In 1988, during the golden age of hip-hop, my homie let me dubb one of the greatest albums ever recorded — It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. Chuck D spat fire while challenging me to think critically about America’s war on poor black and brown people (artfully camouflaged as the war on drugs) and the prison-military-industrial complex. One song from the album had an intro that just destroyed the 4th of July for me. “Louder than a Bomb” had an intro by Flavor Flav he said:
“They claim we’re products from the bottom of hell / Cause the black is back and its bound to sell / Picture us cooling out on the Fourth of July / And if you heard we were celebrating, that’s a worldwide lie”
Wait a minute did they just say they don’t celebrate the 4th of July? What tha……… Is what my 13 year old mind thought. I loved and still love Public Enemy but for me at that age some of the statements (like this one) I had to go do some research before I could ride with him. Why didn’t they celebrate the 4th of July? After all we are all American and we are free……….(again I was 13 in the 80’s). So I went to speak to what you may call the big homie on the block and asked him why certain black folk don’t celebrate the 4th. He told me that the reason was because our people were not free on July 4th 1776. He said “don’t you remember, our folks were slaves up until 1863 or 1865 if you were in Texas and we were in Texas. The only independence celebration black folks should have is for Juneteenth (June 19th). How are we going to celebrate freedom if we really were not and still are not free?” Ok my 13 year old mind is really blown at this point, ” so big homie, you telling me i’m not free? He said yes that’s what I’m saying. He also said that when I got older I would understand. Now I’m older and I understand, 4th of July really has nothing to do with African Americans. Understand that America never intended to transition you from slave to American. Hence it makes no sense to think you as an African American are truly celebrating independence………………because you are not independent. African Americans should not celebrate the Fourth of July, which was adopted when our ancestors were still enslaved.
The government and the corporate media celebrate as patriots those who are uncritically supportive of America’s imperial exploits. That is not my heritage. I am Richard Allen’s son, the first black man to write a political pamphlet challenging America’s white supremacy. And we must keep writing. I am Ida B. Wells Barnett’s son, the powerful black woman who refused to let America lynch black bodies without sounding the alarm of outrage. How can I celebrate liberty with bondage — economic bondage, educational bondage, political bondage, health care bondage, and religious bondage — all around me? Instead of celebrating under false pretense on the 4th of July, I will affirm my allegiance to my ancestors whose fight lives on in me.