as archival AP footage and photos, she wrote the text story in collaboration with Race and Ethnicity journalists Aaron Morrison and Terry Tang, and she produced the audio using soundbites from interviews with Jonathan Jackson and Monifa Bandele, a leader in the Movement for Black Lives.
With an assist from photo editor Benny Snyder, Abedje also pulled together file images, including George Jackson’s funeral.
The resulting story was picked up by numerous news outlets, including ABC News.
For recognizing the potential of the Black August story, then reporting and producing a multiformat package that brought customers and readers into a rarely covered facet of Black society, Abedje is AP’s Best of Week — Second Winner.