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I Am a Citizen of a Country That Does Not Yet Exist

Dave Loewenstein

Dr. Vincent Harding, 1931-2014, was a visionary historian, theologian and social justice activist. In July 2012 on his 81st birthday Dr. Harding spoke at the National and Racial Healing Town Hall at a Children’s Defense Fund’s conference. “I am, you are, a citizen of a country that does not yet exist, and that badly needs to exist. And I want to offer you the opportunity to celebrate my birthday with me by pledging deep in you that you are not going to give up this life without offering yourself totally to the creation of this country that does not yet exist.”

Borrowing the refrain from Langston Hughes’s poem Let America Be America Again, he said: “We can always stop there and complain and complain and complain. ‘You’ve never been America to me.’ But remember, Langston did not stop there. ‘America, you’ve never been America to me. But I swear this oath—you will be!’ I want you, those who are not afraid to swear oaths, to swear that oath for yourself, for your children, and for your old uncle here. You will be, America. You will be what you could be. You will be what you should be, and I am going to give my life to the working for that.”

(From a 2014 article by Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund)

 

Three hands come down from above each holding a tattered U.S. flag. Below, the quotation states: “I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist. — Dr. Vincent Harding.”



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