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Thursday, April 16, 2015 marked the 153rd anniversary of the abolition of slavery in DC, otherwise known as Emancipation Day. In 1862 over 3,000 slaves were freed, just eight months prior to the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves in the South. The District of Columbia also has the distinction of being the only locality in the United States to have paid slave owners for releasing the people they enslaved.
This in fact, was no easy feat; instead it was long and arduous. From the city’s early days, many groups and individuals signed anti-slavery petitions, openly criticized slave trading and wrote several news articles against slavery. During the early years of the Civil War African-Americans by the thousands stormed the Nation’s capital seeking solace from bondage. Under scrutiny and much pressure, with the assistance of Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, President Abraham Lincoln got the bill passed through Congress.
News of Lincoln’s action quickly spread throughout the city. The joy in the District’s African-American community was dramatic and profound. That was a remarkable undertaking and definitely a momentous encounter for black Americans. Now, everyone celebrates Emancipation Day, regardless of their race; but what does it mean for humanity today?
Even within the African-American community many people have never actually been considered slaves, but yet possess the slave mentality. Well, the Emancipation Proclamation is all about the fight for freedom. It is time to take responsibility for individual freedom and release the bondage mentality. It seems that most people consider Emancipation Day, or the word freedom, to only pertain to physical slavery. Freedom in its generic sense means:
The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint, the power to determine action without restraint or the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without.
The truth is anything that keeps one from doing something they desire is limiting their freedom. There is no need to avoid the truth; racism still flourishes in today’s society. Things have changed and times are different, but today many in the African-American community still suffer from the after-effects of the struggle for justice. Sadly, many are mentally lost in a time warp while current events surrounding law enforcement continuously serve as reinforcement.
While this is understandable, it is not beneficial. The struggle has left many people, regardless of their race, mentally crippled due to their own behavioral actions and choices. People became so entangled with the struggle that even when the struggle began to diminish they held on as if in a fight to keep it alive, instead of embracing the opportunity to grab hold of freedom.
It is time to really enjoy the opportunities of Emancipation Day which means realizing that many personal situations are simply a report card of yesterday’s choices. It is time to trade the slave mentality to one of freedom. Here are a few things to remember about the fight for freedom:
It is a fight for perspective. Perspective is the way a person sees things unraveling in the world around them. It is perspective that governs behavior; people are only as free as their perspective. A simple shift in viewpoint can radically change every experience encountered. Perspective sees opportunities or obstacles and possibilities or potential. It is a simple, yet profound, internal resource that is often overlooked.
It is a fight for creativity. Many have grown stale because nothing new is being generated so they keep recycling old belief systems, finances, and information. It is time to tap into the realm of creativity. The world today along with the “miracles” of technology are a result of continuous creative innovation. It seems that there is often the belief that innovation is virtually instantaneous. Innovation is often predicated on some vast storehouse of creativity, experience or knowledge which provides that foundation for a new idea or concept. Instant success often takes years.
It is a fight for your story. A person’s story is one of the most precious and priceless things they own. Too often people refuse to share their story because of shame or embarrassment. It is these experiences which make each story unique and transforms the owner into the person they have become. A person’s story is what connects them to the world; it is healing and liberating. Never doubt or relinquish the power of your story.
What does Emancipation Day mean in 2015? It decrees the time is now for everyone to become the master of their freedom by taking responsibility for their life in every way possible. Not just African-Americans, but people of every nationality deserve so much better; the good news is the fight was decided on April 16, 1862. Emancipation Day simply serves as a reminder to exercise that freedom.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Inside Image Courtesy of National Museum of American History – Creativecommons Flickr License
Top Image Courtesy of Juan Garcia – Creativecommons Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Charles Hoffman – Creativecommons Flickr License