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July 2023: Are We Free?

July is upon us once again and many of us will be celebrating the 248th birthday of the United States this month with hot dogs, friends and fireworks. In the spirit of living more consciously with multiple truths, we thought it was a perfect time to reflect on our understanding and relationship to “freedom” and “independence.”

One CWC member got us thinking about freedom when they recently shared the following: "I grew up loving the fourth of July; lots of great food and lots of friends celebrating. I totally bought into the idea that, like Thanksgiving, it was a universal celebration for all Americans where everyone wore red, white and blue and understood how lucky we are to be living in a country where we are so free. Now, I don’t know what to think about the holiday since deepening my understanding about white supremacy and racism. What am I celebrating? Am I really free? I still go to picnics, but it doesn’t feel as celebratory. Actually, if I’m honest, it does feel as celebratory, and that’s what bothers me.” This reflection really got us thinking, especially about our relationship to freedom. To help us dig into this topic, we will watch James Earl Jones read a small excerpt (1:00 - 2:34) of Fredrick Douglas’s famous 1852 oration “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” (full transcript). We also invite James Baldwin to inspire our reflection with two of his quotes: "Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.” - James Baldwin "It is very nearly impossible to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.” - James Baldwin Here are some questions to help focus our thoughts around these excerpts on “freedom” and “independence:”

  1. What feelings come up for me after watching the James Earl Jones clip and reading the James Baldwin quotes?

  2. What am I celebrating if/when I celebrate the fourth of July? How has my relationship to the fourth of July evolved, if at all?

  3. How free am I in a country that oppresses BIPOC?

  4. Is independence, as a value, something to celebrate? Why or why not?

  5. Is there a way for me to celebrate the fourth of July and be anti-racist? What does/could that look like?

To be clear, like all of the monthly prompts we use to inspire new perspectives, there is no specific ideology that CWC is trying to introduce/reinforce with these questions. They are designed to be open-ended and inspire each of us to expand our own thinking, wherever that may lead.

And as always, if this prompt doesn’t speak to you, feel free to join a gathering and bring up anything that is on your heart.

We look forward to gathering with you for this important conversation.

P.S. This week Reuters released a report “U.S. Elites Ties to Slavery” in which they talk about 118 leaders, mostly politicians, who have a direct ancestor who was a slave holder. There’s just so much to learn!

“When we talk about a celebration, I like to think of it as a commitment. We have to think of the Fourth of July as a celebration and a recommitment to the idea of a nation for the people and by the people." - Dolores Huerta, civil rights activist


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