Fight for the Freedom You Want to Celebrate
She had been violated. The police were pushing her into their vehicle to take her away. She turned to the onlookers and yelled to them, “Why don’t you guys do something?”
And hundreds of them did do something. They fought back. For several nights, using their voices, their bodies, and bricks, a community made Greenwich Village their battleground for the uprising we know today as the Stonewall Rebellion. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans people, and allies who took to the streets of New York in protest were a revolutionary force in pursuit of freedom.
In the words of Audre Lord, “Revolution is not a onetime event.” The idea of America has been fought for in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and in streets, courtrooms, and legislatures ever since. The fight for freedom is ongoing and relentless. Seneca Falls was a battleground. Selma was a battleground. Stonewall was a battleground.
Recently, the streets of Minneapolis, Louisville, and Atlanta are battlegrounds. People all over this country are still fighting for the revolutionary American idea and promise of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, class, and status. The battles are interconnected because we are all connected to each other. Fannie Lou Hamer said it plainly and best, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
Amidst a pandemic highlighting health inequities, we’ve seen the spotlight turn to the police killings of unarmed Black people. At the same time, we still see news reports about the murders of Black trans women, and a federal education department gutting the protections for trans students. We see stagnant wages not rising to the increasing cost of living, making it ever more difficult for so many to have secure, affordable housing.
All of these things run contrary to the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That idea and promise of the America we know we can be has been hit, bruised, and violated. In this moment she is turning to us and yelling, “Why don’t you do something?” because she desperately needs defending and protecting.
We must all do something. There is a role for everyone. Your something could be calling, texting, and emailing all of your friends and family to ensure that they are registered to vote and have a plan for getting a mail-in ballot, participating in early voting, or heading to the polls on Election Day.
Intentions are good, but a person who has created a vote plan or scheduled to vote will be more likely to actually cast a ballot. You can help those in your network come up with their vote plan and then check in with them to hold them accountable.
Your something could be hosting a community Zoom call to create a safe space to have tough conversations about the events of the day, promoting better understanding and providing factual information to help educate others. In our communities there are potential allies who are still learning and can help advance causes and advocate for policy changes when pointed in the right direction. We can lead them.
Your something could be writing letters and emails to your elected officials and newspapers, participating in peaceful marches and rallies, or providing pro bono services to a nonprofit organization that needs the support.
Each of us possesses an ability and a moral responsibility in this moment in our history to actively engage. The fight for freedom is far from over and battles will have to be fought again and again. Freedom is not free and the price of liberty is indeed eternal vigilance.
Each of us, all of us, must do something. What will you do? ▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he also has been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFluker or Instagram: Mr_CJFluke