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LEON: The Meaning of July Fourth for the African-American

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | 7/3/2014, 12:17 p.m.

I take this moment to focus on the past because as Douglas said, "We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future."

Douglas continued, "At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh, had, I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced."

As we enjoy the Fourth, eating ribs and hot dogs, we must ask ourselves, are we as a people able to enjoy the blessings, the justice, and the liberty that are celebrated on this day? If not, what must we do to bring about substantive and permanent change?

Our plight, our success, and our future have always been in our hands. Dr. King once said, "…nobody else can do this for us; no document can do this for us; no Lincolnian emancipation proclamation can do this for us; no Kennesonian or Johnsonian civil rights bill can do this for us; if the negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted manhood his own emancipation proclamation."

Here is one, just one very simple yet challenging thing to consider.

Ben Jealous, the former president and CEO of the NAACP, has just released a report, "True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years after Freedom Summer." According to the report, "The first and most important lesson is that massive voter registration can overcome massive voter suppression. Our analysis shows that registering just 30 percent of eligible unregistered black voters or other voters of color could shift the political calculus in a number of Black Belt states, helping blacks elect candidates who share their concerns or alternatively, forcing all candidates to pay attention to the community's concerns. Registering 60 percent or 90 percent would change the political calculus in an even greater number of states."

I opened with Douglas and I will close with Douglas, "…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope."

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 program "Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon" Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email wjl3us@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @drwleon and Dr. Leon's Prescription on Facebook.