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Est. April 5, 2002
July 1, 2021 - Issue 872
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This July 4th, America will celebrate 245 years of independence from British rule. However, when President Joe Biden signed into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday, it forces Americans to take a sterner look at what this July 4th means.

More than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and two months after the end of the Civil War on April 9th, 1865, enslaved African Americans in Texas found out they were free on June 19, 1865, called Juneteenth. Also, it's known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day.

With wildly two disparate celebratory liberation narratives about independence, America must reconcile its founding ideals with her spotty lived reality.

In 1852, Frederick Douglass called America out on its hypocrisy in his speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro". In it, Douglass stated that a country in the throes of slavery has to close its gaping gap between the ideals of the United States and its dastardly deeds toward POC. His words still resonate today.

"What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence. ... I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. ... This Fourth of July is yours, not mine."

African Americans have fought in every war defending this country, starting with the American Revolution in a segregated military until 1948. Crispus Attucks, a brother of African and Native American ancestry from Framingham, was the first martyr for America's independence in the American Revolution. Prince Estabrook, an enslaved man from Lexington and black Minuteman, was wounded in the first battle of the American Revolution.

The fight for black independence was ongoing during the American Revolution, too. Enslaved Africans who fought for the British, called Black Loyalists, were ensured their freedom. Sadly, enslaved Africans who fought against the British were. They were reluctantly acknowledged as Black Patriots, even today in celebrating July 4th.

Black patriotism is exhibited not only on the battlefields of America's wars but also in America's streets and sports arenas.

For example, in 2016, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick began to protest police brutality against black Americans and other forms of social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem. His action was seen as polarizing, un-American, and unpatriotic. However, when patriotism is narrowly defined, it can only be accepted and exhibited within the constraints of its own intolerance.

Case in point, former President Trump, in particular, stoked the flames of Kaepernick's expression of protest. Trump publicly criticized Kaepernick and his allies, calling them S.O.Bs, who took a knee during the national anthem as being anti-the American flag, cops, and the military. To Kaepernick's defense, former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted with a photo of one of the first images of King down on his left knee in Selma, AL, on Feb. 1, 1965. Holder tweeted that "Taking a knee is not without precedent, Mr. President. Those who dared to protest have helped bring positive change." MLK said in his Montgomery Bus Boycott speech on December 5th, 1955, "The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right."

The controversy of taking a knee during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," America's beloved national anthem, brought heightened attention to its racist history. Francis Scott Key, who penned the lyrics, supported slavery and came from an influential plantation family in Maryland. The song's third verse, no longer sung after the Civil War, included the lyrics, "No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave."

In depicting the mangling grip of white supremacist domestic terrorism on black lives, Malcolm X in 1965 said, "That's not a chip on my shoulder. That's your foot on my neck." Last year, the world got to see 9 minutes and 29 seconds video of former Minnesota Police officer Derek Chauvin's murder of George Floyd with his knee on Floyd's neck. Floyd handcuffed, lying face down, saying, "I can't breathe went limp. Last week, Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. The ongoing struggle, however, against police brutality persists.

This Fourth of July, people will once again sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" or recite the Pledge of Allegiance or reenact the Continental Congress of 1776 or watch reproductions of the "rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air." America' will showcase her indomitable spirit of bravery and patriotism as -vaxxed or non-vaxxed - citizens during this ongoing pandemic.

However, this 4th will be different from the previous ones. Juneteenth can no longer stand in the shadows of America's celebration of independence. Juneteenth highlights how it is inextricably linked to America's core values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.

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is published Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
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