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What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

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imageFellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! Whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, ‘may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!’ To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY.”

Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July

During this national holiday we Americans call “Independence Day” many of us reflect on our country’s independence from British control. Women, men,and children recite and reflect on those famous words penned by the great Thomas Jefferson:, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Many of us reflect on the longevity of our independent government, celebrating the initiation of our nation on July 4, 1776.

76 years later, in 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a controversial speech during this time of celebration, asking the question: “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” As a free black man speaking on the joys of independence while his family and friends were still in bondage, Douglass could only audibly wonder if such a request for his oratorical skills was for the purpose of mockery. He therefore chose not to revel in his freedom, or the political independence of Anglo-Caucasian America from British control. Instead, he called attention to the lack of independence for the African slave and the African American born into the South.

On this year that our country celebrates 238 years of political, religious, and cultural independence, I want to call your attention to a group of people bound by chains. There are still people who are being physically abused – beaten, raped, and ravished. There are still people who are being examined like prized cattle and sold to the highest bidder. There are still people who are being brainwashed and conditioned to believe that they were created to do the bidding of these masters. Who are they? The victims of sex trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery.

Women and children of all races are experiencing the tragic saga of the African slave. They are being kidnapped from their homes and families and forced to work in the sex trade. Many of the women are lured into believing that they would simply strip for money, but they end up being sexually exploited and raped. Both the women and children are made to believe that they are inferior, that the most they are good for is the sexual satisfaction of their clients. These victims are brutally beaten when their master or pimp determines that they are not performing well enough to garnish the necessary wages toward his net profit. Because of the physical toll on their bodies, many of these victims, both women and children, contract deadly sexual diseases.

So I ask you, as you set up the barbeque and put on your red, white, and blue, and enjoy your family and friends:

What to the slave is the fourth of July?

     When they are locked in chains, the freedom to go and come as they please stripped away like the clothes from their backs.

What to the slave is the fourth of July?

     When they are taught, trained, and conditioned to believe that their sole purpose on this Earth is for the sexual arousal and satisfaction of another.

What to the slave is the fourth of July?

     When they are forced to labor for another and never see the financial fruits of their labor.

What to the slave is the fourth of July?

     When they feel the health in their body slowly decline because of excessive sexual activity.

What to the slave is the fourth of July?

     When "family" becomes a twisted word that includes their oppressors.

What to the slave is the fourth of July???

As you reflect on the freedoms and rights that you enjoy, I beg you not to forget that there are people around you still trapped in bondage. It is not enough for you to simply appreciate your freedom, while your brother remains in chains. I encourage you to learn what you can do to help end sex slavery today! Like Frederick Douglass, you too can be an abolitionist and help free women and children from the bondage of sex trafficking!

Visit this abolitionist page founded and directed by Pastor Shantel Smith:

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Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation…[But] the shape of the world will not permit us the luxury of gradualism and procrastination.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Claudia Marion Allen has a deep love for God, family, and friends.  Originally from Michigan, she graduated from Andrews University in May 2013 and moved to the DC area to pursue a graduate degree in English at Georgetown University.  Her greatest joy while at Andrews came from leading ministries on campus and she's looking forward to working with our ministries here at Metro.