As the fireworks lit up the sky over the San Francisco Bay and emitted smoke and dust that contained various heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and other noxious chemicals I reflected on the ever evasive concept of independence. What does independence means to the ex felons who have been relegated to the lowest rung of the social totem pole years after their release? What does independence mean for the LBGTQ teenager who contemplates suicide because he/she doesn’t feel the freedom to express their identity? What does freedom mean for a President who allegedly transcends race but has been defined by it? What does independence mean for kids on the South side of Chicago who feel like prisoners in their own neighborhoods? What does freedom mean for the young girl who feels so emotionally trapped in mainstream America’s narrow box of beauty that she develops an eating disorder to fit in?

The aforementioned questions may never be answered. However, James Baldwin, the consummate wordsmith, gave a very eloquent response to William Buckley in 1965 about the inequality of the American Dream seen through the eyes of an American Negro. His words still carry truth today as millions wave their flags proudly and sing “God Bless America”. Listen to Baldwin tell the story of those who don’t feel so liberated.