I wrote the poem below on Dear Evanston the morning of July 4, 2017, six months after Trump took office. I'm reposting it today because, as someone who did not grow up here, July 4th has always felt, well, a bit foreign. But this year all the more so, as the lunatic in the White House continues to divide the country and is more concerned about protecting monuments to dead slave owners than protecting the lives of those who actually live here.
July 4 celebrates America's freedom from tyrannical rule.
And yet, here we are.
Three years later, so much more damage has been done, so much violence has been committed in word and deed against marginalized communities, a pandemic has laid bare the vast inequities of this "land of the free." But over the past three years, and particularly this year, so many thousands of resisters have risen up locally and nationally in the fight for social and racial justice. They are the people who make this the "home of the brave."
In Evanston, we passed a racial equity resolution and the nation's first reparations initiative. Organizations and ad-hoc groups are pushing for more local government transparency, a serious study of the role of police and what defunding could look like in Evanston, more resident involvement in government decisions, voting, and a commitment that the resolved 'word' of racial equity be followed by deed.
Just last week, Evanston celebrated Juneteenth with its first Juneteenth parade--virtually on June 19 and 20 and in a car parade from Church and Dodge to Oakton and Dodge--a route far more accessible to everyone in Evanston than the July 4 parade's Central Street route. I'm looking forward to this event growing bigger every year and drawing more Evanston residents in--because it commemorates the end of the enslavement of African Americans (89 years after the War of Independence) but acknowledges how far we've yet to go to achieve true freedom.
So on the occasion of this year's July 4, here's a look back to 2017.
I always wrestle with the complexities of this holiday.
I love the parade. I hate the fireworks. I love the friends and hotdogs. But I'm not a flag-waver. And I have a hard time swallowing the over-zealous nationalism and drunken swagger. I love the community spirit and the floats and dancers and tumblers and marching bands and crowds of people taking over a street that on every other day is packed with cars. But I'm uncomfortable with the parade's location and its lack of diversity and accessibility to the whole community. This year I especially appreciated all the signs and banners with messages of resistance and support for refugees, and Planned Parenthood, and Black Lives Matter, and Hate Has No Home Here. I loved marching with Beth Emet The Free Synagogue and wearing my Dear Evanston-shirt. And I love these photos captured by Jessica Zoller Kaplan as we marched by.
THE FOURTH OF JULY
Were you born and raised here? Or brought against your will? Have you sought your refuge here? From war, from death -- Do you miss your family still? Are you a recent immigrant, did you come here long ago? Did you come by plane? By car? Did you steer? Or were you cargo? Can you trace your family back to the Revolution? Or to the Civil War? Do you ever wonder who July the Fourth is for? Were your ancestors shackled, chained, and ripped from their own land? Or is your history gentler, written by the winner's hand? Did your family flee the south for better things up north But find while some things got better, you're still not valued at your worth? Are you white? Or black? Or brown? Do you fly the red, white, and blue? On this day of flags, of fireworks, of freedom--are YOU free? What does July 4 mean to you?