Play John Philip Sousa's Stars & Stripes Below...
I love the Fourth of July, Parades, and The Stars and Strips Forever.
Yes you can be a card carrying diversity professional like I am and still show patriotism and love of country. Through the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors, Black, White, Brown, Asian, and Native American, on July 4th the United States of America can suspend its conflict, and strife long enough to celebrate its freedom. The freedom to stand on a street corner and berate Congress for not helping to improve the economy without fear of being arrested and killed. The freedom to call a public official "stupid" when indeed that may be the case. The freedom to form a new group to stop corporate greed and corruption without fear of disappearing in the heat of the night. The freedom to march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC for any cause, any protest, any campaign without being thrown in jail never to be heard of again.
That is the America I love. We are far from perfect... but we have surely come a long way.
And I love American Patriots like our second US President, John Adams. Not Thomas Jefferson whose pubic profile is much bigger than Adams. I LOVE John Adams, and do you know why??? Because he never owned slaves and forbid his loving wife, Abigail, from bringing them to his home when they married in 1764
Abigail’s father had owned slaves, but she became a champion of freedom by not owning them as a married woman. In fact she helped a young free Black obtain an education in Braintree, Massachusetts when neighbors wanted to keep the young man ignorant.
John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson
Abigail and John Adams never owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and fathered several slave children with his mistress Sally Hemings.
Both Adams and Jefferson were signers of the Declaration of Independence. Both were freedom fighters. Both were US Presidents. And both died on July 4, 1826.
But my favorite will remain John Adams because he did not own slaves.
My Own Family's American Heritage
I feel that strongly about Adams vs Jefferson because my own family roots go back to their era. As a proud member of the Gaines Family of Georgia, my family can trace its heritage back to the mid to late 1700s, to Louise and William Gaines who were born in the 1780s, married and had 14 children. Their slave master had a sense of decency, did not separate the family and allowed them to live as man and wife their entire lives. It is from their heritage my mother’s people celebrate our American legacy every other year at our family reunion. Next year we will bring the family reunion to Boston for the first time.
Modern Day Patriots
I love July 4th because of the Martin Luther Kings, Ralph Abernathys and Rosa Parks of America. Their struggles made it possible for me to live and educate my children in neighborhoods that historically would not have welcomed a Black family to settle in and make a home for themselves. The sacrifices of those civil rights heros will help me celebrate this day with even more intensity.
And let’s not forget the sacrifices of Cesar Chavez, the courageous Latino farm worker in California and civil rights leader of the 1960s and 70s. And dare we forget the 1982 death of Chinese American Vincent Chin, killed by angry Whites who thought he was Japanese and blamed him for the auto industry’s slump in Detroit. His tragic death mobilized countless Asian Americans to organize against hate crimes.
And we must celebrate the life of Wilma Mankiller, the warrior woman Native American activist, and First Female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She died last year after years of advocating and leading her people.
This is the America I know and celebrate on July 4th. Bravery. Courage. Advocacy. Civil Rights. Social Justice. Seeking the American dream for all people, no matter what their ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, social class or religion may be.
It’s a young history, compared to the people of Africa, Australia, Asia, Latin America, South America or Europe. But it’s a history deeply rooted in triumph over struggle and equal access over oppression.
It’s All About The Music
For me, the best part of July 4th aren’t the barbeques or beach parties. It’s watching the Boston Pops Concert that starts at 8pm. I drove by the Hatch Shell this past weekend and saw all of the activities in preparation of tonight’s festivities. People were already getting ready to stake out their spot for the open air concert and fireworks.
I will happily settle in front of my television set and excitedly wait for the orchestra to strike up John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” I will have my flag and march around my house while the orchestra strikes up the tune.
I’ve even included an audio clip of Stars and Stripes Forever at the top of this article so you can start a tradition of your own when you celebrate your own version of Independence Day this year or next.
So Happy Birthday America. You’re 235 years old with so much more work to do. But you’ve come a looong way from the early days when men and women dared to dream.
God Bless America. Happy Fourth of July!
**Your comments are welcome.
Other Countries Celebrating Independence Day In July:
Abkhazia (Georgia) - July 4
Algeria - July 5
Argentina July 9
Bahamas - July 10
Belgium - July 21
Burundi - July 1
Cape Verde - July 5
Columbia July 20 and August 7
Laos - July 19
Liberia - July 26
Malawi - June 26
Rwanda - July 1
Solomon Islands - July 7
Slovokia - July 17
Vanuatu - July 30
**The Republic of South Sudan, the newest gained its independence on July 9, 2011
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.