What to the Black woman in 2015 is the Fourth of July?
I kept pondering today, Independence Day, in light of the last eleven months, in light of the last seven-ten days, in light of my fifty-one years of life. Is there a place in America, in the world, even, where a black woman can truly be free?
It is no suprise that this question comes up after Ferguson, after Baltimore, after the afters of so many lives cut short by state sanctioned violence amid the cries of many activists telling the world to wake up. It is no surprise after white allies, including the famous and not so famous, have been writing and teaching about white privilege and the dangers it produces in the black bodies of the country. It is no suprise as voices have been elevated for decades about the private prisons and the criminalization of the country's black children. For years, the clarion calls have been sounding and it seemed like it was on deaf ears.
After Trayvon Martin was murdered, several fierce women started the Black Lives Matter movement, yet, it didn't have national traction There were twitter followers and some in the POC-LGBTQ community who were introducing terms like intersectionality and allyship on multiple fronts.
Then August 9th happened and the world turned upside down.
Angela Davis was recently in town and told a sold-out crowd to not forget that " you changed the world." Ferguson needed that boost of confidence as they saw celebrity status awarded to some and neglect placed upon others, when all of them were on the other side of the tear gas and hatred of the early days of the movement. Her sister, Fanta, reminded the crowd to take care of the heart and take care of the heart, that stepping away for reflection and refueling is not a failure but a survival tactic to keep fighting another day.
For surely another day would come.
The very Saturday that the room was filled, that very morning, a prayed up, praised up, and prepared up young woman, Bree Newsome, declared, "this flag comes down today!" She prepared for an entire week after watching folks debate whether the Confederate Flag should come down or not, even as the mourning kept going for the Charlston Nine. She prepped, trained, and on the morning of Rev. Pinkney's funeral, knowing that his casket was to pass under that very state capital, climbed a poll with her watcher, a young white man, standing at the bottom to make sure she was a safe enough distance up so the authorities could not pull her down. She declared, "I come against you in the name of God, this flag comes down today!"
She was the reminder of the fierce urgency now and the agency of the black woman to just do it, after all the hand wringing and demands that the grieving families forgive the young white male shooter, she saw the righteousness in the act of declaring that treason, hatred, murder, and evil had no place on public property.
The world watched and cartoon renderings was made, she was awarded an "Ohhhh, that's so cool" from this writer's teenager daughter whose image of what young black women can do has been elevated even more than seeing the fierce young women on the bullhorn speaking truth to power. she showed the resilience that black women are noted for and the tenacity to get it done. We were tired, Bree, at only thirty, was divinely appointed for that moment.
In the days following the murder of the Charlston Nine, church after black church burned amid suspicious circumstances.
Black folks knew.
It was the KKK or some other affiliated hate group that was burning down these historic AME, AME Zion, and National Baptists icons of the black community.
It was a shot into the soul.
Hatred has a way of doing that, of upsetting the delicate balance of a people already weary from the constant onslaught of systemic racism.
One could hardly catch a breath from the murders to then the Dominican Republic deporting those of Haitian descent, literally dispelling their brothers and sisters. The only thing that separates the two is which European colonized which side of Hispaniola. The heart hurt deeply. Having ties to both sides of this island, the blood of both running through these veins, I grabbed for my Haitian flag and declared that #Haitianlivesmatter! I was met with that on twitter with young Dominican after Dominican sending a notice to their government that they were not ok with this human rights violation, to essentially leave generations of people countryless. The DR went back to the 1940s, many Haitians only spoke Spanish, had never even been to Haiti, they were left at the border like discarded trash.
That is what the emotional toll has been on a people, for over 400 years, for the 239 years of the nation celebrating its independence, black people, black women, have been the trash left on the side of the road. The trash that was thrown out the windows, crumbled and crushed in hands of hate, tossed into the murky dumpsters, stepped on, spat on, discarded.
The approaching July fourth then left many questioning the nature of freedom, independence, and personhood in a nation that is literally celebrating stealing the land of the First Nation tribes and then stealing African Nation peoples and forcing them to work it. It was not that the First Nation or African warriors were afraid or weak, it is that they were outgunned, outdiseased, and then outlawed.
The meek and mild never existed, the African always sought for freedom. The Haitian Revolution paved a way for other enslaved Africans in the Caribbean to seek their freedom from Spanish Rule.
The British outlawed the transcontinental slave trade with the Spanish, French, and Americans agreeing to stop stealing people from the homeland. This did not stop the brutality of enslavement in the country that places itself as a beach for the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The differnce is that those yearning suddenly became white when they hit these shores. The black was outlawed, the Native was made invisible on reservations, the white gobbled up more and more.
To the black woman, what is the fourth of July in a nation that still pays 67-cents for every 77-cents of the white woman and $1 for every white man. The same woman whose body is coveted by every white girl discovering and appropriating black hair styles, the black color, and physical differences.
It is the voice of the black woman that has been most vocal throughout the past eleven months of this movement because she in all her forms - straight, married, divorced, single, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, old, young, rich, poor, educated, surburban, urban - realized that this was her time to be free and she had to do it by all means necessary.
Black women have taken pen to paper, have marched, have organized, have taught, have facilitated, have used every venue to elevate voice and expose the evil that treatens not only the black life, but all lives.
Black lives have to matter. Period.
When that happens, then perhaps the country can truly be free.
Until then, the black woman still has to resurrect the words of Frederick Douglass and wonder, "what to the negro is the fourth of july?"