I am a proud African-American. Yesterday, on July the 4th I joined my countrymen in celebration of Independence Day. Today, July the 5th, I join my black brothers and sisters in celebration of Emancipation Day.
Slavery officially ended in New York State on July 4, 1827 but, most blacks marked the event by celebrating on the 5th. This was done for two reasons – fear of violent reprisals from those opposed to abolition and the desire to disassociate the event with the larger July 4th celebration; after all blacks in the South were still in bondage at that time. Independence did not apply to all.
So for me the celebration continues but, yesterday’s celebration filled with food, drink, fireworks and general merriment, is replaced with something a little more sober. The gratitude and joy of Emancipation Day in New York is tempered by recent local news events. We must celebrate yet remain vigilant in the protection of our rights.
On Saturday I attended a Garden Party at the Weeksville Heritage Center . The center is the site of the preserved Hunterfly Road Houses. The houses were part of a village of free African-Americans in Brooklyn, New York. The party kicks off a month-long series of events at WHC. This party was celebrating Emancipation Day. It was the best kind of party because it entertained, informed and inspired all those in attendance. A lecture on the history and traditions of Emancipation Day; followed by live music provided by Pharoahe Monch and Congolese-born rapper Baloji; dancing and plenty of good food made the day complete.
Baloji shared his music but, also shared his thoughts on the war in his country and his anticipation of free elections to be held this year. So today as I honor the concepts of freedom at home, I’m thinking globally too. Personal and political freedom is at stake in so many countries. I’m not a political animal or news hound but, certainly the world is watching Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. With a new provisional constitution in place, Egypt will be conducting presidential and parliamentary elections in the fall. Tunisia will be holding elections in October (postponed from the July 24th date) to form an assembly to rewrite the constitution and today there are reports of corruption relating to the new constitution that was approved on Friday in Morocco.
Yesterday was about independence; today is about emancipation and tomorrow is about freedom and justice for all.
Happy Emancipation Day,