I have read Frederick Douglass’ speech, “What To the Slave is the Fourth of July?” For many, that is a very real question. The “freedom” America found and began celebrating over 200 years ago did not extend to Black folks for most of those years. For over a century, our people prepped the fields, food and facilities — but were never part of the celebration. So why should we celebrate Independence Day instead of our actual emancipation on Juneteenth? I have actually asked myself that very question. I, unlike many of my friends, have chosen to continue to celebrate the 4th of July for the following 5 reasons.
- I am American. I know that Thomas Jefferson and crew weren’t thinking about me with they wrote the Declaration of Independence and divorced themselves from Britain; but I’m here now. I am a citizen. Do I and my people get treated fairly? No. But regardless of what people like Donald Trump think, this country belongs equally to everyone who makes up its diverse population.
- Black people fought for America’s freedom. Black soldiers fought in the Continental Army against the British for America’s independence. Over 5,000 Black soldiers fought for America’s right to be independent because they thought that it would lead to personal freedom. This is our holiday too. Our ancestors fought for it.
- I have kids. I have such special memories of participating in the local July 4th parade — waving frantically to my family from my float; shooting little fireworks in my Grandmother’s backyard; eating gigantic snow cones that gave me brain freeze and sticky hands. I want my kids to have those memories. I’ve always ensured that they know their history; but I want them to enjoy their childhood. I also don’t want them feeling like squatters in their country. They are fully at home — a home that their ancestors bought and paid for.
- I take any opportunity to celebrate. Look, I’m an equal opportunity celebrator. I like parties. When I was teaching high school English at a school with kids from over 40 countries, I oftentimes participated in their cultural celebrations. I wasn’t quite clear about the meaning of each holiday; but I was clear of the joy I observed and felt.
- I like to eat. I know that may not be a lofty or impressive reason; but it is honest. One of the best things about any holiday is the food. I’m looking forward to piling up my paper plate with ribs, a hot dog, potato salad, watermelon and baked beans. I know somebody is going to make some sort of ridiculously homemade dessert and I have made homemade vanilla ice cream (vanilla beans and all) to accompany it. My tastebuds are more excited than an 18 year old virgin the night before prom!
So, without question, this chick will be sitting on a metal and fabric lawn chair talking to somebody’s drunk Uncle or Aunt about how something is a “damn shame”, eating my second hot dog, shooing flies, listening to some Frankie Beverly and Maze, watching folks from 3 – 73 years old dancing under a much-too-hot sun. It’s the American thing to do.
Happy 4th Folks!