#AdvocacyMatters: How Free?

June 23, 2023 / #AdvocacyMatters

“Freedom” - the word - is something that is found everywhere, especially this time of year. From patriotic messages in the media to star-spangled t-shirts and bumper stickers, “freedom” as a part of our national brand is inescapable. “Freedom” – the concept – is much more difficult to track down.

This past Monday we celebrated Juneteenth Freedom Day, which marks the date (June Nineteenth) on which enslaved people in Texas were formally set free… more than 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. In a few weeks we’ll celebrate Independence Day - just as has been done for hundreds of years. While steeped in pageantry and tradition, the “independence” achieved on that date only applied to a certain segment of the population… a segment that seems to maintain much of our nation’s power and wealth to this day.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these celebrations. The lens through which we view them, however, could be improved. As we saw with the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation, these events were only steps on the long path towards true freedom… not the end result.

As we see in our work every day, that goal of true freedom and equity still rests on the horizon. The fight for this freedom is broad and complex, and impacts daily activities like where one can live, work, or go, and civic duties like the ability to participate in elections and the legislative process.

At a Juneteenth celebration in Chicago this week, several advocates gathered to discuss their existence at the intersection of race and disability.

“I often feel like I’m an alien or an outsider to both the Black community and the disability community,” Timotheus “T.J.” Gordon Jr. told the Chicago Times, and described feeling “isolated, marginalized, or even hated” at times as he balances both identities. “We’re proud of our multiple identities. We’re dope. We’re not going anywhere. And we’ll continue to build our communities, our nation, and the world with our many talents.”

As these celebrations continue – with parades stepping off and fireworks lighting up the night sky – take a moment to reflect not just on the freedoms already achieved, but on the fight that carries on. #AdvocacyMatters

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