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Americans all across the country are celebrating the birth of our nation. However, what does Independence Day mean to Black people? It’s a hard question to answer because this country was built off the backs of our ancestors. With some of the same issues affecting the country right now, how do we answer this question on such a special day? Dr. Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes, co-pastor of the Double Love Experience Church in Brooklyn, New York joins us to try to answer this difficult question.
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ERICA CAMPBELL: Listen, it’s the fourth of July, and many people are celebrating Independence Day. But let’s make it make sense. What does independence really mean when our people are continually fighting for freedom?
DR. GABBY CUDJOE WILKES: Absolutely. So Happy Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day. You know, here’s the thing. I mean, we are black Americans, but we are Americans, Right? And so I think that it’s important to claim what our ancestors have built, which is this nation. So I don’t think anybody should be, you know, ashamed or afraid of having hot dogs today of having a cookout today, right? Because this nation is a country that we helped build and the rest of America is directly connected to the work and blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors. Right. But I think at the same time, we have to remember that we still need America to be America, right? Listen to us, said an iconic poem back in the day. America has never been America to me, right. And the ways in which America believes all these things about the American dream will be that for me too, right?. So I think that Independence Day is a great time to hold America to who America says she is on paper saying hey, like, let’s be this for everybody. And not just for some folks.
ERICA: I love that. I love that. We talked to you on June 10 day, and you say these conversations make you think of the speech Frederick Douglass had. Let’s talk a little bit about his free speech.
DR. GABBY: Oh my gosh, okay. So I don’t know if y’all know this speech. Because I was introduced to this speech as an adult, I did not know it when I was younger. But on July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass was asked to give a speech, celebrating Independence Day in his hometown of Rochester, New York. And the title of his speech is “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.” And this man like gives this eloquent speech about how can I celebrate freedom while my people are still enslaved? And no, it blows my mind? Because so many times when we get opportunities to speak in high places, you know, we try to act like nothing is wrong. Like there’s no contradiction, but there are no issues. We didn’t glad to be invited, right? We just like, you know, do our own thing. But this man in 1852 was not afraid to name the contradictions. Y’all is too long for us to talk about it in full, but you have to Google it today. And I said that is one of the traditions for me where every year I am going to read that speech if he had that courage in 1852. Surely I can have that kind of courage in 2022.
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Dr. Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes: What Does Independence Day Mean To Black People? was originally published on getuperica.com