Today, I am thinking deeply about America and Freedom and the long history of American fourths.
I am meditating on January 4th, 1923 when gangs of racist white men gathered around the home of Sarah Carrier and shot her in the head while the young Black children in her family visiting for Christmas watched. This happened during the seven days of terror known as the Rosewood Massacres occurred, which left this tight knit Black community devastated, burned down, and completely destroyed. Their cabins and homes were set on fire and the white mob killed 20 Black people and injured many more. These Black folks in Rosewood did nothing more than pull themselves up by their boot straps (as we are often told to do) and built a thriving Black community for themselves. Despite their hard work and ascension to freedom and liberation their lives were destroyed by an American idea of Freedom, which is centered in White Supremacy. This is the America I live in.
THERE USED TO BE HOMES HERE — PHOTOS AFTER THE ROSEWOOD MASSACRE.
I am meditating on February 4, 2014 when 16 missing children and 50 women were rescued after being forced into a Super Bowl sex & human-trafficking ring that still exists today. The Super Bowl sex trafficking ring was so big that there was a suspected 10,000 women and children being illegally trafficked to Super Bowl locations from international locations. Today large major events in the US are the biggest opportunities for slavery, trafficking, rape, and molestation in the country. While we recognize that police can be militarized to gas and terrorize peaceful protestors, they’ve yet to be deployed to capture sex offenders in this American Slave Trade complex. This is the America I live in.
I am meditating on March 4, 1789, when the first U.S. Congress met, establishing the US Constitution and the first 10 Bill of Rights (proposed officially on September 25, 1789) were set. I must remember that on this fourth rights like the Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, the Right to Petition the Government, etc. were not extended to Black folks and ostracized Indigenous communities. Today, 231 years and four months later we still align ourselves with the mentalities of men that enslaved, persecuted, and killed people you say were their fellow Americans. Today, America and its accomplices still ask why Black & Indigenous folks and POC see its forefathers on monuments as anti-American hate symbols. Today, we still struggled to question the vile, inhumane condition America’s fathers left as inheritance. This is the America I live in.
I am meditating on April 4, 1968 when civil rights icon and nonviolent movement leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, was assassinated by racist, white supremacist, James Earl Ray. I am meditating on how America’s racism has made a practice of assassinating Black bodies and voices. I meditate on the fact that I live in a country that has centered the public murder of Black bodies at the hands of white supremacy for centuries. I meditate on the fact that social justice and new era movement leaders have been thrusted into elderhood in their 30s and 40s, because so many prior have been killed while fighting for Black freedom or due to being disinvested from the humanity that America reserves for its chosen.
I am meditating on May 4, 1961 when Freedom Riders rode in a silent protest through confederate states against their refusal to desegregate public buses. I am reminded of how Birmingham’s Police Commissioner, Bull Connor, and vocal Ku Klux Klan supporter & Police Sergeant, Tom Cook, ordered a mob of deranged white men to throw fire bombs into their bus and then blocked the door to murder them in that burning bus. It would have worked if not for an explosion that forced the deranged white mob to retreat.
The wreckage after the Freedom Riders bus was fire bombed by the deranged white mob.
I am meditating on June 4, 1919 when the 19th Amendment was approved by the senate allowing white women the full right to vote. It’s not lost on me that 50 years later Black people would still be fighting for the right to vote without suppression. It’s not lost on me that 100 years after suffrage, this American freedom is still not fully afforded to Black folks. This country still grapples with ensuring anti-racist systems that protect us all from voter suppression like we’ve seen in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and other states recently.
I’m meditating on August 4, 1964 when young Civil Rights Workers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman (both white men), and James Earl Chaney (a Black man), were found buried after being murdered by gun shot a month prior at the hands of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan members in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This is widely known as the Freedom Summer Murders or the Mississippi Burning Murders. The men were visiting the town to speak at a Black Church that had just been burned down. Upset with the men in their town 18 convicted and alleged white men and women (7 received minor sentences), affiliated with the White Knights of the KKK burned their vehicle, shot the men, and buried them. One man, Edgar Ray Killen, was convicted of manslaughter 41 years later and died in jail in 2018 at the age of 92. The last time Chaney (21), Goodman(20), and Schwerner (24) were seen alive was during a traffic stop by police in Mississippi.
The remains of the three executed freedom workers found on August 4, 1964
I am meditating on September 4, 1957 when Governor Orval Faubus directed the Arkansas National Guard to block the entry of the Black students who would integrate one of Little Rock’s most prominent high schools. The Black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were signed up to integrate the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School by the NAACP. Governor Faubus in a televised address to the citizens of Arkansas said, “Blood will run in the streets if Negro pupils should attempt to enter Central High School.” On September 25, 1957 the Little Rock Nine had to attend Central High School under the protection of the 101st Airborne Division and Federal Troops deployed by President Eisenhower to protect them from the community of violent, deranged white adults and children. I meditate as today we see this hatred for Black children in schools mutated into an environment that over-polices, disinvests Black families and poor communities from resources, and still refuses integrate a stable educational funding pipeline for schools serving Black children.
Photos of the Little Rock Nine during their fight to integrate.
I am meditating on October 4, 1951 when Henrietta Lacks (born: Loretta Pleasant) died from cervical cancer after going to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for help. Johns Hopkins’ Dr. George Otto Gey used Lacks’ cells and named them HeLa (HEnrietta LAcks) cells without her or her family’s permission & while she was fighting cancer. These cells were used to find the vaccine for Polio and aiding in research for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Her stolen cells were distributed and in some cases sold for medical research and yet with all of this rich value she still died in the care of the medical professionals that would later steal what was left of her. I am reminded how the Black body, especially the bodies of Black women are used without question or permission. Henrietta Lacks died at the age of 31 and was buried in an unmarked grave after staying in the hospital for 2 months.
I am meditating on November 4, 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected as president and immediately started crippling poor and non-white communities through Reaganomics and the War on Drugs. What we know today, especially after hearing recordings from Lee Atwater that detail the maniacal, deceptive, racist intentions of these conservative political movements under Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and later by Democrat and President Bill Clinton is that it was designed to kill and destroy Black people. I am meditating on how much evil he and other white men in power have orchestrated in communities like my hometown of Philadelphia, PA, that is still not reconciled or repaired today.
I am meditating on December 4, 1969 when Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, leaders of Black Panther Party were assassinated by the Chicago Police Department. Mark Clark was shot at point blank range in the head as he worked security detail for their home. After being drugged with Barbiturates, Fred Hampton (unarmed) was shot by the officers somewhere between 90–99 times (See photo below) in a clear assassination while he laid on the bed with his fiancée, Deborah Johnson, who was nine-months pregnant. It’s not lost on me that we continue to see this same type of attack on Black liberation throughout history — Martin Luther King, Jr. (assassinated the year prior), Medgar Evers (assassinated in 1963), and even the MOVE Bombing in Philadelphia, which assassinated six in 1985. Black liberation is so feared in this country that anyone advocating for it, historically, has been killed — many times by the police.
So today, July 4th, 2020, as this country swaddles its nasty, racist womb in red, white, and blue and praises American freedom, I meditate on how none of it applies to me. This nation is so dedicated to revisionism that we have national holidays that celebrate white people’s freedom to walk across stolen land and utilize the inventions and bodies of stolen people. We then choose, as a nation, to thank a mix of slave owners, racists, and murderers and name them our fathers. GTFOH.
I am making the choice to redecorate July 4th and remind myself that it’s just another day in this vile, barbaric, racist America. I am reminding myself that #AllFourthsMatter and I choose to utilize today to reflect on the legacy of America as a country founded on racism, misogyny, patriarchy, anti-Blackness, oppression, and slavery. That’s where I live. I live in this America. And for me there’s nothing to celebrate today.