Culture

For Afro-Latinos Celebrating The Right To Freedom On The Fourth Of July Invokes Memories Of History And Government Wrongs

If you identify as Afro-Latinx, the Fourth of July can bring up some complicated feelings, to say the least. Although the day commemorates the Founding Fathers officially declaring independence from Great Britain’s tyrannical monarch, it also is a day to celebrate American patriotism, which in some spheres has developed into a sort of blind nationalism.

It can be difficult to feel in the mood to wrap yourself in the American flag and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” when we’re constantly subjected to headlines exposing the horrors of the migrant crisis at the border, mass incarceration of black and brown people, and not to mention, the history of the US being founded through the oppression and enslavement of black and brown people.

Chris Rock put it perfectly a few years ago when he took to Twitter to speak his thoughts about the Fourth of July: “Happy white people’s Independence Day. The slaves weren’t free, but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks”. That’s the feeling that many Black Americans feel regarding the day that we’re supposed to celebrate as the birth of one of the greatest, richest, most powerful countries in the world.

For many Black Americans, the Fourth of July is simply a painful reminder of all of the injustices, past, and present, that America has inflicted on their people.

From slavery to Jim Crow laws, to lynchings, to police brutality, to mass incarceration, there seems to be so much violence inflicted on the Black community at large by the hands of American institutions of authority.

Not only does the celebration of the “independence” of America from its colonial oppressors conveniently ignore the years of slavery America subjected Black people too, but it also ignores the genocide of the indigenous populations that lived in the U.S. before European colonization. Are we to forget that the whole continent of North America was completely “independent” before white colonizers ever stepped foot onto its soil?

As Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez from Latino Rebels wrote scathingly  in her piece, “The Fourth of July: A Celebration of Hatred” and you will find a lot of white smiling faces, celebrating as if America was ever theirs to begin with.” So yeah: Independence Day is a complicated holiday for people of color for more than one reason.

Before the Civil War, Independence Day was historically a holiday almost exclusively celebrated by whites.

And why shouldn’t it have been? Even for free blacks, it would’ve been hard to express devotion to a country that currently enslaved thousands of people of your same race solely based on the color of their skin. As Frederick Douglass put it eloquently in a speech addressed to a crowd of white people during a Fourth of July gathering: “I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…”

According to historians, if a black American did celebrate Independence Day before the Civil War, they would often do it on July 5th to acknowledge the different relationship they, as black people, had with the so-called “land of the free” that was both their oppressor and their home country.

But, interestingly enough, there was a major shift in feelings towards the 4th of July in the black community after the Civil War ended.

So, although the Fourth of July does not rank among the likes of Martin Luther King day for its importance in Black History, it nonetheless has a surprising history of celebration with America’s black community.

While most white Southerners felt little to no loyalty towards the United States of America after the Civil War and would “shut themselves within doors”, as one woman put it, in order to blot out the shame of their failed rebellion, black Southerners began to look to the holiday as a way to celebrate their new-found freedom. Basking in their new freedom, black Americans looked to the holiday as a way to celebrate their own independence as well as the independence of the country they lived in.

According to Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts at The Atlantic, after the Civil War ended, free blacks “gathered together to watch fireworks and listen to orators recite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery when it was ratified in late 1865”. Black Americans organized parades in honor of Independence Day, congregating to watch companies of black militia march down the streets.

Black southerners also created a ritual song and dance called “Too-la-loo” in which a group of men and women would form a ring, a woman would move to the center, and eventually, she would choose a suitor to join her. The game was so popular that “Too-la-loo” eventually “became shorthand for the Fourth of July” in South Carolina.

But like many burgeoning black traditions in the Antebellum South, the establishment of the Fourth of July as a black holiday was short-lived. Once Jim Crow laws took hold of the local government, the white population made it all but impossible for black people to continue their Independence Day festivities. Authorities pushed their “Too-la-loo” festivities to the outskirts of the city, and eventually, out of the city altogether. They forbid vendors from setting up shop on the streets where the festivities had been taking place. After a few years, black people no longer looked to the Fourth of July as a means to celebrate their freedom, and it became a “white holiday” once again.

These days, the Afro-Latinx population in America still wrestle with complicated feelings towards the Fourth of July.

On one hand, it can be viewed as a carefree celebration–a time to enjoy barbecues, beer, and fireworks with your friends and family and, of course, to get a day off of work. But, when some Latinx people look deeper into the holiday, it’s hard not to experience feelings of emptiness or frustration. And these feelings can be exasperated when you’re Afro-Latinx, as you have both the specter of black slavery and indigenous genocide to contend with on a day that is meant to celebrate American exceptionalism. As Patricia Montes, a Honduran immigrant living in Boston, said about the Fourth of July in an interview, “I feel very conflicted. What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating democracy?”

Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

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Puerto Rico Is Entering Hurricane Season Still Recovering But Trump Has Money For A 4th Of July Parade

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Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in 2017. Nearly two years later and infrastructure is still in planning mode. That’s because, even though Congress allocated $20 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico, very little has been released to Puerto Rico.

As campaign season for 2020 is in full swing, Trump has ordered the largest, most expensive parade in U.S. history. Military tanks will line the National Mall. Warplanes will fly over the Washington Monument, and he’ll have his own televised address. Celebrating America’s Independence Day will cost $92 million, and it leaves behind Puerto Ricans.

On July 1, The House Oversight Committee sent a letter demanding the White House release sealed documents surrounding Hurricane Maria.

@JRehling / Twitter

A similar letter was sent on May 6th with no response. Democrats are now seeking a “compulsory process” that would legally require the administration to hand over the documents. The Bush administration released 18,000 documents related to Hurricane Katrina when asked.

The Trump administration has come under fire for its lack of response to the disaster. What is it hiding?

In October 2017, Trump visited a Puerto Rican church and tossed paper towels.

@6halfdozenother / Twitter

Given that nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, critics point to this moment as an example of the lack of empathy shown by the President of the United States for U.S. citizens in the midst of a worsening tragedy.

At the time, he painted the death toll of 16 people as a victory.

Trump argued that Maria wasn’t “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

@climateprogress / Twitter

In an attempt to downplay the impacts of Maria, Trump used the false death count toll as a symbol of victory. He later refused to acknowledge the official death toll of nearly 3,000 deaths.

The death toll rose in the six months following the storm as a result of the lack of electricity, clean water, and weakened healthcare.

Netflix

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz blames the Trump administration for “neglect.” “I screamed, literally, out at the top of my lungs to say ‘We’re dying here’ and the bureaucracy and the inefficiency of the federal government was killing us,” she told BBC news.

The Puerto Ricans who used FEMA’s hotel vouchers on the mainland are now largely homeless.

Netflix

Netflix’s documentary After Maria depicts a total lack of strategy for Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed by Maria. They were granted a fixed amount of time in hotels on the mainland, without any support to rebuild their home. When the time ran out, they were transferred to homeless shelters.

The state of Georgia has implemented a ‘Puerto Rican interview’ for those applying for a driver’s license.

@carlitocenteno / Twitter

After Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services refused to return Puerto Rican Kenneth Cabán’s identity documents, Cabán is suing the department for “unlawful and discriminatory treatment of American citizens from Puerto Rico.” The agency claims Puerto Rican documentation is cause for “fraud review.”

All this making it clearer that Puerto Ricans are second class citizens.

@ricardorossello / Twitter

Twitter user Carlos Centeno thinks that “too many white folks, we Puerto Ricans are undocumented immigrants until we prove otherwise. What Georgia is doing is not only racist, it’s economically debilitating to these U.S.-born citizens and their families.”

In After Maria, we witness how these experiences lead displaced Puerto Ricans to conclude that they’re not wanted.

Netflix

As devastating as Hurricane Maria was to the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, what After Maria shows is the psychological effects of what happened after. We see a young pre-teenaged girl fall into a depression as she’s bullied by her new peers in New York. We see how the system failed Puerto Ricans and how there could be no other reasonable conclusion for the survivors.

There’s the trauma of experiencing that hurricane and surviving, while so many didn’t.

@yarimarbonilla / Twitter

Folks are already tweeting about the stress of the power going out already, in July. Puerto Rico isn’t ready for another hurricane season. It’s still recovering from 2017.

And the trauma of prepping for another season.

@luvsjoonie / Twitter

Many Puerto Ricans want to be granted statehood. They want the same treatment and respect offered to victims of Hurricane Harvey. They do pay taxes, but they don’t benefit like other taxpayers.

Largely, Puerto Ricans have taken it upon themselves to cope and recover.

@NPR / Twitter

These are volunteers at a retirement community in Rio Piedras. They’re helping to train its residents on how to cope and deal with the stress and depression that persists years after Hurricane Maria. Given that those communities were at much higher risk of mortality after the hurricane, the fear is credible.

With news that Trump’s Fourth Parade might get washed out, this Puerto Rican has one thing to say:

@MAGGIEHALOWELL / Twitter

Hope it helps. Happy 4th of July.

READ: Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin Killed A ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill In Puerto Rico Furthering LGBTQ+ Rights In The Caribbean

For This Year’s July 4th Consider Volunteering Your Time With Organizations Meant To Help Migrants And Dreamers

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For This Year’s July 4th Consider Volunteering Your Time With Organizations Meant To Help Migrants And Dreamers

Every 4th of July millions of Americans celebrate Independence Day. But besides enjoying a family meal and the night sky sprinkled with fireworks, and having a chela while brushing up on your US history, this holiday is also a good opportunity to remember and live by the American values of community, solidarity, and hospitality.

In these politically turbulent years there have been many recent attacks on people of color and refugees, brutal limitations to female reproductive rights, attacks against ethnic and religious minorities, and abusive treatment at detention centers that verge on the illegal, that perhaps the only way to celebrate to volunteer and help one of the many organizations that are fighting against injustice and for a fairer United States. As Barack Obama once said about community organizing and volunteerism: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.” ¡Así que manos a la obra!

ProLiteracy (nationwide)

Credit: Instagram. @proliteracy

This is a pretty awesome organization that has a very clear and important goal: to increase literacy levels in the adult population, with the belief that every adult has the right to learn how to read and write. You can volunteer by teaching others to increase not only basic literacy but also maths and computer literacy, which can help others increase their employment prospects and play a larger role in their family and social lives. This organization has a volunteer workforce of 85%. This seems like an awesome and frankly very relevant place to start making a difference.

Learn more here.

Latinas Contra Cancer (California)

image. Latinas contra cancer

This organization provides counseling and help to Latinas who are undergoing the hard road of facing cancer. It was founded to “address the void in culturally and linguistically sensitive programs that meet the health care needs of Latinos around issues of cancer.” If you are bilingual and willing to help, and live in the Silicon Valley area, this might be the place for you. They are involved in detection and screening, patient support, research and many other activities.

Learn more here.

The Trevor Project

Credit: Instagram. @trevorproject

This organization offers help to LGBTQ youth that are in dire need of help. They rely on volunteer work, in a program that aims to “provide life-saving support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) youth, The Trevor Project recruits passionate volunteers to staff our crisis intervention services”. The organization was founded in 1998 by the directors of the short film “Trevor,” which won an Oscar (you can watch the movie here ).

Learn more here.

Angry Tias & Abuelas

Credit: Facebook. @AngryTiasAndAbuelas

This recently formed group’s mission is to “advocate for dignity and justice for individuals and families seeking asylum at our borders. As they embark on their journeys to destinations across the U.S., our aim is to assure their basic health and safety needs are met”. They provide basic needs such as water, food, toiletries and other items to those who are released by ICE in their centers near Brownsville, Texas. The best way to contact them and offer help is through Facebook.

Learn more here.

Border Angels (California)

Credit: Instagram. @borderangelsofficial

This organization operates at the epicenter of the migratory flow from Mexico into the United States. Border Angels “is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice with a special focus on issues related to issues related to the US-Mexican border.” They organize events such as tours of the border that seek to raise awareness of the perilous journey taken by those who seek to call America home. Programs like Water Drops, for example, involve leaving water in the desert for migrants taking the journey.

Learn more here.

Raices (Texas)

Credit: Instagram. @raicestexas

This Texan organization is at the frontline of the many tribulations that migrants are facing at the Southern border. It is ” a frontline organization in the roiling debate about immigration and immigrants in the world.” They provide legal advocacy and representation to migrants and deal with as many as 50,000 cases a year. They certainly can always do with a little help, and they have Youth Volunteer, General Volunteer and a Pro Bono Program where you can offer your time and expertise.

Learn more here.

Casa Latina (Seattle)

Digital image. El Camino

This organization based in Seattle is an answer to the increasing influx of migrants into the city. Casa Latinas looks to be the following: “As a vibrant, immigrant worker rights organization, Casa Latina empowers low-wage Latino immigrants to move from economic insecurity to economic prosperity and to lift their voices to take action around public policy issues that affect them”. They have over 75 volunteers, and they are constantly opening new positions.

Learn more here.

Latin Women in Action

@latinwomeninact / Twitter

If you live in the Big Apple this might be the organization for you. The group seeks to be “a comprehensive community based social service agency. Its mission and goals are to provide essential services to not only Latinas but any family or individual seeking our help in New York City.” You can volunteer to offer legal, immigration or family services. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, for example, they offered help to Boricuas arriving in the city feeling the devastation.

Learn more here.

Acción Latina

Credit: Instagram. @accionlatinasf

Your abuela would say that la ropa sucia se lava en casaand that you should never be farol de la calle, oscuridad de la casa. In short: offer your help to those closest to you. This organization’s mission is to “promote cultural arts, community media, and civic engagement as a way of building healthy and empowered Latino communities.” There is an open call for volunteers, which is of particular interest to those who wish to gain experience in media.

Learn more here.

Brown Girls Do Ballet

Credit: Instagram. @browngirlsdoballet

What an amazing initiative. One of the spaces where young girls of color feel most excluded is in the arts, particularly the ones that tend to be costly. Ballet is one of these, and this organization’s mission is to “help increase participation of underrepresented minority populations in ballet programs through organizing and arranging ballet performances, photo exhibitions, and providing resources and scholarships to assist young girls in their ballet development and training.” You can help out with community outreach or, if you are a ballet dancer yourself, by mentoring young students. This organization can really help the self-confidence of young Brown girls and make society at large a more equal field for nuestras muchachas.

Learn more here.

 

RAICES

raicestexas / Instagram

Raices is a community of allies working to fight today’s broken immigration system that tears families apart and left millions without pathways to legal status.

Learn more here.

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