I dressed up as Frederick Douglass for a Black History Month celebration at Audubon Montessori Elementary School. I teased my hair and used chalk to create gray streaks all over my hair. I wore a black church suit and a white blouse. I was sharp. I memorized and delivered lines from Douglass' famous speech, "What, to the slave, is the Fourth of July" with passion. I guess you can say I have always been a bit dramatic.
Here I was, this nine year old child in a room full of people who did not look me, spewing out lines about injustice, black oppression, and the hypocrisy of America. Douglass delivered his speech in 1852. This is before the Civil War was fought and won. This was before the Emancipation Proclamation. This was before our so-called "Liberty." Here we are in 2017 and unfortunately his words still ring true. We are slaves to poverty. We are slaves to an unjust legal system. We are slaves to a prison pipeline. We are slaves to capitalism. We are still slaves.
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.