As a country, Americans love celebrating the 4th of July. The colors red, white, and blue are posted everywhere as flags are raised high commemorating the Declaration of Independence dating back to 1776. The celebration declared that the original thirteen American colonies were no longer subordinate to the monarch of Britain. This victory proclaimed them as united and free. Unfortunately, almost 244 years later, people of color are still treated as “subordinate” in America and chasing the dream to become united and free. The pain of this reality runs deep because America was built on the backs of our ancestors who were brought to this country as slaves and were not seen as human.
This year, both the devastation of COVID-19 and the orders to shelter in place will challenge how Americans will celebrate the 4th of July. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the long list of many others who have been murdered by law enforcement have caused an uprising by people from all walks of life demanding justice. What are we doing to create an atmosphere that will make all Americans feel united and free? What will it take to bring justice? How will future generations look back at this time and judge America for its actions?
The Atlantic Slave Trade began in 1619. Enslaved Africans were brought across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Ghana and I walked the grounds of the castle that held our ancestors captive before they boarded the ships across the middle passage. I also had the chance to put my feet in the very water that is called the “Last Bath” where they took their last bath before heading to a foreign land. To experience this firsthand had an impact on me that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The blood of my paternal ancestors runs just as deep here in America as it does in Africa. They paid the price with their blood, sweat, tears and life.
I am the great-granddaughter of a slave. I am also the great-granddaughter of an immigrant from Germany. Both sides of my family came to this county under different circumstances, but nonetheless I am their legacy. My parents were born in this country and I was born in this country. I am proud to be an American and I believe that America has the potential to live up to its ideals and the time is now. We believe in democracy where power comes from the people. We believe in equality of rights and liberty for all. I want these values to be available to my children, grandchildren, and my future generations.
Like most people, I strive for the American dream. I desire to achieve success and upward mobility for the security of my family and to help others. But will I be limited because of the color of my skin? This opportunity should be available to everyone no matter what their race, creed, or color. Let us start now and work hard to put the necessary principles in place. Let us set new standards and let us hold each other accountable so that what is being discussed now will not be just lip service. So, what does it mean to be an American? It means a place where we are all united and free.
“We will shape and mold this country, or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore.” Nina Simone.
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Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is an international coach, consultant, trainer, author and speaker. She can also be found live on Instagram @Wendygladney on Wednesdays at 12 noon PST.