“Dear Janus,” came the note. “I'm reaching out to invite you to take part in an upcoming piece for Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper's July 4th issue. We are corralling sentiments from various public figures, creatives, journalists, and others asking them to offer a few sentences that start with: ‘Dear America, my wish for you on your birthday is...’ Would you be open to taking part?”
At first, I was reluctant—especially in this climate of renewed racism, violence, and voter suppression against African Americans and other people historically forced to "not matter." Two hundred forty-five years since its founding, my country still has one more year to go before it has lived as long as the 246 years Black men, women, and children were forced to live enslaved. What is there to say? And, then, my grandfather spoke to me. Write it, said. I remembered, too, the Statue of Liberty with the broken chain on her foot to commemorate the end of that reign of terror known as American slavery.
“Dear America,” I began, “my wish for you on your birthday is that you will find peace within yourself; that you will face your past with honesty and humility; that you will find joy and grace. I wish, too, that you could have known my grandfather who shared these values with all those he loved—especially his children and grandchildren...”
Read the full piece at Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper here.
Enjoy this gallery of family photos and listen to my reading of the piece below . . .