New meaning to the Fourth of July

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This past Fourth of July marks my second one celebrated here in the magical kingdom of Swaziland. And much like the last it was filled with lots of love, laughter and delicious food. I was able to meet the new group of PCV’s aka G15 and share some of my experiences from this past year. It felt so weird to be on the receiving end of the questioning when just last year I was the one asking all of the questions.  Non-the less it was an enjoyable time although I was missing home and family a whole whole lot. I took a few pictures in the PCV made photo booth. It wasn’t until I took one with the American flag when it really hit me. Although the fourth of July is the American Independence Day where there was the separation of the thirteen colonies from the British and the adoption of the declaration of independence not everyone was free on this day, more specifically my ancestors. So despite the celebrations and the jubilee most African Americans don’t see Fourth of July as an independence day. Well at least not Independence Day for us.

 

Slavery began in 1619 and even though Abraham Lincoln “ended” slavery by signing the emancipation proclamation in 1863 there were still slaves in Texas until 1865. It “ended” for African Americans on December 6th 1865 when the 13th amendment of the constitution was ratified. The three most important documents in American history; the declaration of independence (Jefferson), constitution (Madison, Morris, et al) and the bill of rights (Madison) all were created with the belief that there were a set of natural and inherent rights just from the fact of being human. The declaration of independence was written to express all grievances from the British. I like to think of it as all the reasons for why a couple is breaking up so I like to call it the break up document. The thirteen colonies hit the British with the “oh its not you its me. I need to be free from you and your controlling ways. It’s time for me to go find myself and that’s exactly what they did. The declaration and the bills of rights served as sort of limitations on government power and control. I like to think of it as a lesson learned aka best practices document where the colonies were able to voice how they would like to be treated in this union since the previous relationship

ended in a breakup. In summation the two documents (Constitution and Bill of rights) were intended to serve as a tool to ensure that all Americans are equal in the eyes of the law.

 

I can remember growing up hearing some adults say “the fourth of July aint nothing but the white mans Independence Day. Hell our ancestors weren’t free and shit today neither are we any closer to freedom”. At a young age those words didn’t mean much to me in the midst of the fireworks, endless food, ice cream and hours of fun with my cousins whom I didn’t always get a chance to see. Fourth of July was a time of fun, family and laughter so often times we suppressed the harsh realities of what this day meant to our history. On this day at home I’m usually the Debby downer in a sense that I don’t feel patriotic enough to celebrate such a holiday so I’ll go to the cookouts more for the chance to spend time with loved ones but not for the holiday in it’s self because I know my history.

 

I can remember the first time is heard abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” and his most quoted line “The fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn”. This resonated with me so much. And now with my interest in the criminal justice system and modern day slavery this quote reigns supreme. On my khombi (kum-bee:mode of transport here in Swaziland) I couldn’t help but think of all these things and decided to hit up some friends from back home to take my mind off of things. I hit up my friend Christi (love you baby grrrlllaahh) to see how her Fourth of July went. She said things were wonderful but then was like “Sis you got any of those salty friends who make sure you know that we weren’t free on the 4th?”. My response: “Hell yes that’s pretty much me”, as I chuckle to myself. She then begins to say how she can be like that also but then goes on to tell me that for this 4th of July she posed this question to herself and friends: “What do you feel liberated from?” or “What are you liberating yourself from?”. Leave it to black people to be able to turn any negative to a positive and make that ish their own. So the fourth is a day of celebration of independence but as we know from our harsh history in America that African Americans weren’t free on this day so why not focus on liberating ourselves from the things that hold us back from living our best lives. I had to give my sis two snaps for that as I immediately went into my infamous introspective phase. I asked myself “Kirah what are you liberating yourself from?”

 

The list of things just came so fast but the one thing that stood out to me most are people. This has been one of the most self reflective years I’ve had in a long time outside of my freshman year of college and the year I spent teaching English in Malaysia. This year I’ve spent so much time working on myself that I don’t know if my family and friends will recognize me when I get back home. I dug a whole lot deeper into those places I’d closed off and threw away the key; to those thoughts that I would usually pretend to have amnesia when they would randomly resurface.  But not this time around. I had to sit with myself. With my thoughts. With my feelings. It was like fighting for survival from myself at times but it was and is necessary for my spiritual growth as a woman and as a citizen of this earth. I wouldn’t change this year for a thing.

 

In this year I can truly say that I’ve learned to liberate myself from people who are not good for my spirit. The ones always on the receiving end but never give to my spirit as I give to them. I swear at times it felt like I had loss weight because I felt so light, so free. I don’t want to go back.  One of my favorite authors Rob Hill Sir wrote this quote that resonated with my whole entire being: “It’s nothing wrong with wishing the best for somebody, but you have to realize when keeping them close isn’t best for you. Unrealistic expectations attract disappointment. Realize that what you want from certain people may be more that they’re able to give. Don’t be naïve. You can’t force loyalty or love; and you’ll only let yourself down trying to. Everybody won’t always be who you want them to be. Accept the fact that you can’t always change certain things or people, regardless of how much you care.” I had to accept the fact that not everyone is meant to stay with me along this journey and that it’s okay to leave people to grow by themselves and allow them to do the work. In doing so I can see Gods light shining brighter on and thru me for others to see the God in me. I’m in a good place. A happy state nearing Joy and it feels good. So I ask you my readers: “What are you liberating yourself from”?. Special thanks to Christi for being my spiritual sista and inspiring me to write this piece. Keep your peace queen and keep liberating yourself from all the things that decide they want to steal your shine. Love you to always and in all ways.

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