#20 The Transformation of Celebration & Freedom
Freedom is to be a person, Liberation is to be a person that is not policed.
“For to survive in the mouth of this dragon we call america, we have had to learn this first and most vital lesson - that we were never meant to survive. Not as human beings.” - Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818 he didn’t know his actual birth date, and like all enslaved people he was not allowed to celebrate life, as the purpose of the enslaved was not to be birthed to live, and to never have a relationship with knowing life.
When he fled bondage and when he met life and when he touched freedom he ended up adopting February 14th as his birthday.
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When my Jamaican mother and Dominican father came to America their celebration was that they did the impossible, they believed this was the beginning of their journey to getting free. To being a person that has no limits on their dreams and goals. By them migrating to America they experienced a freedom that many of their friends and family did not. Upon their arrival they celebrated. My parents celebrated this moment not knowing how long the feeling of freedom would last because they knew they did something risky, since the movement of Blackness is always under surveillance, it is questioned and at the same time ignored.
America is really good at giving us illusions of freedom and those illusions of freedom make us really good at not making my problems your problems and vice versa, but we have to understand that freedom is individualized in this system. It’s easy to ignore someone not having freedom when we have freedom.
When we look back at the ending of slavery in the United States, we see that not everyone became free at once, freedom arrived in 1827 in New York, 1780 in Pennsylvania 1783 in Massachusetts, and June 19th, 1865 in Galveston Texas. Freedom can come to us one by one or group by group.
It’s a reminder that we’re not all free, Brittney Griner WNBA star who is Black, and a lesbian, is in a Russian Jail, we continue to see white supremacy work its way to remove roads of freedom and personhood, there is no excuse our system can give us as to why freedom can’t be obtained, as the system purely runs on laws and rules that can be removed and changed and we know this and have the proof when we look at the ending of slavery.
We also have this proof when we look at Elizabeth Key Grinstead an enslaved woman in the Colony of Virginia who was one of the first Black people and women to sue for their freedom in 1656. Many more enslaved Africans began to sue for their freedom, leading Virginia to codify its law so there could forever be an obstacle for all enslaved in Virginia looking to have freedom. Elizabeth Freeman did the same in 1781.
With this knowledge we quickly become aware that those in power can easily, in simple words make shit happen, it’s a matter of not wanting to because holding on to anti-blackness gives our country more power to oppress all marginalized and continue to uphold a capitalist foundation.
My idea of celebrating freedom is changing, we’re not all fighting for the same cause, as humans usually align themselves to fight a fight that affects us personally, for Black people every fight is personal every political move is personal. Our freedom will forever be up for grabs.
Our world tells us that if we stay in our lane and celebrate the moments of success and achievements sitting at tables without being served that will conclude our journey of getting free.
We’re often celebrating things that aren’t for us that even do us harm, we’re celebrating what we think we need to be free and that leads us into fetishizing white supremacy, celebrating freedom within whiteness. When celebrating “freedom” in close proximity and or in company with whiteness it doesn’t last forever. Oppression and freedom do not connect in a colonial world as we were never meant to be human beings, so this illusion of freedom carries on.
But I can say, that Black people have navigated our own ways of freedom through the celebration of life, through the celebration of personhood because we were never meant to live, to have thought, to love, to succeed, so we soak it up making the best out of a world that we know has the power to strip our freedoms from us at any moment.
I’ve learned just recently, that freedom begins with your birthday. I’m allowed to be a person who thinks openly, yet not everyone has that. When we are no longer dedicated to a structure that polices our bodies our identity our queerness and our movement we can then be liberated. Black liberation is to be a person that is safe from politics that are personal harm, safe within this structure that wants to kill us.
Frederick Douglass became a person when he was free, so he gave himself a birthday, to note to the world he was a person free from bondage. Every February 14th Frederick celebrated his life, his birth.
I was supposed to send this out on my birthday October 20th, but I was busy celebrating my freedom. And my wish for us is to be liberated as that is something that cannot be threatened, thrown behind bars, or deported. Achieving liberation is a collective experience that gives us permanent freedom.
Freedom is to be a person, liberation is to be a person that is not policed.
Thanks for reading friends, it’s Scorpio season stay safe out there.