The Meaning of Memorial Day for “Negro” Veterans


Anthony Hill


Walter Scott


James Howard Allen


Noel Polanco


Kenneth Chamberlain


Stanley Gibson

Listed above are only a few of the veterans that have been gunned down by law enforcement.

On July 5th 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech at Rochester, New York. This speech challenged the audience, American citizens, and the president to reflect on the hypocrisy of in celebrating the day of “Independence” from Great Britain; the day of declaration of freedom and autonomy from monarchy, liberation from “taxation without representation”. Douglass not only challenged hypocrisy, but vividly painted the picture of what it was like to be a Negro in America the “land of the free”.

Approximately 162 years laters, a black woman in Ferguson, MO is reflecting on what is Memorial Day to “Negro” Veterans, specifically the ones gunned down by police officers. Veterans whose purpose, according to our political leaders, is said to be founded upon the pursuit of liberty. However, the cause of liberty was stabbed by the political leaders who glory in the deeds of their fathers, and it has finally bled out. The cause was stabbed in 1776 when certain people were not declared human, thus not suitable receptors of human rights. For centuries it laid injured, bleeding, and without medical intervention. American soil has long been fertilized by Negro blood; the odiousness is knowing that it flows from the same veins as the blood across seas in a battle for American “freedom”.

Memorial Day, formerly known as “Decoration Day”, became an official holiday from the civil war. It was initiated by freed black people in Charleston, South Carolina. They gathered to decorate the burial grounds of Union soldiers, not only to acknowledge those who sacrifice their lives, but also to celebrate the freedom that came from their sacrifice. A holiday initiated by black people for the celebration of black people’s freedom. Yet in 2015, black people are unable to walk the streets without a police officer randomly performing “pedestrian checks” demanding our “papers” as if we still live in sundown towns. In the midst of protests pushing for police accountability, many spent their days leading up to this Memorial Day, withholding empathy and acknowledgement for the black veteran lives lost at the hands of police. These veterans have given us something, that this nation refuses to give back to them: protection, service and “freedom”.

Many times the words “Thank you for your service” are uttered to service men and women, but what weight do those words hold? This nation requires “freedom” to be fought for, but will not fight for the freedom of black service men and women, yet they are told, “thank you for your service”. So what does this day mean for them? For the acknowledgement of their lives and sacrifice?


What does it mean for them to fight for rights that they do not have access to?

Using their heavily policed bodies as shields of freedom

Losing limbs only to return in shackles

Pawns of a capitalistic agenda to return without political-economic security


What does it mean to have their casket ritualistically covered in white supremacy, blue in black despair, and drenched with the blood of their own?

For requirements, which have never been reciprocated, to lay anchor on their shoulders

Giving sacrifices they’ll never reap

Willingly laying down their lives for the same state that will kill them with impunity


What does a war in Iraq mean for men and women whose ancestors were referred to as ‘black gold’?

A day of commemoration for men and women who will be desecrated in their deaths by media

Impregnated with promises of a liberated nation, only to birth out stillborn dreams

To such a burdened loss, they’re merely told “thank you for your service”.


Will the nation acknowledge the assassination of dreams of peace? What about the deferred dreams?

Will this nation ensure that promised fairytales become reality for those who face grenades to bring liberty into fruition?

Or will this nation continue to let our black service men and women painfully endure such explosions?



 Written by Angel Carter, May 27th. All rights reserved. No reproduction of this work permitted without authorization. Contact for more information. © 2015 Angel Carter

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