What is freedom?

September 29, 2018

From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters

Bellefonte, Penn.—In America are we really free or are we going through an act, or through the motions?

Carter G. Woodson. Photo: Wikipedia.

Freedom is being unrestricted physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and financially. Freedom is feeling alive, safe and secure all the time, any place or anywhere. Freedom is having the ability to be independent, self-reliant or autonomous. What’s the true essence of freedom? It is having freedom of choice. Freedom is when you don’t have to compromise your belief, ideology or preferences to please others. Freedom isn’t freedom if your mind is not free to think. A mind that refuses to elevate itself is one that will remain enslaved. The late great historian Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson wrote in The Mis-education of the Negro: “If you control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions.”

Knowledge is information that will empower you, and a person is only as strong as his or her knowledge. If your knowledge is limited, your perception of life is unimaginable. One of the things that are most disturbing to me in prison is that many of the brothers know little to nothing about African-American history or Africa. It’s bad not to know, but it’s worse not to want to know.

There is an African proverb: “A people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots.” Many individuals are in a state of psychological slavery and do not realize it because they keep themselves blind, deaf and dumb to the knowledge of self. Frederick Douglass, one of our great orators, said, “To enslave men successfully and safely, it is necessary to keep their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short of liberty.”

W.E.B. Du Bois. Photo: Wikipedia.

We bought into America’s myth that we were liberated, but how can that be true when we are still fighting for freedom, justice, and equality? We are still encountering racism, fascism, capitalism, discrimination, oppression and segregation daily. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, one of our great intellectual scholars, stated: “American Negroes greeted liberation from slavery as the day of jubilee, not realizing that emancipation only freed them for long struggle, the end of which is still not in sight.”

The Dred Scott decision is as much alive today as it was in 1857 when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney said Blacks have “no rights that the white man is bound to respect.” As long as we reside in the land controlled by our oppressors, we will always struggle to be free. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”


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