Message from the President: Independence Day 2020

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This year Independence Day takes on a special meaning. Symbols can elicit complicated and nuanced feelings for different people. The “united” in the United States of America has been stressed in ways many of us are not used to. Our nation has been challenged on a number of fronts. This year, the two most visible fronts have been racism and public health. 

The global pandemic brought on by coronavirus disease (COVID-19) changed the way we interact with one another, and changed the way many of us perform our job duties. We may have been accustomed to weekly staff meetings; now we’ve adapted to talking with colleagues through computer screens. We were used to interacting with our students, or our patients, or citizens who need the services we provide to the public; now many of us must work through emails, phone calls, or more virtual conversations. Then there are those of us who are on the front lines engaging the public face-to-face despite the global pandemic. We dress ourselves in our PPE and go to work as essential employees. Your union, the state federation, and all Marylanders thank each and every one of you for your sacrifice and the ways you’ve adapted to the public health crises to continue to deliver the high quality public service AFT-Maryland members always provide.

A global pandemic hasn’t been the only challenge 2020 has presented us with. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd reinvigorated activism around police brutality that expanded into larger conversations about systemic and pervasive racism in this country. AFT-Maryland unequivocally believes BLACK LIVES MATTER. We have demonstrated in our work and continue to stand ready to join with any ally working to destroy white supremacy and reconstruct a country with no racial center; rather one centered on principles of justice, equity, and fairness for people of all race, religion, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual identity, and sexual orientation.

The formerly enslaved American hero Frederick Douglass asked in 1852, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July”? He later remarked, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” Yet President Woodrow Wilson, a man with a racist past himself, offered that “Liberty does not consist... in mere general declarations of the rights of man. It consists in the translation of those declarations into definite action.” This Independence Day, let us commit to the definite actions that create a country which makes the day a celebration for all under the American flag.