From the Pastor's desk
What does America's independence day mean to People of Afrikan Ancestry?
By Baba Derrick Jackson
This week all across the United States people will be celebrating America's independence from Great Britain. The question those of us of Afrikan Ancestry should be asking ourselves is "What does America's independence day mean to People of Afrikan Ancestry?"
In 1852 Fredrick Douglas gave a speech entitled "What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July." He admonished White Americans for desiring freedom for themeselves while at the same time having slavery as an American institution. He said, "New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt and sell men, women and children as slaves remain no longer a mere state institution but is now an institution of the whole United States."
We as people of Afrikan Ancestry sometimes get so caught up in America's Independence that we forget that we were still enslaved when America obtained its Independence. For that reason alone the fourth of July cannot mean the same thing to us as it does for those who are the descendent of the people who once enslaved us. We must view this day through the eyes and lenses of our ancestors.
It is important we begin to see that America's 4th of July celebration of freedom was not our day of freedom. This does not mean we should not celebrate the ideals and ideas of freedom, independence, and liberation. We should celebrate freedom from our own perspective and through the lenses of our historical experiences as oppose to someone else's.
We must in our celebration come to know and understand the difference between Independence, freedom and liberty. Independence implies the ability to stand alone, without being sustained by anything else. Freedom implies an absence of restraints or compulsion. Liberty implies the power to choose among alternatives rather than merely being unrestrained.
The fourth of July for us as people of Afrikan Ancestry should be a day to reflect on the freedom our Ancestors sought and gave their lives for. This should be a day of remembrance for those Ancestors who through their blood, sweat, and tears fought for our independence. This should be a time when we give thanks to those ancestors who understood that we must not only have freedom and independence, but we should also be liberated from the ideas and ideals of our enslavers and oppressors.
To those of us who want to celebrate the 4th of July, let’s celebrate it in the name of our Ancestors. Celebrate it in the pouring of libation for those who fought for our freedom, independence, and liberation. Let our ancestors know that we have not forgotten them and their sacrifices.
We must remember those who gave their life to our struggle and those who chose to live. If some of our ancestors had not chosen to live and to endure the incredible hardship of slavery and oppression none of us would be alive today.
Our freedom began in 1865 with the end of the civil war. Our independence began with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Our liberation began in 1876 with the end of reconstruction when we as a people began to understand that we had to make different choices than the ones being offered by" Jim Crow".
The question we must ask ourselves today is, are we any better off socio-economically than our enslaved ancestors? Yes, we have a President of Afrikan Ancestry, but are we any better off as a people. When we look at the socio-economic indicators showing where we were under the slaves codes we find we were at the bottom, and when we look at those same indicators today we still occupy that same position. The fact that we have not progressed is a testament to how far removed we are from the struggles of our Ancestors.
To those of us who are still fighting for Afrikan liberation, God speed. To those of us who are still sucking on the breast milk of those who enslaved our ancestors it is time to wake-up and free yourself. Liberate yourself from the milk of dependence. Suck the breasts of freedom, and independence, and drink the milk of liberation from your Ancestors.
Let us at this time reflect, remember and give thanks to our freedom fighters. Let us celebrate our heroes/sheroes for their sacrifices. Last but not least, let us have a conversation with our children about our struggles of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Douglas, Frederick (1852): What, to the Slave, is the fourth of July? found in the book Great Speeches By African Americans edited by James Daly (2006) Dover Publications, Inc.