social justice

Independence Day Celebrations Change Amidst Calls for Social Justice

NBC Universal, Inc.

From social distancing to social unrest, this 4th of July is fizzling out for some people.

Now, racial tensions have put a microscope on America’s history and have led activists to say they plan to opt-out of celebrating Independence Day.

“It’s pretty generally felt that July 4th is not for us,” said Michael Oretade, the head of Black Lives Matter 860 in Hartford. “In reality, Black independence is never really been fulfilled.”

Ivelisse Correa of Hartford said her 4th of July plans don’t include fireworks or a celebration of America’s independence.

“In 1776, you know, my ancestors were in sugar cane fields in the West Indies,” she said. “At the end of the day, equality for one group of people should be felt by everyone.”

The social unrest has sparked the idea of opting out of the traditional 4th of July celebration. Instead, a march for liberty in Waterbury and a pop-up promoting black businesses in Hartford are planned.

“We’re going to talk about how the system has treated us and ways that we need to fight the system,” said Oretade.

Forgetting the Fight for Freedom

The idea of opting out of Independence Day didn’t sit well with African-American Vietnam Veteran William Gibbs.

“It bothers me a lot,” he said outside the American Legion in Hartford.

Gibbs explained that his family’s military history dates back to World War I and ignoring Independence Day makes him feel like that fight to keep our freedom is being overlooked.

William Gibbs spent six-years in the Marines, including 13-months fighting in Vietnam.

“We’re destroying history and a lot of us fought for that history,” said Gibbs. “You can’t learn things desecrating statues, giving up the holiday, what are we gonna do next, what are we gonna give up next?”

Whitewashing History

Dr. Robert Sanders, a professor at the University of New Haven, said the celebration should embrace all who’ve contributed to America’s colorful history.

“Bunker Hill, members of color. Yorktown, members of color. Saratoga, members of color. All of these individuals contributed to the fabric, the being, the baseline of America, but it was whitewashed out,” said Sanders, who chairs the school’s National Security Department.

Sanders added that idea that Independence Day ignores the country’s history with slavery isn’t new to the black community but may have been ignored by others.

“If you are the victor, you get to write history. So, history is written by those who control the narrative,” he explained.

“I won’t judge those who do celebrate it because you know, fireworks are fun, but it’s not celebrating our freedom, and until everyone is free I don’t think I can participate in 4th of July festivities yet,” she said.

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