The words, “independence” and “liberty” are two words that come to mind when thinking on the national holiday that people around this country will be celebrating on July 4. Whenever I think of these two words immediately I relate them to “freedom”. But when I look back over my lifespan and consider the various events that have taken place in my over 60-year journey, it causes me to wonder, “Are WE really free?” In order to really paint the picture of what I’m trying to express here, I think that it’s necessary for me to define the events that occurred during that July of 1776.
The story behind Independence Day was actually initiated during the American Revolution. The thirteen colonies legally separated from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. It was on this date that the Second Continental Congress voted and established a Declaration of Independence. Richard Henry Lee had proposed a resolution decreeing that the United States was no longer under the rule of Great Britain, a month earlier. Once the voting had been completed, Congress composed a brief statement of what had just taken place. This resulted in the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two days later (July 4, 1776) after editing and approving the final words. To this day, Americans around the world have gathered and recognized this day as the day that America gained its independence from British rule. To each his own, but I have a different viewpoint on independence as it is known.
Now, one thing about me is that I never try to impose my beliefs and viewpoints on anybody else. But being the publisher of a Black newspaper which targets the Black audience of Texas by highlighting both current and historical realities affecting our communities; there are just some things that I have to address. This is one of those topics that I believe affects our community. Because yes it is true that this country gained its independence in 1776; but did all of its’ citizens have the right to enjoy the “freedoms” that came along with this Declaration?
We MUST Understand that it wasn’t too long ago that Blacks were treated less than humans. I often refer to a newspaper clipping that I have kept ever since I was a boy. The Forward Times published an article in 1963 entitled, “Congress still debating whether Negroes are ‘individuals or property.’” Yet, they call the approaching holiday Independence Day. Something about that just isn’t right to me. It really bothers me that some of these Africans living in America will take out time to place more emphasis on the 4th of July rather than the 19th of June (Juneteenth).
Juneteenth in the Black community should be more of a memorial day to us because that is the day that our forefathers received the news that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation into effect. Granted it took officials over two years to present the news to the slaves in the South, but the fact remains that it was at this appointed time that enslaved Blacks were said to have been free. But even since that time, I have asked myself over and over again, “Are we really free?” As far as I’m concerned my answer will forever remain the same NO! Especially when Blacks are constantly being singled out every time you look around. Even when our culture accounts for less than a quarter of the total United States population but represents more than half of those incarcerated in prison. And then when a Black man can unlawfully, yet legally be murdered in the streets in front of dozens of witnesses by authorities and perpetrators and are not held accountable for their actions. I mean the list goes on and on, but yet WE as a nation are said to have been free, well over 200 years… I don’t think so. They can call it Independence Day all they want to, but WE as members of the Black community still are not free.
In closing, I would just like to encourage our faithful and loyal readers to examine the dates that have been presented. After doing so, consider all of the ills that have plagued the Black race throughout the years and ages of time. Because no matter what even though they call it Independence Day, this is just not an occasion that serves to benefit the African-American culture of these United States. Because while our ancestors’ White counterparts, were popping fireworks and celebrating their freedom, our forefathers were literally building this country brick by brick and step by step. So I hope that in the upcoming years, this editorial will cause some of these Africans living in America to see that Independence Day as it has been known does not necessarily reflect the true meaning of freedom for Black folks. So if you really want to celebrate freedom of any kind in regards to African-Americans, it’s probably best to start with Juneteenth.