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Independence Day: The Success of Protest

This is an article I wrote for my employer’s newsletter.

Independence Day:  The Success of Protest

By Meka R Brown

On July 4, 1776 delegates from the 13 colonies met and adopted the Declaration of Independence.  This historical event followed the success of the American colonists’ defeat of the British troops in the Revolutionary War.  The war was preceded by several protests over taxation.

In 1765 the Stamp Act was imposed on the American colonies.  Those colonists most affected protested in the streets which sometimes turned into violent riots.  The protests and rioting led to a meeting between those in power and the opposition of the tax and ended with the Stamp Act being repealed in 1766.

The Townshend Acts were a series of taxes imposed on the colonies in 1767.  Taxes were levied on British goods like china, glass, paper, lead and paint.  The colonists decided to boycott the purchase of these goods and protest the taxes by vandalizing stored British goods.  After the Boston Massacre in 1770, most of the Townshend acts were repealed.  Tea was the only exception.

In protest of the tea tax, the colonists refused to purchase British tea and smuggled in Dutch tea, which caused Britain to impose the Tea Act.  This new tea tax caused the protesters to board ships owed by the British East India Company and throw several hundred chests of tea into the water.  This protest known as the Boston Tea Party would be the last protest leading into the Revolutionary War.

Our independence as a nation was built on the power of protest.  Protests have been held for women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, anti-war, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and so many other issues.  During these trying times in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Armaud Arbery, protesting can once again effect change as the protests in the late 1700s did for this country.

Currently our country is in crisis with the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and loss of jobs, but all is not lost.  Just as our country has prevailed in other times of crisis, it shall prevail this time.  As you celebrate freedom and Independence Day do not hang your head in hopelessness, instead raise your head in hope.  This nation is built on dreams and no matter how hard the struggle or how violent the fight, dreams do come true.

www.history.com

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My Silence has been complicit

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As the world explodes, yet again, I am left feeling uncomfortable in my silence.

I am from St. Louis, MO, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, home to the Arch and the city where the Ferguson Uprising occurred.

During those days in 2014, I held a different view.  I, like many people still do today, focused more on the destruction of property and the looting.  But as time progressed and I began to see the same scenarios being played out over again and again, of black men and women being killed by the police and/or in police custody, my view began to change.

It was Philando Castile’s death, on Facebook Live, that completed my cycle of change.  That day I reached my breaking point.  Listening to him take his last breaths while watching as he leans back, slowly, T-shirt stained with blood, I reached my breaking point.  My chest filled with the weight of that scene and all the others.  My throat closed up around the fist enclosed within it.  I began to sob, uncontrollably, and anyone who knows me, knows I hate to cry.  And although my body was filled with all that pain, I still remained silent.  Deaths continued to occur.  Atatiyanna Jefferson, Botham Jean and the list continued to grow and I remained silent.

Now it’s 2020 and Breonna Taylor was killed, then George Floyd.  Everyone has seen the video.  A man, a black man, lying on his stomach, with a knee in his neck.  Not any knee, but a knee belonging to a police officer.  I hear him repeatedly say, “I can’t breathe.”  Is this Eric Garner all over again?  And the officer remains planted on his neck, hands in his pocket, indifferent to the struggle for air from the man beneath him.  An officer indifferent to taking this man’s life and obviously indifferent to the repercussions his actions would have. And now, I can no longer sit comfortably in my silence.

I have been quiet for too long.  Maybe it’s out of fear.  Obviously out of fear.  I even made a Facebook post about it.  That post states…

“I almost never post about such times as these.  I didn’t want to argue with the “trolls,” whose sole intent and purpose is to say hurtful, hateful and ignorant things.  I was afraid of how I would be seen, of losing friends, and of alienating myself because of my views…my silence has been complicit.

“Now here we are again, yet again and I can no longer stand by silently.  No longer can I worry about arguing or alienating myself or alienating others.  No longer can I worry about losing “so-called” friends or how I will be seen because of my views.  Now it’s time for me…to help my community fight for what has long been denied.”

Today I decided to choose courage.  Today I decided would be the day I make my very first blog post on a blog I’ve had for five years.  Today is the day I feel the fear and do it anyway.

Photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash