Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, it ain’t nothin’ honey, if it ain’t freeMe and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (Yeah), they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men (My Lord), would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.I Have A Dream, Martin Luther King
The definition of freedom is a noun, the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. The definition of the word free is an adjective, not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.
As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this year it’s more important now than ever before to remember the meaning behind the Civil Rights Movement.
Civil Rights is a term that has become far more politicized, weaponized, and divisive than it should be. It we peel back the layers to get at its heart, civil rights simply stated is the rights of citizens to political and social freedom, and equality. Frankly, Civil Rights equals America.
When we think of freedom riders today, we think of the bus loads of young women and men of all colors, creeds, and religions to challenge racial laws in the American South in the 1960s. However, these brave men and women weren’t the first freedom riders.
While it wasn’t a motorized vehicle, the Pilgrims and Puritans came came to these shores not only to practice their religion freely, but to escape the oppression they faced as a feudal system of working for lords and the aristocracy gave way to working to pay land rents and heavy taxes to landowners, the church, or the king. Their lives were limited by their circumstances and they came to America to change that. Eventually, when England began to colonize, and more people came here to establish lives and find their fortunes, the colonists longed to be free of England’s rule. The Revolutionary War was a fight for Independence and freedom.
America as a young country went through growing pains that included the enslavement of an entire race of people. Once again, the status quo was challenged over time and it resulted in the Civil War.
I can easily go into the reasons for the Civil War, but as this is a day of reflection and remembrance, it’s important to focus on what we have in common as people, which is at the heart of MLK’s message about freedom. Whether our ancestors are from Europe, Asia, African, the Caribbean, or South America or North America, they came for a better life for themselves, their children, and future generations. Despite being here to work honestly for the American dream they faced prejudice and violence. No one understood their customs nor religion, but it was important to persevere.
Although it’s important’ to move forward, the African American migration experience differs from other immigrants. We didn’t arrive on these shores as passengers, we were cargo. Men , women, and children became slaves stripped of their names, tribes, and country. They were forced to learn a new language, to toil away in the hot sun on the fields of plantations, and were counted as chattel instead of human beings. Even once emancipated, African Americans enjoyed freedom and equality for a brief moment with voting rights and political offices, but it didn’t last. Those rights were taken away and black people became second class citizens, in a world that was very separate, but by no means equal. Therefore, African Americans became revolutionaries like the Founding Fathers. However, they didn’t pick up guns, they used the bible and the pulpit to preach the gospel of Civil Rights.
Martin Luther King Jr. like many others before him wanted to see a world where ignorance darkens another races’ experience here in America could become a part of the light of acceptance and love for others. He knew we had more in common than we had differences. Today, through technology we can learn more about our family trees and are often surprised to see how many branches intersect with other trees.
I don’t believe that any of this can be better demonstrated than through the words of Dr. King at the March on Washington, an event I am proud to say my mother attended. I hope this MLK day will spark discussions and open the lines of communication to get past the war of words to find a peaceful way for us to unite and coexist in harmony.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia , the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.I have a Dream, Martin Luther King Jr.
When we allow freedom ring , when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”I Have A Dream, Martin Luther King Jr.
Some photos have been provided by https://rac.org/brief-history-jews-and-civil-rights-movement-1960s