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Still work to do to achieve unalienable rights for all

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

On July 4, 2023, the United States of America turned 247 years old, and like with most birthdays, there is always a celebration. These celebrations honor the success of the country’s triumphs and victories and the celebration of America’s freedom from Great Britain. This day, also known as Independence Day, is a federal holiday and it commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Now, although this would seem like an extraordinary time for the early Americans, we painstakingly now know that everyone wasn’t included in this newly drafted document.

One of the most famous lines from Declaration of Independence says, 'all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.' But, sadly, we know that the Founding Fathers of this newly developed country were not talking about women and not Black Americans, with the majority of them being slaves at the time. In 1776, there was no independence for Black people in America. As we know now, approximately 500,000 African Americans were living in the colonies, of whom some 450,000 (relatively 90%) were enslaved. Although slavery was abolished by way of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the last slaves were freed in Galveston, Texas. This part of history had been left out for so many years, a lot of Americans didn’t (and still don’t) know the significance of it, however the Juneteenth National Independence Day became a federal holiday in 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the act into law.

Now with America being 247 years old, one would think that the country has overcome its dark history and is now on track to really live out the famous words of the Declaration of Independence. We can now recognize the mistakes of the past and we can work to make sure that those mistakes never happen again, right? On June 30, 2023, presidential candidate Nikki Haley stated in her opening remarks at the Moms for Liberty convention, 'Can I just say, God bless the Supreme Court? They are making a lot of wrongs right.'

This quote was in response to the three recent rulings handed down the by high court, in which the justices ruled that a Christian website designer wasn’t obligated to make websites for gay couples, banned the practice of affirmative action in higher education, and struck down the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program. She then went on to say, 'This was a fantastic win for individual liberty and freedom.'

How is taking away the rights of some people, denying the rights of others and continuing the curse of systemic racism a win for 'individual liberty and freedom?' It seems to me that America was built on the hatred of anyone that is different and still has this alarming need to control all the people that are, but no need to control the gun violence that has killed more than 17,000 people this year as of May 31. The problem that some people in America have is that they believe 'their' beliefs should be the only beliefs allowed and if you don’t believe what they believe, you are somehow not a person, you’re unpatriotic and you should now 'leave' the country you were born in. All because an individual dared to believe that they truly have certain unalienable rights given to them by their Creator and it is indeed their soul’s mission to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, however that may look.

No one wants to live in a country that doesn’t have laws, but when those laws contradict the individual’s rights to have a life, their own liberty and their own pursuit of happiness, then the whole Declaration of Independence is a lie and not worth celebrating.

Dionna Riley - Johnson is a member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good. She can be reached at

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