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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

‘It’s not my day of independence,’ perceptions of July 4 changing

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In a viral post making its rounds on social media, Black people are urged to wear all black on July 4, as opposed to red, white and blue outfits. The post reads, “Independence Day is another BLACK OUT day so they know we’re still in this together. Pass this on so the whole world knows BLACK LIVES MATTER.” 

This post is just one example of the changing perceptions surrounding July 4.

Farida Falke, who was born in Niger and immigrated to the United States as a toddler, remembers a different upbringing than some children of immigrants. 

“There are definitely immigrants who are raised to be super patriotic, pro America, fireworks and bald eagles screeching in the background,” Falke said. “I wasn’t raised like that. My parents, to this day, remind me to never forget my heritage, culture and what had to be done just for us to be here. So I still have that instilled in me in conjunction with basically being an American kid for most of my life.”

Despite not believing in “blind allegiance and patriotism,” Falke said she didn’t notice a change in her perception of July 4 until recently.

“I think my perception of July 4 hadn’t really changed until about a year or so ago,” Falke said. “As a kid and teen, I didn’t think too much about the deeper meaning behind the day. I just always liked it because of the positive associations, like summertime, fireworks … a good time and celebrating America. It wasn’t until recently that I started feeling less of those overwhelming-mandatory-patriotic-all-American feelings, especially in the wake of the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement.”

Throughout the protests and demonstrations which have been taking place throughout the city for a month, organizers and leaders are calling on those in the crowds to understand the history of the United States and the systemic racism that many say still permeates modern society. 

At a demonstration at Military Park and IUPUI June 19, Mat Davis, an organizer from the Indiana Racial Justice Alliance, told the crowd about this history of Juneteenth — when individuals enslaved in Texas two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation learned they had been freed. Davis told the group of roughly 45 people that they were fighting for the same thing as enslaved individuals and those who fought during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s were fighting for: freedom. 

“So, let’s get free!” he exclaimed at the end of his address.

Falke wishes Juneteenth was just as widely known as the Fourth of July. 

“I think celebrating the nation’s independence is fine and I have no problems with people finding joy or excitement in the Fourth,” Falke said. “It’s an excuse to have fun, get a day off from work and watch fireworks. That being said, I wish we all kept the same energy for Juneteenth. A select few were really free on July 4, so it’s not my day of independence or any other Black person’s, really. The Fourth is fine, but there needs to be more education and visibility for Juneteenth.”

NiSean Jones, a local activist and co-founder of the group Black Out for Black Lives, also believes Juneteenth ought to be acknowledged as an important moment in American history. 

“I shouldn’t have had to find out about Juneteenth at 18,” Jones said. “We all know about the Fourth of July and its European influence — and by European, of course, I mean white. Juneteenth is an important day, and young Black kids should learn about it in school just like white kids learn about the Fourth of July.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

Fists raised with flagDilok Klaisataporn

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