Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why this black woman celebrates Independence Day

I love the 4th of July! Fireworks displays put me in a child-like state of amazement and absolute giddiness, and can actually bring me to tears if paired with the right patriotic score. In my Indiana days, I spent the 4th on a blanket picnic with the Hot Girls and their dates, listening to the stylings of the Purdue Symphony Orchestra, playing Cranium or Trouble (gotta love the pop-o-matic bubble). In college, the 4th was spent reclining on the back of my car with [flavor-of-the-month’s name here] watching fireworks explode over downtown Houston from 5th Ward (where the free parking is). Back at home, my cousins and I spent the 4th in the “country” setting off whole packs of Black Cats and lighting Roman Candles for our dads to hold. Lighting the incredibly short fuse of a rocket display and running away dramatically a split second before the things went off. Ending the night making light trails through the sky with multi-colored sparklers.

But none of these things really get at the essence of why we, as Americans, celebrate Independence Day.

The celebration of Independence Day by Black Americans has always been a topic of contention, with some blacks citing that the Declaration of Independence did not include blacks, as blacks weren’t treated as humans (only 3/5 of a person until much later in history). I understand this point of view and have had many interesting discussions with my more militant friends over the topic. However, I believe that it is this very Declaration of Independence that would eventually pave the way for the events leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation - including the Abolitionist Movement, The Civil War and Reconstruction - and, later, the Civil Rights Movement. The Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Without the words of the Declaration of Independence, those opposed to slavery (for political, social, religious and/or moral reasons) wouldn’t have even had the right to fight for a change in the system. The fight for legislative abolishment of Jim Crow might never be if there weren’t laws in place securing the right to Safety and Happiness.

So, that is why this Black woman - whose own family members weren’t freed from the horrors of slavery until General Gordon Granger and his troops sailed into Galveston, TX to remind the Confederacy that slaves had been freed 2 years prior – celebrates July 4th with all the excitement and vigor she can muster. Because 232 years ago, the country’s founding fathers had the foresight to allow for protections for all US citizens, even those who were stranded here by the disgusting slave trade and have managed to become a valuable, contributing part of this Republic we now live in.


DaVida Chanel said...

BEAUTIFUL - definitely another one for ESSENCE!!!!!!!!!

Karla said...

Thanks, hon!


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