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Lonnie From the Block

As we prepare for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend, I can’t help but feel that this Independence Day will be different.

Perhaps it’s just the residual effects of the Coronavirus, or the protest for the recognition that black life matters. Or, maybe its that racial equality, diversity and inclusion must be honored in order for us to move forward.

Perhaps it’s the residual effects and stressors of America’s heritage that is weighing upon us. We know instinctively that all lives matter, but until black life has value in every structure of American life, America can never truly celebrate its independence.

I’ve been thinking about my worldview, and the people and events which inspired me to think about life beyond the four corners of the block I grew up on.

I pulled out one of my favorite movies this weekend, “Imitation of Life,” starring Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner as Sarah Jane. I can never get through this movie without crying. Susan Kohner’s character always made me angry, sad and a bit of, “I really do understand.” Playing the role of a very light-skinned black woman, she wanted and could pass in order to see the world. She wanted to be white in order to be accepted by the world.

To be accepted is a powerful need we all have. Yet, to accept another human being you really need to walk in their shoes. You need to understand their worldview.

While Sarah Jane wanted to pass, to be accepted, she also discovered when her mother died, she really wanted to be herself. She wanted to be her mother’s daughter. That meant she wanted to be liked, embraced, and loved for who she was.

This coming Independence Day, I feel a change in the air. This Fourth of July will have far more meaning and value than America receiving it’s independence from the British Crown. For so many its the recognition of acceptance to the full participation in American life. It is the acceptance to walk in freedom. To walk in an America where black, or brown, or otherness is a badge of honor to ones humanity.

This Independence Day I am hoping we are celebrating more than liberation from another country. Perhaps we can also celebrate the liberation from our fears.

As a kid growing up I loved reading. My thrid grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell inspired that in me. She once admonished me when she caught me daydreaming in class, to go outside my dreams, my neighborhood, the world that I thought I knew.

She was the first person who suggested that I become a traveller in the world rather than a tourist. I had no idea what she meant. I have come to learn that travellers are learners, they embrace culture and accept differences. Tourist, on the other hand are gluttonist, who want excatly what they have at home to be available for them on their trip.

In the Autobiography of Malcolm X, this lesson of being a traveler and accepting the differences of who we are was a lesson he wrote about. His trip to Mecca opened his eyes about race and acceptance.

This coming Independence Day, I’m hoping all of us can take a trip off of our blocks, out of our neighborhoods, and break bread with someone different from ourselves. This Independence Day I’m hoping we can shift our worldview about one another.

I’ve expanded my view from the block, travelled around the world and back. What I’ve learned is that we are more alike than we are different. I’m Lonnie from the block and the whole world is my neighborhood.

“And That’s A Brilliant Glimpse of Insight!”™

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