Reaching for The Other America on the 4th of July

By Coleen MurphyColeen No More Racist Heroes

Last year, on the 4th of July, I observed the day by attending a burning of the confederate battle flag in front of one of the most prominent of my city’s symbols of white supremacy: The Robert E. Lee statue. “Don’t get arrested!” my teenage son called to me as I headed out the door. I told him that while my arrest was not likely, he should be sure to answer any calls from unknown numbers until I got home, just in case.

There are lots of 4th of July observances, celebrations, what have you, and I want you know that there are alternatives to traditional 4th of July celebrations which we can join, or even organize in our communities.

Here are some ideas about how we can mark the occasion by setting our intentions to work towards creating “the other America” that Ann Braden so often spoke of. She says:

“I call what I joined ‘the other America.’ This other America has always existed, even before the slave ships arrived. African Americans have always fought against their oppression, and many died rather than endure slavery. And at least some whites have joined these struggles – in the early resistance to slavery, the Abolitionist movement, the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, the upsurges of people’s movements in the 1930s, the civil rights activities of the 1950s and ’60s, and beyond to today in the 21st century.

And this resistance actually has roots that stretch back to the beginning of the human race. In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world.”

For those of us attending family cook-outs, some of our SURJ folks have created this helpful placemat  to support us in staying grounded and calling-in our beloved people.

Depending on where you live, alternative observations may also be taking place during the holiday weekend. Here in New Orleans, the Annual Ma’afa Commemoration is a powerful, multi-racial ceremony and procession honoring the African ancestors, known and unknown, victimized by the Transatlantic Slave Trade. All are welcome, gathering at 7 AM in Congo Square at Louis Armstrong Park.

Additionally, the Take’Em Down NOLA coalition is holding a rally in Jackson Square on Saturday afternoon, to continue bringing awareness to the full picture of history, and the ways that white supremacy continues to dominate the narrative of this country.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods? SURJ Denver will be holding a Say Goodbye to Hate action during the holiday weekend following visits from Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and other far right extremists. Some of my friends in the northwest have a pre-fireworks family tradition of quietly sharing with one another their dreams of what this country could and should be, and identifying at least one step they will take towards those dreams in the coming year. SURJ folks in San Francisco are reading Fredrick Douglass's speech on "The Meaning of the Fourth of July." We invite you to use the SURJ Families Facebook  group as a space to share what’s going on this 4th of July in your communities.