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Syndic Literary Journal


1776-2010 “When Freedom Rang”                                         


Richard Ybarra

LeRoy Chatfield’s call for a “Fourth of July” article was a simple, yet complicated request. Does one revert to the earliest childhood remembrances of fireworks, parades, marching bands and feelings of pride and chills on hearing our national anthem and enjoying family fun picnics? Or move to more muted, confused memories like when Muhammed Ali spoke his truth and suffered the consequences of saying no to the draft several years after the anthem had played during his Olympic Gold medal award ceremony. History has told the story of Ali’s stand against the Vietnam War that cost him three and a half years of his prime.

Or what about the 1968 Mexico Olympics, when Gold and Bronze 200 Meter Medalists Tommy Smith and John Carlos, with support from Australia’s Silver Medalist Peter Norman, whose role went unknown and unnoticed until many years later, raised their black gloved fists as the anthem played during their medal ceremony in Mexico City.  

Norman’s role was such that even though his 20 flat time remains best-ever in Australia; he paid the ultimate price for wearing a badge that read, “Olympic Project for Human Rights”. He was unofficially sanctioned and would never be invited to run in the Olympics again. At his funeral service in 2006, both Smith and Carlos helped carry his coffin. Smith called Norman a hero and said he was “a lone soldier.” Carlos added, “He paid the price. This was Peter Norman’s stand for human rights, not Peter Norman helping Tommie Smith and John Carlos out. He just happened to be a White guy, an Australian White guy, between two Black guys on the victory stand believing in the same thing.”

2020 will go down in history as a year unlike any other for every living being on earth. The year that called “a giant time out” causing all nations to wage a world war against the Covid19 virus, demonstrated what patriotism is and is not in every country. The United States was the best prepared to take on the pandemic, and yet we performed more poorly than every nation on earth. For the first time in our 244 years, on this Fourth of July, other countries look at us with dismay and pity.  How this happened is obvious and we will be discussing it thru the November presidential election and well beyond. At this moment we are 4% of the world population, while our deaths and case numbers stand at 25% on the world Covid19 stage.

Top scientists and a few others knew something like this virus was imminent. It suddenly appeared and fiercely took over our lives from mid-March until a future date that keeps moving forward.  Then came May 25, 2020, the day of George Floyd’s 8 minute and 46 second public execution, when we all saw and heard his cries of “I can’t breathe” and calls for his deceased “Mama”.  Since that day, inspired by this modern-day public lynching, our country and world has been in-the-midst of the biggest and about-time movement ever.  BLACK LIVES MATTER has finally found its place at the top of the national agenda.  Hundreds and thousands of protestors in every state, in big cities and small towns here and around the world, have taken to the streets with a clear understanding of Black Lives Matters, No Justice No Peace, police brutality, discrimination and systemic racism. The beauty of this movement, arisen from tragedy, is that the Peter Norman fairness doctrine has spread, rebranding the mosaic’s color scheme, with many thousands of White people, the world over, joining in this unprecedented and spontaneous worldwide movement. George Floyd and 1000’s of similar victims over the past 401 years, are the Black faces of this new race based uprising.

The 50 state and worldwide Black Lives Matter protest brought me full circle to a University of Chicago seminar on “Race” in 2001. 350 diverse attendees from all over the US, reached one conclusion: Until White people in our country join, take part and lead the conversation, racism will continue unimpeded.

That brings us to Juneteenth 2020, which by next year will be a National Holiday. A callous and tone-deaf president, claimed to discover this hallowed historical date when freedoms ring arrived in Galveston, Texas, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. He scheduled a Covid19 Spreader Rally for Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 99 years after the worst domestic terror massacre in US history that took place in Tulsa’s Greenwood District (Black Wall Street). His ignorant and dog whistling behavior fuels the BLM protests and the anti-Covid19 sentiments, both of which are now part of the November 3rd national referendum. Further, his unbridled mouthing of racist slurs against Asians, during his night of shame walking failure, made his steadfast racist posture clear to all. 

Hope for meaningful change is in the air and we know never to rest or become complacent. So much to be proud of as we get ready to celebrate the “New Juneteenth Fourth of July”. This moment in America, spawned by police brutality representing systemic racism that has never taken a pause, now can almost see change ahead. The Floyd family, Reverend Al Sharpton, his mentor Jessie Jackson and so many other nameless emerging leaders have shown poise and purpose that will continue to fuel the debate, dialogue and decision making, must and will keep their collective feet on the pedal of progress.

Rayshard Brooks’ life, another videotaped murder in Atlanta, was celebrated at Dr. Martin Luther King’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church. Reverend Raphael Warnock said, “We’ve got to keep on walking together, keep on marching together and standing together and together we will win.”

Al Sharpton has called for America to “take your knee off our necks” so we can be anything we want to be in this country. His attention to the grieving families for many years, along with the Black Lives Matters perseverance, deserve much credit and recognition. Thanks to them and the 80% of a reawakened America now supporting systemic racism change, we are poised to finally have that “national talk” about systemic racism.

Until these deeds are done, I will keep hearing echoes from the 1975 Dr. MLK Day in Atlanta when Coretta Scott King honored Cesar Chavez with the first Dr. MLK Peace Prize. That morning joined by civil rights icons Andy Young, Ralph Abernathy, and Mayor Maynard Jackson, we locked arms and sang “we’re gonna keep on a walkin, keep on a talkin, marching down to Freedom land.”

Thanks to America’s street martyrs like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and the over 4000 Black men and women whose lives were unjustly taken by rogue cops from the systemic culture of racism, and discrimination. As the solution debate rages alongside the pandemic, we know that recommendations, incentives, commissions, data collection and studies will not solve the problem.  Rather, treating Black and Brown people the same as if they were White, is the simplest and surest path to justice.  At this point, given our history of justice denial, in order to achieve what the street message demands, there needs to be a national sweep; presidency, congress and the senate. To do less will jeopardize the justice needed to overcome our nation’s original sin of slavery.

Perhaps going forward, when real change takes place, this and future year’s Independence days will have new feelings of pride and chills as we truly hear freedoms ring.



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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