Freedom for All, Not Just a Few

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

– James Baldwin

How can I celebrate freedom if I know you are bound? My liberation is tied to yours, our spirits joined.

I hear the insistent and unwavering words of the poet Langston Hughes, “I, too, am America,” or Fredrick Douglass’ brilliant speech in 1852, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” and the revolutionary Assata Shakur saying:

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love each other and support each other.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

I see the willful neglect of immigrants (aren’t we all) in camps across America, Mamas drinking from toilet bowls for water, babies crying across walls, holding on to visions of parents, their sole act of defiance in these desolate spaces.

I feel the stifling and myopic stereotypes of women whose brown skin matches mine… We remain unseen.

I hear the chains of countless brothers and sisters shackled in the prison industrial complex (over 2 million) and a suffocating economic system; then I turn to children whose cocoa brown eyes hold a sadness they cannot name, caught up in America’s school to prison pipeline, told over and over again in numerous ways they are less than…

And so happiness is not what comes to mind, y’all.

What I feel is commitment to challenging America to be what she must, and to hold space for the voices of those standing outside its gates with me.

I am them. They are me. Each of us linked in the eternal struggle for freedom.

This is the work, beloveds.

And it is urgent.

Emelda De Coteau
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