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"What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" asked Frederick Douglass of the crowd gathered at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, N.Y., on July 5, 1852. "I answer," he continued, "a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which lie is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham."
The massacre of nine African-American worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., has sent shock waves through the nation and could well blow the roof off the Confederacy. Dylann Storm Roof is accused of methodically killing the congregants, reloading his Glock pistol at least twice. He let one victim live, according to a person who spoke with the survivor, so she could tell the world what happened. This brutal mass killing was blatantly racist, an overt act of terrorism.
It has been more than 15 years since tear gas filled the streets of Seattle and tens of thousands of people protested the meeting of the World Trade Organization, or WTO. That week of protests in late 1999 became known as "The Battle of Seattle," as the grassroots organizers successfully blocked world leaders, government trade ministers and corporate executives from meeting to sign a global trade deal that many called deeply undemocratic, harming workers' rights, the environment and Indigenous people globally.
Twelve days after his 22nd birthday, Kalief Browder wrapped an air-conditioner power cord around his neck and hanged himself. In 2010, at the age of 16, he was arrested after being accused of stealing a backpack. He would spend three years in New York City's Rikers Island prison, more than two of those years in solitary confinement. He was beaten by prison guards and inmates alike. He was not serving a sentence; he was in pre-trial detention. He declined all plea bargains. He wanted his day in court, to prove his innocence. A judge finally dismissed the case against him. After his release, Kalief Browder tried to reclaim his life. In the end, the nightmare he lived through overwhelmed him. Two years after his release, he committed suicide.
Evan Young was the valedictorian of this year's graduating class at Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School, in Longmont, Colo. On May 16, at his graduation ceremony, Evan planned to give his valedictory address. Earlier in the week, he submitted the text of his speech to the principal, as required. Just before the ceremony, Principal B.J. Buchmann told Evan he was not allowed to give his speech. Evan was shocked. He had been practicing for days. He had planned to come out as gay in the speech for the first time, to his own family, to his classmates and to the whole school community.
Tucked away on a side street in one of London's toniest neighborhoods, just across the street from the sprawling department store Harrods, sits a brick, Victorian-era apartment building that houses the Ecuadorean embassy. Julian Assange, the founder and editor of the whistle-blower website Wikileaks, walked into this embassy on June 19, 2012, and hasn't stepped foot outside since.
There is a vast military complex deep in the hills of eastern Tennessee called "Y-12." This is where all of the highly enriched uranium is produced and stored for the production of the U.S. nuclear-warhead arsenal. It is in Oak Ridge, the city that was created practically overnight during the Second World War, that produced the uranium for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Today, the facility, dubbed "The Fort Knox of Uranium," holds enough of the radioactive element to make 10,000 nuclear bombs.
"Pacifica Station Bombed Off Air," read the Houston Chronicle's banner headline on May 13, 1970. KPFT, Houston's fledgling community radio station, had been on the air for just two months when its transmitter was blown to smithereens. "An explosion which demolished the transmitter of Houston station KPFT-FM (Pacifica Radio) was no accident and apparently the work of experts, authorities said today," George Rosenblatt of the Chronicle wrote. "The blast occurred at 11 p.m. Tuesday. The station was playing 'Alice's Restaurant' and at the precise moment of the explosion, Arlo Guthrie was singing, 'Kill, kill, kill' as he spoofed the draft."
"What do you hope to accomplish with this protest," I asked a 13-year-old girl marching in Staten Island, N.Y., last August, protesting the police killing of Eric Garner.
"To live until I'm 18," the young teen, named Aniya, replied. Could that possibly be the American dream today?
Aniya went on: "You want to get older. You want to experience life. You don't want to die in a matter of seconds because of cops." It's that sentiment that has fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.