As we embark on yet another Fourth of July celebration in America, I would like to take a moment to give a shout out to any of the Black freedom fighters who have chosen to speak truth to power, in order to change the plight of Black people in this country.
Yes! I would like to thank the many Black men and Black women who’ve chosen to fight on the front lines of the battle for equality, and who have used their voices and influence to address the many issues we have faced in this country, so that Black people could experience the same “freedom” the European Whites who left Great Britain to gain their “independence” have enjoyed.
It has been a continuous struggle towards equality for us as a people, but we have come a long way from where we started. In spite of those gains, Black people are still not equal to Whites in this country, and that is a fact.
I was so happy to see Grey’s Anatomy actor and civil rights activist Jesse Williams deliver his powerful speech at the 2016 Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards this past weekend. Williams is one of those fresh new voices out here, who has been speaking truth to power for some time now, and boy did he pick the right time and select the perfect platform to speak to the masses, both Black and White, about the plight of Black people in America.
Upon receiving the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award for his work with the Black Lives Matter movement and focus on addressing and bringing awareness to the myriad of racial and social justice issues that tend to negatively impact Black people more than any other group in this country, Williams delivered an acceptance speech that was filled with so many powerful nuggets that I’m still seeking to digest them. Out of all that Williams said, the one thing that stood out to me the most was his take on freedom in America, and the stance that many White people have when it comes to fighting for and maintaining that freedom by any means necessary, but when it comes to fighting for Blacks and their freedom and equality – not so much. Williams vehemently stated:
“There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There is no tax they haven’t levied against us and we have paid all of them.” He continued, “But freedom is somehow always conditional here. ‘You’re free,’ they keep telling us … freedom is always coming in the hereafter, but, you know what though, the hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.”
Wow! He said, “We want it now,” but I want to know if Black people really want it collectively as bad as Williams does or as much as he believes we all do?
All you have to do is look at the inequities that exist in many of the key established systems that impact our daily lives, and even a blind man could see that Blacks get treated differently and have not gained full access to the many freedoms Whites have, and continue to enjoy regularly without a worry in the world. Most White people function under the system created by them and for them, and this White privilege gives them the confidence to know that their ready-made freedoms will never be unattainable and will never be denied to them – as long as they are White.
Most White people have no problem celebrating the Fourth of July, because to be honest, the Fourth of July holiday is really a celebration of European Whites making a decision to seek their independence from another country ran by other European Whites, because those European Whites were sick and tired of the other European Whites trying to control their lives and tell them what to do. They were tired of being slaves to somebody else’s system of living.
Isn’t it interesting that the majority of Black people in this country love to celebrate the Fourth of July before they would even consider celebrating Juneteenth?
Think about that for a moment, if you will.
In this country, the majority of Black people, whose ancestors were brought to this country as slaves with no rights whatsoever, get excited about celebrating the Independence Day of the very people who enslaved them, and never had any intention of acknowledging Blacks as equal human beings, and who never intended to treat Black people as equals to them – period.
It was nearly a year ago that Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Usher Raymond was the headliner at the Saturday night show at the Essence Music Festival, when he came out on stage to perform wearing some bold attire that not only brought attention to the important African American holiday of Juneteenth, but also asked the world – especially African Americans – a very pertinent and thought-provoking question. As Usher hit the stage, he was wearing a custom-made T-shirt honoring Juneteenth. Cool right?
See, it wasn’t the fact that Usher honored Juneteenth on the T-shirt that was so attention-grabbing; it was the fact that the T-shirt he wore had the words “July Fourth” written on it – but the words “July Fourth” were crossed out and the word “Juneteenth” was written underneath for the whole world to see. Usher was making a political and social statement about the current state of Blacks in America, and he chose to recognize Juneteenth as the real Independence Day for Black people versus the Fourth of July, which was never intended for us in the first place. Usher also wore a leather jacket that had a bombshell question on it concerning the current state of Blacks in America, which asked Black People, “Have We Achieved Our Independence?”
I found that to be a profound question to ask Black people, considering many of us believe we have achieved “our independence” because we have obtained some nice material possessions and may be doing alright financially. We are still struggling to be fully free, and we must never stop fighting until the collective Black race in America is able to benefit and live like the original founders of the country have – with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Until then Black people, let’s keep fighting and keep demanding equality.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and has a daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney. He is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at email@example.com.