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Syndic Literary Journal

A Freedom of the Mind


Erika Prasad


“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.”—Marcus Garvey.

The smell of plastic burned into my glitter dusted purple jelly sandal as it caught fire from a rogue sparkler I had dropped. The sparks emitted flecks of color and light, then suddenly turned into a flame like the one at the end of a matchstick. Myself, at six years of age, tranced by the spirit of that lasting enigmatic ember, held on until the kiss of heat singed the flesh between my thumb and forefinger. That memory stands as a lesson, that an idea or a spectacle of a thing can sometimes veil a most unpleasant truth.  What does it mean to be an American? This is the question, so many of us are wrestling with (perhaps honestly for the first time) as our country experiences its own “burn moment” and is forced to reckon with its violent history of racism, genocide, slavery, displacement, pollution, and wealth disparity.

The first spark was the global pandemic, where before, daily disruptions kept us asphyxiated on the commodity and ease of things in our neoliberal comforts. Suddenly in our isolation, we were forced to think about how fragile humanity is when faced with something we cannot not see, or touch, but has effectively killed nearly half a million people globally and counting. The hypocrisies of our nation began to show as we surpassed every other country in the highest cases of contraction and death. And then as the angst of staying at home began to bubble and boil over – we witnessed another public execution of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, while in police custody. As another man kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes devoid of air, Floyd’s last words were “Mama”. There was no more looking away or avoiding the truth by way of distraction. Floyd’s call to his mother echoed in a way that rang through our country and rattled the nation. Despite the risk of contraction, cities in all 50 states and over 60 countries participated in mass protests against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On June 6, 2020, my husband and I walked alongside thousands of Sacramento residents making our way from Golden 1 Center to the exterior barricades of the State Capitol and turned in the direction of our convening point to Cesar Chavez Park. I looked up, thankful for the shade of the trees on that warm day and briefly closed my eyes to let the drift of the crowd lead me. That moment of realizing that I am one part of a whole community felt as sacred as being in prayer together. There were so many of us, that from my vantage point, I could not tell where the mass began or ended; we were as one seemingly infinite movement of energy, with the spirit of those whose names we chanted in an amalgam of grief, anger, and an overwhelming act of love. We communed at Cesar Chavez Park, where mothers and daughters held hands, children dragged their signs behind them, people of all races and age groups tethered together for a cause worth fighting— that all lives will matter, when black lives matter.

There is something extraordinary happening at this moment in our history as a country. There is a freeing of the minds, an awakening, to that which, is the truth about the country we live in today and the vision of where we must go. May this Fourth of July mark a new wave of patriotism and not be veiled by a marketing ploy for American nationalism, but a true rallying cry that sparks our road to freedom to realize a more just and equitable world for us all. 


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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