On this third day into the new year of 2016, let’s reflect on the special, historic meaning January 1 has for America. One hundred fifty-three years ago on Jan. 1, 1863, not quite eight generations ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, turning the American Civil War into a crusade for freedom. Lincoln’s Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery in this country, inspiring much joy and thanksgiving among blacks as they viewed it as being a symbol and an expression of the quest for freedom. African-Americans’ ancestors were filled with a great sense of hopefulness across the nation.
Today, many communities throughout the United States use this historic anniversary as a time to reflect on the progress that has been made in fulfilling America’s promise of liberty and justice for all, looking back on where we’ve come from and where we have to go. Also, this observance of the Emancipation Proclamation allows communities to rededicate themselves to America’s journey for justice, with many vowing to never ever give up the struggle to overcome generations of inequality, while resolving to work harder at building a more just community.
As a community, we can only be hopeful that the multicultural movement with people from every walks of life, under the banner of “Black Lives Matter,” will continue to inspire young Americans to become the new torchbearers for equality racial equality and justice, while valuing each life equally as important as the next.
Additionally, we need to appreciate our common humanity, never losing sight of the fact that we’re all in this together, believing that we are very interconnected with “the welfare of one group being maintained through assuring the welfare of another.” As a community, we must find ways to move past those things that keep us fearful, while getting to know and understand one another to help dispel the myths and stereotypes that have been generations in the making.
Another important responsibility of our community is to help put children on a path to a better future. To be sure, education impacts every facet of community growth and development, and as a community, we have to do a better job instilling in our children and youth the importance of education, directing our youth’s power toward good outcomes. To improve the quality of life of all its citizens, our community has to expand opportunities for all, especially college opportunities for our low-income youth and life chances for non-violent ex-offenders, thus helping to rebuild shattered dreams and restoring aspirations.
Starting today and every day, we must continually challenge our community to become better. If we do nothing to address these recurring community issues, the consequences of generations of inequality will continue to exact a heavy price and have a profound impact on the lives they touch. So, being proactive in dealing with these concerns can go a long way in creating a peaceful community, one with a community ethos and culture of fairness and justice.
Today, as we reflect on this historic anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, let’s resolve to start working together and doing more to help all people maximize the possibilities, while treating all human beings as if their lives have value.
Larry Sutton is a former teacher at Clinton High School.