What are you celebrating?
An open letter to Oakland Fam Bam
from the Oakland Maroons Art Collective
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.” -- Fredrick Douglass July 5, 1852
“Racism introduces absurdity into the human condition. Not only does racism express the absurdity of the racists, but it generates absurdity in the victims. And the absurdity of the victims intensifies the absurdity of the racists, ad infinitum. If one lives in a country where racism is held valid and practiced in all ways of life, eventually, no matter whether one is a racist or a victim, one comes to feel the absurdity of life.
Racism generating from whites is first of all absurd. Racism creates absurdity among blacks as a defense mechanism. Absurdity to combat absurdity.” – Chester Himes
As you read this keep in mind that it is written and delivered with an undying love for Black/Afrikan people and the profoundly politicized community that we still have here in the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. As you read this remember that people who don’t love you will say nothing about hard truths and walk away – that is the way of the status quo that have normalized anti-Black terrorism in America.
If we celebrate the Fourth of July without giving voice to the state of madness that exists in this neo-european nation-state built with stolen labor (our ancestors) on stolen land (Ohlone territory) then we enable the madness of normalizing this white racist violence on Black bodies. We should not normalize their madness by having a celebration in the midst of the most blatant wars against the lives of our children and elders. Never normalize the madness of white hegemony and the legacy of genocidal colonialism in this country. One could say that the distance of history makes it easy to suspend disbelief – although it shouldn’t - and enables us go about celebrating “independence day” as if it were just a generic summer party. However, that absurdity won’t work in this year - of all the years in recent memory.
Just two weeks ago in Charleston South Carolina a white supremacist named Dylan Roof murdered the best of our people and walked away from it with his life in tact being tacitly protected by the state policing apparatus that saw fit to apprehend him rather than wantonly taking his life as is usually the fate of Black folks suspected of much less heinous crimes or no crimes at all. Roof will be jailed next to former Charleston police officer Michael Slager who was videoed in April murdering an unarmed Black man named Walter Scott by shooting him in the back while he was running away. Slager then planted a weapon next to his victim’s body. That happened in April of this year. In less than two weeks time since Roof murdered 9 of our most beloved Black folks in Charleston there have been three Black Church burnings on record. April was also the month that Freddie Gray had his back broken and subsequently died of the injuries inflicted on him by Baltimore police officers. On June 5th we all were subjected to the video of an unarmed 14 year old Black girl in a bikini being molested and assaulted by a white Texas cop who subsequently pulled a loaded lethal weapon on our children attending a summer pool party. In less than a year’s time 22 year old John Crawford was gunned down by Dayton Ohio Police in a Walmart while carrying a bb gun, 12 year old Tamir Rice was executed by Cleveland police within two seconds of their arrival to find him playing with a toy gun and right here in our own backyard Demouria Hogg was murdered by Oakland police while he was comatose in his stationary car. These crimes against our humanity happened one right after another and without any acknowledgement from the white status quo about the abnormality and absurdity of those incidents. We’ve come to expect wild and illogical rationalizations of heinous violence against unarmed innocent Black bodies by the white status quo. Think back to the intellectual contortionism that white people went through to justify the murder of Oscar Grant in the face of undeniable video evidence and dozens of witnesses. But, are you paying attention to how we enable their absurd comfort with our dehumanization? Don’t say yes if you plan to celebrate on “independence day” because to engage in such celebration will be enabling the absurdity and madness of normalizing the warlike atmosphere that Black folks experience here in America. What are you celebrating?
If you are thinking that the fourth of July is just a day off and you need some stress relief you are rationalizing something that carries far more significance than just a day of Barbeque and loud music. You will be outwardly engaging in the absurdity of celebrating ‘independence’ built with stolen labor on stolen land in the midst of a time when there have been FIVE black church burnings since wanton terrorism of the Charleston Church murders. What are you celebrating?
We the Oakland Maroons Art Collective state emphatically that this is the worst possible time in history for us to be having a “celebration” and we propose some alternative actions in order to seize the time and move forward with a more appropriate response to the absurdity of the contemporary white status quo’s anti-black terrorism.
1.Abstain from Flying American Flags or showing (Wearing) them during event.
2.Fly and Display Red,Black and Green flags as a symbol of Solidarity and Unity with Black people struggling around the world. And, encourage attendees to wear red, black and green clothing. No American flag colors or gear.
3. Have the DJ pause the music for 1minute after announcement for a moment of silence to commemorate the the Black lives lost to the terrorism in South Carolina and at the hands of Police terrorism world wide.
4. Allow the Oakland Maroons to set up an information table to inform people about the history of the 4th of July as it pertains to African/Black people.
5. Change the name of the event to 4th of You Lie.
As you contemplate our suggestions please keep in mind that these words are written with the great feelings of love that motivate revolutionaries and that people who don’t love you will say nothing and walk away.