And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
In the spring of 2006 I played trumpet in a pair of Memorial Day concerts with the Henrico Pops Chorus. I was one of only two black people participating. I don’t consider myself to be very patriotic. I was playing just because I like to play. I was primarily featured on the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, with small parts on some other songs. One of the last songs of the concert was Proud to Be an American. I had never heard the song before in my life, but everyone else apparently had heard it numerous times.
With current events being what they are I thought about that song today and the lyrics and realize that while they may have grew up singing Proud To Be an American, I grew up singing and hearing We Shall Overcome, and hearing my mother sing “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free.”. While they sang “at least I know I’m free”, I knew I was free to be picked up by the police while walking down the street because I fit the description; that description being 5’ 10” tall, 145 pounds, 16 years old, and black. While they couldn’t forget the men who died who gave them that right to be free, I couldn’t forget the black men and women who died to give me something they knew they themselves might never experience. Remember the words, “I might not get there with you”?
Well, I’m excited about the events of the last couple of days, but I’m not convinced we’re standing in the Promised Land yet. We are closer but not close enough to relax, and we’ll never be in position to forget those who set us up to have this vantage point. As Dr. King stated, “We as a people will get to the promised land”. A promise that says, Someday We’ll ALL be (truly) free.
Keep on walking tall, hold you head up high.
Lay your dreams right up to the sky.
Sing your greatest song.
And you'll keep, going, going on.
Take it from me, Someday we'll all be free.