On this Fourth of July in the year of 2018, I am celebrating my right to write, speak, protest, kneel and VOTE! What are you celebrating?

242 years ago, the United States declared itself separate from the British Empire as it adopted the Declaration of Independence. 56 white men signed the document that most of us had to memorize in elementary school. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As a black woman, I have always been keenly aware that this language, when it was written, did not apply to me. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, most black people were property and women were invisible. Had I been born during the first 150 years of this country, I would have had no legal rights. Thankfully, the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments changed that — well, sort of.

As a girl raised in the south, I know that American history is not a sanitary subject. Sharecropping replaced slavery and Jim Crow was the law. I know that the state of Mississippi created the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission to spy on its citizens because my father and his parents are listed in the report. I saw the Klan march when I was in high school. I saw members of a fraternity dress as confederate soldiers and march through my college campus. A lot of blood was shed so that I may enjoy the rights that I have today, and I am forever grateful.

We progressed. Schools and social organizations were desegregated. People were prosecuted for hate crimes. We were all coexisting. Then along came 2016 and the assault against black people, immigrants, women, Muslims and the LGBT community. A candidate who came to the forefront with his birther claims was elected President. This person condoned grabbing women’s genitals, and proclaimed that Muslims were terrorists, blacks were ghetto and a wall was needed to keep Mexicans out of this country.

In the last month, the Supreme Court has upheld the Trump’s travel ban against mostly Muslim countries, diluted the Voting Rights Act with respect to politically gerrymandered districts in North Carolina and Texas, and sided with a Colorado baker who used religion as his reason for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple wedding. Immigrant children have been separated from their parents, there is a real possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, and #LivingWhileBlack continues to bring to light the numerous mundane situations where white people feel inclined to contact police officers to “tattle” on black people working, mowing the lawn, sleeping or enjoying a cookout.

The climate has made me both sad and angry, but I am not fearful. I’m empowered to speak up because silence is acquiescence. So, enjoy your hamburgers and hotdogs, but for the 65 percent of us who were not free when the Declaration of Independence was signed, it is time to wake up, stand up and shout the words of Langston Hughes: I, TOO, AM AMERICA!