“Stand fast therefore in the liberty, where with Christ has set you free, and be not entangled again under the yoke of bondage (slavery).” — Galatians 6:1
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Independence Day has come and gone. My American flags flew in my front yard. The garland in the foyer is still strung with lights and ribbons of red, white and blue. A lovely knit afghan of the American flag serves as the keyboard cover in my music studio, and there are patriotic picture books, miniature flags and other reminders of the fact that America has just celebrated another birthday.
I love holidays and celebrations. Like many of you, I’m a fan of live music and fireworks, and this past Fourth of July weekend my husband and I were blessed with opportunities to enjoy plenty of both. On Independence Day, we attended the Bisons baseball game, which was followed by patriotic tributes and a wonderful concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Lockport’s own Joshua Vacanti was the guest soloist with the BPO, and the climax was the most amazing fireworks we’ve seen this year.
All of this should have been an awesome way to top off an incredible holiday weekend. Sadly, it was overshadowed by the heart-breaking news of yet another mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade and the horrific, inhumane shooting of another unarmed young Black man by police in Ohio. As I picked up my cell phone this morning, I was horrified to read that the cold, lifeless body of Jayland Walker, which had been shot 60 times, was still handcuffed when it arrived at the morgue. Stunned, shocked and dismayed as I looked at his picture, I once again saw a face so like any one of my four beautiful sons — young, gifted and Black. I think to myself “is this America?” How can this immense, atrocious display of inhumanity take place “in the land of the free and the home of the brave”?
I recently heard descendants of abolitionist Frederick Douglass reading excerpts from one of his most famous speeches on NPR: “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” One hundred seventy years later, it is incredible how appropriate his words are to a nation still grappling with the aftermath of slavery, Jim Crow, and systemic racism: “The feeling of the nation must be quickened. The conscience of the nation must be roused. The propriety of the nation must be startled. The hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed, and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”
One of Douglass’ descendants, I. Douglass Skinner, closed the program with a ray of positivity:
“I think, in many ways, we are still slaves to the notion that it will never get better. But I think that there is hope, and I think it’s important that we celebrate Black joy and Black life and we remember that change is possible, change is probable, and that there’s hope.”
Again, I’m reminded that with God, all things are possible, and I remain prayerfully engaged as I long for the day when there will be true liberty and equal justice for all in America.
Jackie Davis of Lockport is an experienced inspirational vocalist, musician and music instructor. Her column is published every other Friday in the Union-Sun & Journal.