top of page
  • Writer's pictureTyGrayEL

Night Watch

As a native Washingtonian I am particularly intrigued by December 31st every year. However this end-of-year celebration is of particular interest as it is the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the Emancipation of those who were enslaved in the south. I use the word declaration here in place of the word implementation for reasons expressed in the next couple of paragraphs.

As a black man who was born and raised in America’s first African American publicly assisted housing project I have all sorts of assorted emotions about this day. I find myself wondering what it may have been like waiting on the edge of midnight in anticipation of freedom. I can only imagine the vast array of feelings in the diverse enslaved communities. I’m sure the reaction of those enslaved in Louisiana was different from those on the eastern shore of Maryland. I’m certain those working the fields of Alabama peanut farms would have different emotions than those serving supper in the big house of the genteel Tennessee land baron.

I am particularly intrigued when I think about those enslaved families who had been born and raised right here in the Nation’s Capital. How did the offspring of those who laid the foundation stone of the Capitol Building feel about “Watch Night”? What was on the minds of the Stonemasons who built this great empire? How much hope did the Seamstress’, the Sail-Makers, the Blacksmiths, the Harness Makers and the Wagon Makers have as they sat in anticipation of their emancipation. I wonder what the conversations might have been like. What were they discussing? I wonder if they had hopes that their children and their children’s children would one day live to enjoy the freedom that was promised in that declaration. .

As I sit here considering this 150th anniversary of that fabled night; as a descendant of those who participated in that vigil, I can’t help but feel just a tad bit of disappointment. This disillusion comes after realizing that slavery has never been abolished in America. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution provided a clause that allows anyone convicted of a crime to be duly enslaved. This disappointment comes from learning that 1 in 9 black people are still enslaved on plantations in these United States.

I'm disappointed because as of this writing these plantations are manufacturing 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, ID tags, bedding, blankets and other miscellaneous materials for state and federal government. I’m appalled that 93% of all domestically produced paints are made on these plantations. 36% of all domestically manufactured home appliances and 21% of all the office furniture fabricated in America is done so by slaves on these industrial plantations.

The United States Prison Industrial Complex is nothing less than a megalithic modern-day industrial slave plantation. America has more people incarcerated (per capita) than any nation on earth. One percent of the 300 million citizens of the United States are behind bars. That is, 3 million people are locked up in this country and that is separate and apart from those who are on probation or parole. That’s 2 times as many as South Africa, 3 times more than Iran and 6 times more than China. There are more 17 year-old black boys on slave plantations in this country than there are on college campuses.

I would posit that the slave trade has not and has never been abolished, but rather, through and by the 13th Amendment, SLAVERY IN AMERICA HAS BEEN REINVENTED. As a native son who has physically experienced being a twentieth century slave in these United States, I must speak to my ancestors here and say. “I apologize.” I apologize for not pursuing the education you fought and died for. I apologize for not applying the principles you handed down in your quest for freedom and I apologize for not obeying the 5th Commandment and honoring my mother and my father.

I would further posit that I am committed to abolishing slavery. I would advance also that I am a 21st century Abolitionist. As an abolitionist I am suggesting to all those interested that if you are serious about the abolition of slavery. If you sincerely desire to see true equality in America then you must support Kwanzaa. Today is the last day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa was created as a result of and as a remedy to the most morally reprehensible and completely inhumane periods in the history of human existence, which is chattel slavery.

If you really want to help, find a black organization and support it. If you sincerely want to make an impact employ the following:

Kwanzaa is the celebration

Where at last our own we salute

Promoting Black kinship

Family and friendship

Connecting our African roots

Umoja reminds the nation

To always strive for unity

And remember the grace

In the African race

Till it flows through our community

In Kujichagulia

We live with determination

To create for ourselves

And make for ourselves

A life full of these celebrations

Ujima ask the collective

To live and labor together

To pool our resources

And collaborate work forces

Whether foul or fair weather

Ujamaa guides our economics

Ask us to cooperate

To destroy slavery’s curse

We must buy from us first

And our own accommodate

Nia reminds us of purpose

And why we were put on this earth

That we are diamonds from coal

That it’s time to unfold

And show the world our true worth

Kuumba calls for creation

And emulation of our Creator

That we create and invent

With deliberate intent

And prosper God’s grand theater

Imani focuses on faith

Faith in ourselves and our God

To know that one day

We shall find the way

Though stony the road we trod


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page