Vol. 10    No. 12
JUNE 11, 2015
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                                     Let Freedom Ring
Before I get started on this week’s column, I need to make note of something. When you picked up this issue of The Capital City Hues, you might
have thought, ‘This is odd. I could swear that the paper is a different size.’ And you would be correct in that observation.

Several weeks ago, I got notice from our printer that the paper size that The Hues has been printed on since it was started back in 2006 was being
discontinued and that we would have to adjust the size of the paper. After looking at our options, I decided to switch to a larger-sized paper that
would still allow us to use our racks. While our old paper length was 14”, it is now 16.5”. It allows us to provide just a little bit more content at
basically the same price. I hope you like it.

It’s hard to believe, but Juneteenth Day is already 150 years old. Just kidding. I feel that old at times, but there has been a lot of water under the
bridge since June 19, 1865. A lot has happened in those intervening years including the Reconstruction, the Rise of Jim Crow, sharecropping,
lynchings, segregation, Brown versus Board of Education, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Selma, the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights
Act and what some would call the Rise of Jim Crow Jr.

There has been a lot of struggle during the past 150 years, but there have also been some victories including great African American scholars and
inventors, astronauts, authors, statesmen and elected officials including the lection of the first African American president Barack Obama. No one
can say that there haven’t been gains made.

If someone asked me if African Americans were free today, I would have to say they are half-free. While African Americans are legally free, they are
not free from racist stereotypes and attitudes that seek to keep African Americans “in their place,” whether that means questioning people when they
don’t appear to belong in a certain place or assuming that children don’t want to and can’t learn and therefore no real effort is made to educate the
child. Whether you are lower class or upper class, in some situations, it doesn’t matter because the only thing that matters is that you are Black.

Freedom is not a permanent state of affairs. It is a condition that is continuously in flux and subject to reinterpretation from time to time depending
on the need of the times and the desires of those who make the rules. For example, while the push for election legislation for decades was to make it
more accessible and convenient for everyone since voting is a right, it has now become trendy by conservatives and the money backing them to
pass legislation that inhibits voting, that believes only a certain class of people should vote harkening back to the days of the founding of the United
States when only propertied white males could vote — a minority of the people who lived in the United States at the time.

And so, if you do not practice your freedom and exercise your rights and guard your freedom against enemies both foreign and domestic, just as sure
as there are greedy, uncaring people in this world, there will be those who will take away all of your freedom in a heartbeat. I can’t help but feel that
there is a group of people out there who long to be America’s aristocracy.

And so while the legal strictures of slavery were torn down 150 years ago, the desire of some folks to enslave others did not. And as clever and
resourceful as human beings are, they will devise methods to get around the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. How else can one explain the rise of
sharecropping after the demise of Reconstruction? While slavery was abolished, sharecropping still kept African Americans tied to the plantation or
the farm. They were still bound to one individual for their livelihood. And just as Africans who were slaves has their Harriet Tubmans to lead them to
the north where they would no longer be slaves, sharecroppers had The Chicago Defender to lead them to the industrial north to work in the
burgeoning factories.

I am not always sure if I know what freedom really means. Does freedom mean that I can do whatever I want whenever I want regardless of the
impact of my actions on others? Does freedom mean that I don’t have to obey any of society’s laws and can just consume and spend? I don’t think so
and others may feel differently.  

Freedom, to me, means the right to choose, but I still have to be responsible and accountable to someone. I want to be able to decide what I shall
do with my life and how I live it. But I have to respect the rights that other people have as well. I must be free to take care of my business, but take
care of my business, I must. Freedom doesn’t allow me to act like a child all of my life and act as if I am the only one who matters in this world.

Freedom means that I have the right to grow up and act like an adult and then I have the right not to be oppressed by others. I have a social contract
for freedom with society and then society has one with me. Freedom is a two-way street and not a one-sided affair where I accrue all of the benefits
and avoid all of the responsibilities. But society must also uphold its side of the bargain and allow me to be free to operate within the strictures of the
social compact.

And that leads me to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a protest against the strictures that don’t allow people of color, particularly young
African American men, to operate freely within strictures of that social compact. And it is that lack of freedom that the modern civil rights movement
is all about today. Let freedom ring.