“Freedom Ain’t Free!”

Today is the quintessential summer holiday, the Fourth of July! From my childhood days it was a family favorite. My mom and her 6 siblings, close friends, and all of the attendant children would gather in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park for a huge picnic. Every family brought their specialty dish and we shared the chicken, ribs, burgers, hotdogs, and drinks. The adults settled in to rounds of pinochle, the teens pumped up the music to dance, and the little kids jumped double dutch, played dodge ball, and tag. And of course, Philly being Philly our fireworks displays were “off the chain.” We all loved the Fourth!

July 4th is also special in Philadelphia because it is considered the birthplace of the nation. Almost every year the sitting President of the US would come to the city to deliver a speech at Independence Hall…the place where the “Founders” signed the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphians are used to this “hallowed” position in the nation’s history. As a Black person I was always proud of the fact that Philadelphia was home to the oldest settlement of Free Black people. But, despite that history, Black people in the City of Brotherly Love have never been immune to the virulent racism that underscores the nation. Our “freedom” has always been contingent on the whims of White America and its willingness to grant us the very rights it has carved out for itself.

This year, 2018, is a particularly difficult “Independence Day.” The nation has incarcerated over 2,000 children from Central America and Mexico. Their parents are also detained and separated from them. Unarmed Black people are routinely shot by the people they pay taxes to, to protect them. Our prisons are over flowing with Black and Brown bodies—the largest rate of incarceration of any “civilized” nation. We are trembling at the prospect of a Supreme Court appointment that will roll back protections for people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and anyone else who does not fit into the narrow box of acceptability American now embraces as a part of its campaign to “make itself great, again!”

I so want this nation to live up to the promises of its founding documents—both the Declaration and the Constitution. I don’t want my grandchildren to have to re-fight the battles I fought 50 years ago. I don’t want them to worry about whether they can vote, or get a fair shot at attending college, or just live! I want the Fourth of July to really mean true freedom and independence. I want this to finally be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Unfortunately, under this current regime (I refuse to call it an administration), we are all learning that freedom ain’t free!

Stay Black & Smart!

One thought on ““Freedom Ain’t Free!”

  1. Thank you for writing your posts and sharing your wisdom with those of us who turn to you for hope and guidance. In addition to the multiple horrors that you write about in this particular post – I would like to add one more by name that is ongoing since the start of this administration – the Muslim ban. The breadth of this administrations desire to keep out/eliminate all people that do not look like them, act like them, have money like them and worship like them seems to be boundless. Being Muslim in America has always come with the tag of terrorist – and these days – it has become synonymous with evil. Even our former President, President Obama, had “Muslim” added as an additional layer of attack on his personhood. Of course, President Obama is not Muslim, but the people who support this administration wanted to add that to his narrative as the ultimate evil. Thank you for sharing and writing, and thank you for the opportunity to respond and engage in this dialogue. It gives me hope, even though “we are all learning that freedom ain’t free!”

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