I Remember These Fourth of July Moments

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Un trabajador del municipio de Cataño usa una mascara con la bandera de Puerto Rico mientras entrega comida a familias con niños menores de edad en un centro de distribución de alimentos en Cataño (Puerto Rico). EFE/Thais Llorca

By:  Wilfredo (Wil) Rojas

Whenever I have a conversation with my wife about an important day in my life, her response usually goes like this: “Honey, we don’t really remember days, what we do remember is something out of the ordinary that occurred on a given day.” 

So I asked her recently, «Will we remember the year 2020?» and she responded, “Oh God yes!”  “Our world has been turned upside down as a result of COVID-19, and as if this wasn’t enough, people in the United States and other countries have been staging massive street demonstrations to protest the senseless deaths of black people.

Despite civil unrest and the threat of the coronavirus, people in America gather to celebrate the official birth of the United States of America.  They just don’t get it, what are we really celebrating? When the founding fathers, stole or tricked the indigenous people out of their land, and segregated them to reservations? When they signed the Declaration of Independence, Black people were not considered human. Women were considered inferior, and very few Latinos and Asians were living in the original thirteen colonies, especially before the late twentieth century.

So, getting back to my wife’s comment, I clearly remember July 4, 1965 and the something out of the ordinary that occurred.  On a personal note, my father was killed in a tragic automobile accident in Geneva, Ohio, where my family traveled to visit with my father’s younger brother, whom he hadn’t seen in 15 years. I remember driving to Geneva Lake, in Geneva, Ohio with a farmworker, who worked under my uncle’s supervisor. My father and mother traveled in a separate car, as did other others of the traveling parties who would join us for a day of swimming, good eating and alcoholic beverages. At dusk, it was time to pack and head back to my uncle’s house. Being 13-years-old, and my cousin, 11 years old at the time, when told by my father to drive in the car he was traveling in, we begged him to allow driving back with the man who drove us there. Sensing that this man, made have drank a little too much, my father agreed and he hopped into the front seat of the nice Mercury. My cousin and I sat in the back, the man, looking to impress us, starting speeding, and the daring kid in us urged him on. Coming around a bend, he crashed into a light post on the right side of the road, after failing to maneuver a curve. My father and I were both thrown from the car. I was treated for head and back injuries and released; my father spent 16 days in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries. My cousin was treated, along with the driver, for minor injuries and released.

July 4, 1976, marked the Bi-Centennial of the founding of the United States of America, and I was among those who suggested a counter-demonstration. That year, I was one of the most identifiable organizers, as a member of the July 4th Coalition, which included 102 organizations across the nation that protested the Bicentennial of a country, in cities and town across America to send a message that while we celebrated our nation’s 200 birthday, systemic racism flourished, police brutality against Black, Latinos, LGBTQ and others went unabated, lack of jobs, educational, political, and business opportunities for person of color were few, women were treated as inferior to men, and we raised our collective multiracial, multicultural voices for justice, equality and freedom from oppression and the decolonization of other countries  

Does that sound like what is going on in America today with all the protests?

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