The 4th or the 19th?

President Donald Trump said a few days ago that in a mask, he believes he looks like the “Lone Ranger.” Setting aside, that even the simplest of comparisons escape him—the Lone Ranger wore his mask over his eyes, the irony of his Lone Ranger analogy is far beyond his comprehension.  According to TV lore, the Lone Ranger had a trusted Native American friend. America has a Lone Danger who reveres a president who committed one of the greatest atrocities against Native people in America’s history, the Trail of Tears. It has often been said that Donald Trump is a cancer in the lungs of America. In reality, he is just another outgrowth of a tumor that has plagued America’s immune system since 1619.

I hesitated to pen this piece just one day before America celebrates its freedom from British rule, but my brainwashing is not so complete that it stopped me. I could not help but wonder if when Richard Henry Lee’s 3-part Resolution— signed July 2, 1776, which mandated separation from the British Crown, a call to form foreign alliances, and a plan for confederation, how many of the signers owned enslaved African men, women, and children. A month later when the final signatures were affixed to the Declaration of Independence in August of 1776; how many of those men denied the freedom of others?

Like most beaten, mistreated, and defeated minorities who came to the United States in search of freedom, assimilation was the goal, for the descendants of enslaved Africans, there was no choice. For years, my parents dressed me in red, white, and blue every July 4th. We roasted hotdogs on the stovetop because we did not own a barbecue grill, and we ate undercooked charred burgers like the rest of America. I gleefully stood for the National Anthem and shot off fireworks with my friends, scorching the brick sidewalks in front of my home. I can still feel the prickly burning sensation on my wrist from holding sparklers.

Loud music, loud explosions, and with it, loud silence for those of us deprived of celebrating the finalization of our real historical freedom, June 19th, 1865, Juneteenth. When I was about 12 years old I was in sixth grade. One of my friends wore a little red, black, and green flag emblem on his jacket, and I thought how disrespectful.  Then he taught me the song ‘Lift every voice and sing,’ adapted from a poem written by James Weldon Johnson. He emphatically told me “that is OUR National Anthem.” This may sound blasphemous to many of my readers but compare the opening stanzas of the Star-Spangled Banner and Lift Every Voice and Sing.  

“Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light” and the latter,

“Lift every voice and sing till earth and Heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of liberty…”



By the way, the third stanza of the Star-Spangled Banner partially reads.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:  

My friend told me the meaning of those words and I foolishly waved him off. A year later Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis Tennessee because he thought that freedom was for me, him, and all my other fellow black Americans.  So tomorrow my grandkids will wave flags, eat cold hot dogs, and eat undercooked burgers while they ooh and aah as the dusky skies brighten with the sound and fury of bottle rockets. If I get a chance I will teach them Johnson’s poem. It ends with the words,

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.         

Vote in 2020 and Happy 4th of July