BY JEANETTE LENOIR
“Only virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin
Knowing that nearly 70-million Americans voted to keep a deranged racist at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world couldn’t dampen the spirit that rose like a phoenix from the ashes today. We did it, America! With the fire of the legend of Jim Thorpe, we did it. And this new dawn isn’t just washing away the worst of American greed and corruption, it’s ushering in the dreams and the hopes of enslaved Africans responsible for the wealth of our great nation, leaving behind the domestic terrorism fueled by the sitting duck in chief, Donald Trump.
And if you listen really close, you’ll hear the words in the breeze Dr. King spoke in 1963 during the March on Washington, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…” Well, America, we’re rising despite all the noise from those with a death grip on hate, racism and intolerance.
And let’s not forget the spirit of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first African American to vie for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. If you can’t see her essence in our first Woman of Color Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, you don’t know American history, the divine power of spirituality, the Black struggle for equality and the true meaning of demanding a seat at the table. Chisholm emboldened us to bring a folding chair to the table if a seat wasn’t offered. How proud she must be looking down at her countrymen who, during her lifetime, denied her basic human rights. We’ve come a long way but the journey to true freedom and equality is still far from our reach.
As Louisiana proudly holds on to the shame of American history with its support of a hateful and corrupt president, I can’t help but remember the 1863 photo of the brutally whipped slave, Whipped Peter, who had escaped to join the Union Army. You see, Louisiana is comfortably numb to the truth of Black lives in America because they’ve been successful in convincing the, “lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man.” So, they maintain their grip on hate disguised with political rhetoric unsuitable to the reality on the ground for their people; Black, white and everyone else not secured in generational wealth catalyzed by slave labor and persistent, inexcusable inequality. It’s an ugly truth but it must be told.
Another story worthy of remembering as we mark America’s first Jamaican Vice President is that of Fred Littlejohn. In the 1920s he moved his family from the South to Queens, New York and called themselves Jamaicans to avoid the mistreatment of Southerners in the North. And it was a biracial student committee in Chicago that founded Congress of Racial Equality, (CORE). The group staged its first sit-in at a coffee shop, leading to the inclusion of serving Blacks. Harris embodies all of America; the lives of the enslaved, native born and immigrant, who sacrificed everything for the homecoming we are witnessing in the election of this historic Democratic ticket.
And this win is also reminiscent of the 1968 Summer Olympics when African American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their gloved fists in a Black power salute. What many of us miss in translation is the white sprinter from Australia, Peter Norman, who joined in the protest by wearing a button on his uniform promoting a Human Rights campaign to stamp out racism. Australians punished him for his act of bravery, only coming to their senses 6 years after his death in 2006, (after a tragic life spurred from the abuse he endured) with a formal apology from the Australian Parliament saying his gesture “was a moment of heroism and humility that advanced international awareness for racial inequality.”
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are progenies of revolutionaries intent on fully birthing the dream that is America. And Biden’ American legacy beats in rhythm with Harris’, making them a powerful and symbolic metaphor of America’s strength and deep-rooted posture as leader of the free world and beacon of hope for all mankind. The disheartening election results serves as a reminder of the evils of mankind, including the demagoguery, thuggery and authoritarianism that Donald Trump and his family demonstrated. So, let’s heed the lessons learned because it’s time we do the necessary and uncomfortable work to make America, and the world, a place where we all feel good in.
“The sum of us all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, though the form of our Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.” – Samuel Adams