Post submitted by David Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition. This post originally appeared in the NBJC’s newsletter.
In July 1852, Frederick Douglass asked the following question in one of the most prolific essays published: “What To The Slave is the Fourth of July?” As we prepare to celebrate another Independence Day, the National Black Justice Coalition encourages all Black people to ponder the meaning of this profound question as well as the possible responses that we may consider.
This July marks the 55th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which was created to protect individuals from discrimination based on race/ethnicity, sex, color, religion and national origin. The act signaled the formal end of segregation and later paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Though progress has been made since the introduction of this act, fifty-five years later there are codified laws and policies in addition to active legislation being introduced to limit and constrict the civil rights and liberties of Black and Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people. Active attempts to discriminate against members of our community spans across many sectors including: employment, housing, education, and healthcare. Policies have been introduced in both federal and state domains to prevent trans individuals from accessing health and human services. The current administration is restricting reproductive rights, which impacts women and families in myriad ways including the provision of hormone therapy and other critical reproductive services. Advocating for programs and policies that ensure those of us who have needs that are frequently neglected and ignored in popular policy discussions have access to the social, civic, and economic programs and services that enable one to fully participate in our democratic society. As we celebrate the legacy of the Civil Rights Act and prepare for the work that must be done to restore and advance existing protections we must remain steadfast in the work required to ensure that policies and practices provide full and complete protections to Black people when considering sexual identity, gender orientation, and gender expression—by ensuring that all parts of our beautifully Black selves are protected all of the time we can ensure we get free.
As we celebrate the pursuit of independence, and true liberty and justice for all, let us ensure we remain ever mindful of the work that still remains to ensure that every member of our community—the Black community can get free. To learn more about federal efforts to advance legislation that protects “All of Me, All of the Time”, like the Equality Act, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, visit this page.