On July 4, we Americans and all who love these shores will celebrate our country’s 240th birthday.
With the recent killings and hateful acts some have — against some of our fellow Americans, it doesn’t seem like much of a happy birthday. And yet, there will be fireworks and picnics and family and friends gatherings throughout the land, as it should be. For while this birthday — as were so many others — is tinged with spilled blood, there is still so much to celebrate and to be thankful for.
As an African-American woman, I was asked some years ago, why I celebrate Fourth of July. My answer was simple: I am an American. That’s why. This is my country, through the good and bad times.
I have lived through a lot of the bad times in America. As a child, I watched my uncles and cousins come back from World War II, where they would have died for America’s freedom, only to be treated as the scum of the earth. They had fought bravely on foreign shores, but back home, they knew their place: It was at the back of the bus and everywhere else.
It was the Jim Crow (or segregation) era and it was the time of my coming of age. I attended all-black schools, and grew up to work as a maid in some homes where I was treated less than equal to the house pet.
When I graduated high school, the nearest black college at the time was Bethune-Cookman College, a wonderful place of higher learning, founded by a great black woman. But it took money to travel there and back. And so, while white students graduating that same year (1956) had a choice of several institutions, right here in our own city, many young blacks forged their way to out-of-town colleges.
That was a way of life back then. And for me, and other people of color, life was no crystal stair. It was a road strewn with bigotry and obstacles designed “to keep the black man down.” We young blacks heard that phrase nearly every day.
So, why did many of us look beyond the hate and the bigotry and the put downs and obstacles of every description to achieve our goals?
I can describe it in one word: Hope. We had hope, lots and lots of hope. It was hope that was not only instilled in us by our own parents and teachers. The hope also came from those brave whites, who chose to walk the road to equality and freedom along with us. This hope is the stuff that makes us Americans.
I am so privileged to have known many such individuals. Indeed, I would not be writing this column for you to read, had it not been for whites like the late Ethel Goldstein, who hired my mother as a nanny and maid for her grandchildren when I was 8, but who treated Mom like her daughter, and me and my brother Adam, like her own grandchildren.
Or, the late Fred Shaw, who encouraged me to study journalism at Miami Dade College, when I saw no hope of ever becoming a journalist; and Juanita Greene, and the late Helen Corum, who edged me on when my own hope was lagging, taking stories I’d written for the college’s newspaper to Larry Jinks, the managing editor at The Herald at the time, and challenging him to hire me as the first African-American reporter at the paper.
There are so many more examples to give you of my personal reason for celebrating the Fourth of July.
But as I said previously, I celebrate our country’s birthday mainly because, as the song goes:
“This is my country! Land of my birth! This is my country! Grandest on earth! I pledge thee my allegiance, American the bold, For this is my country, to have and to hold!”
FIREWORKS SAFETY TIPS
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has issued eye safety tips for Fourth of July fireworks celebrations:
▪ Never let children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
▪ Protective eye wear should be worn by everyone handling fireworks and close bystanders.
▪ Older children and children using fireworks should be closely supervised.
▪ Keep a pail of water or a garden hose nearby in case of fire or flames.
▪ Do not relight or handle a malfunctioning firework. Soak them with water and dispose of them properly.
▪ Soak all fireworks that have completed burning before discarding to prevent a trash fire.
At public fireworks shows, view the display from at least 500 feet away; respect all safety barriers; follow the direction of local firemen and police, and do not touch un-exploded fireworks.
“Fireworks are extremely dangerous, in terms of eye injuries,” said Basil K. Williams, chief resident at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
“Each year hundreds of people end up with severe eye injuries and burns from fireworks. Many of the victims are bystanders and children. Even sparklers can permanently damage the eye. Sparklers are not toys and children should not be holding hem. The only safe way to see fireworks is to go to a professional fireworks show,” Williams said.
Follow these instructions if, by chance, you are injured from fireworks, seek medical attention immediately. If any particles get into your eye, do not touch or rub them. Do not rinse your eyes. If a sharp object enters your eye, do not pull it out. Put a loose bandage on the eye and do not apply pressure. Go to a hospital emergency room immediately. Do not apply any ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
SOUTH MIAMI JULY 4 CELEBRATION
CocoWalk will host an “Old Fashioned” Fourth of July celebration from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday (July 4) in South Miami. The event is designed to be fun for the entire family.
The day of fun will kick off with live entertainment at noon and will continue with the Independence Day event at 3 p.m. DJ Daz will be the host.
At the event, families can experience an afternoon of patriotic activities to include, interactive games, live entertainment, concessions and an appearance by Lady Liberty.
Activities will include the eighth annual Hot Dog Eating Competition, where the winner and runner-up will have the opportunity to take home over $300 worth of prizes. to sign up for the event, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The evening will conclude with a firework show at Peacock Park.
Warm congratulations to Andrea Ortiz, a recent graduate of Harvard University and an alumna of Palmer Trinity School, who recently was awarded a Fulbright U. S. Student Program grant to Mexico from the U.S. State Department and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Ortiz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies from Harvard, specializing in Latin American studies. As a Fulbright scholar, she will spend nine months in the Mexican cities of Puebla and Guanajuato, where she will study the impact of having a family member emigrate to the United States or another country. She is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-17 academic year.
The recipients of the Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievements as well as their record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.
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