More came. My People came here in chains, crammed into ships where half of them died. Those that did survive were forced into a lifetime of slavery, saw their marriages destroyed when their family members were sold off or raped. My People fought against this, in quiet ways at first, in churches and in secret meetings, and in open debate where My People who were not in chains recognized that those who were kept in bondage were still their brothers. We fought against it, but we are all still haunted by the ghosts of those who died in such horrid conditions, and the scars that remain run deep.
More came. My People crammed into ships so tightly they were treated like rats. When they got here, there were signs that loudly proclaimed that they would not be hired. Still, they came and they found work and they fought against the fools who forgot that they were immigrants once, that all of those who come here are Americans. They came and they worked the hard jobs that nobody wanted, the jobs that paid the worst, the jobs that ate at your eyes, and your lungs, and your muscles, and your soul.
More came. My People came here fleeing Communism, Fundamentalism, Nationalism, Nazism, Poverty, and Racism. They lied, cheated, and stole to get here. They gave up careers in Nuclear Chemistry, gave up their farm, gave up their ties to the old country. They came before everything was taken away from them, came because everything was taken away from them, risked their lives to get here, lost their lives getting here, had their lives taken away from them before they came here.
More came. My People come here in airplanes and automobiles and buses and ships, on foot, in ravines, in sewers, under the law, around the law, in spite of the law, because of the law. They come here to live their lives as they see fit, under their own direction. They come here to practice what they believe, to say what they believe, to discover what they believe, to learn what they want, say what they want, be who they want. And still, more come.
Two Hundred Thirty One years ago today, My People, brash, brave, foolish, intelligent, and reckless, politely declared to the entire world that the people who had been in charge of running their affairs were fired. My People were to be in charge of their own affairs, with no one above them, and no one below them. We make mistakes, and with no one to rule above us, we make some of the worst ones. But My People have been working for four hundred years to build a land where each person can be themselves, and we will continue to do so, because of their achievements, because of their mistakes, because of their sacrifices, and because it is the right thing to do.