I sat on the couch of our 17th floor apartment, staring out the floor to ceiling windows and seeing a sea of fireworks that stretched across the city of Chicago. A city I had never seen before, where my first memory of it is glowing and lit up with vibrant color. 4th of July has always been a special holiday for me, a holiday that makes me think of my dad. Him and his best friend Steve used to buy boxes overflowing with fireworks and set the entire Queens block ablaze. I remember them taking turns to light them, putting on a show for the kids but also making sure we stayed back by the dugout while they lit them in the center of the baseball field. My mom couldn’t stand the noise but me and my dad bonded over the beautiful chaos. It’s my favorite holiday and some of my fondest memories with him.
It wasn’t until I got older that I understood the story behind Independence Day, a story that feels complex when half of your lineage didn’t gain “independence” in society’s eyes for another 89 years. I couldn’t let that taint my enjoyment of the holiday though, there was so much opportunity for unity and celebration that it outweighed the divisive detail.
Independence has a different meaning to me now, one that incorporates the various levels of abstraction where I’ve experienced liberation and autonomy. Everything stretching from this last year where I lost all of my external forms of validation and had to embark on the journey of knowing my value from within, to the work I do in prisons learning how to love and be present with the parts of ourselves we often deem unlovable, to being in Chicago for a Restorative Justice Conference representing a nonprofit called Unconditional Freedom.
Independence is my dependence on going inward to find true freedom, the liberation of my identity from my essence, from that which is static to what is dynamic. This Independence Day I celebrate the fullest expression of me yet.