“I, Too, Sing America”: Finding Peace with being Black and American7/04/2016
by Charday Ward As my neighborhood fills with the smell of BBQ cooking on the grill, the loud pla...
by Charday Ward
As my neighborhood fills with the smell of BBQ cooking on the grill, the loud playing sounds of classic soul music, and fireworks set off at dusk, I can’t help but ask myself “What are exactly are we celebrating?” When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, freedom for Black people in the Thirteen Colonies was a dream that would not be realized until almost 100 years later. I’ve struggled with the notion of celebrating freedom in a land that enslaved and denied Black Americans basic rights for hundreds of years.
I wondered where I fit it in. I had come to the conclusion that when Thomas Jefferson wrote the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he was not talking about Black people. He could not have been talking about Black people because he owned slaves. So I felt left out of the unalienable right to freedom for all men and understood that the reason why I enjoy civil rights and certain liberties today is because of freedom fighters who worked very hard to make America stay true to its words about equality and human rights.
I was filled with an indescribable sense of pride. Not because I was American but because I was a Black American. I met many Afro-Brazilians and also Black people from France and other European countries. What we had in common was that we were all members of the African Diaspora; I, however, represented a Black experience unique to America.
In our conversations, I suddenly became cognizant of the things that defined my experience of being a Black American. Everything from music, dance, hairstyles and dress, to historical events, leaders and movements flooded my mind. I thought of my neighborhood, my family, my church, the language we speak and how we interact with one another. And I was proud, proud to be an American. I was proud of my history, my culture, my people and my unique experience.
I am America because we, Black Americans, weave colorful threads of culture, history , and experiences into this multi-colored, multi-cultured tapestry that we call “The Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave.”
Charday Ward is a freelance writer, playwright, teacher and founder and director of a mentoring organization in Detroit, Michigan. Follow her blog LadyDaysLetters.com , and twitter @ladydaysletters