On July 4th, we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the day when the US citizens declared their freedom from British rule. For the past 244 years, we have celebrated this as the day of our “freedom” and have marked this day with fireworks, parades, carnivals, and backyard parties. We have celebrated July 4th as if we truly are free and as if the freedoms meant for some mean freedom for all.
But the sad truth of history is that the freedoms declared in the Declaration of Independence and later set forth in our Constitution, were only intended for a few. From day one of our nation, women and people of color were not given the same freedoms as the men who demanded them. While some of this has changed in the past 244 years, and the freedoms given to U.S. citizens have expanded to include women (in some cases) and people of color (in fewer cases), there are still citizens of our nation and those who are seeking the freedoms we seem to guarantee who are not and may never be free.
Until the freedoms the United States claims to espouse are guaranteed and protected for all, I will not and cannot celebrate Independence Day. Until the rights of some become the rights for all, we are not truly free.
- Until women can walk the street or go to a party without fear of being raped, we are not free.
- Until black men can leave a place of business without being murdered, we are not free.
- Until we have eliminated homelessness and hunger in our nation, we are not free.
- Until a quality education is guaranteed and funded for all, we are not free.
- Until access to medical care is guaranteed and isn’t a financial burden on those who are already struggling, we are not free.
- Until women and children can feel safe in their homes, we are not free.
- Until the justice system is fair and equitable, we are not free.
- Until reform over incarceration becomes the norm, we are not free.
- Until obstacles to voting are eliminated, we are not free.
- Until we come up with REAL solutions to poverty, we are not free.
- Until government corruption is eliminated, we are not free.
- Until people can seek freedom in our nation without fear of reprisal, we are not free.
- Until diversity is not only honored but celebrated, we are not free.
- Until racism, police brutality, sexism, genderism, and religious intolerance are eliminated from our nation, we are not free.
For centuries, our nation has touted the glories of freedom, in a nation where millions are not truly free. Until all are truly free, I will not be celebrating Independence Day. Instead, I will be setting this day aside for prayer and for advocating on behalf of those who are not yet free.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
– Emma Lazarus