This year we celebrate the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies gathered in Philadelphia to adopt the document that gave way to America's independence from Great BritainHere's an important fact:  The Declaration of Independence wasn't signed on July 4, it is the day it was dated, finalized, and adopted by Congress.  

Although Americans have observed the date every year since then and it has evolved into grand celebrations that include parades, concerts, and fireworks displays, it wasn't until 1840 that it became a federal holiday. The Declaration of Independence is an essential message of self-governance and human rights. The second sentence says it all: that all people are created equally and have rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

This year's Fourth of July celebrations will look different due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which requires social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, the large public gatherings we are accustomed to will not look the same. This year's celebrations are also different as the United States of America, which currently holds the longest-standing democracy in the world, is commemorating its independence amid nationwide protests calling for racial equality and social justice 

Honoring the Ideals of Freedom 

When police officers killed George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, it evoked mass protests nationwide against racial inequality and calls for racial justice. Across the country, people are taking the time to consider as a nation how we are upholding the ideals reflected in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that offer equal rights to all the citizens of the country 

Equality in America and our Constitution 

Written in the Declaration of Independence, two years before the U.S. Constitution came to existence, are the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." These words would inspire many movements that called for equal rights for all Americans, including the liberation of slaveswomen's rights, among others. In the Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment, introduced in 1868, followed the sentiment of equality for all Americans first stated in the Declaration of Independence by assuring, through the equal protection clause, that no State would "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  

Since then, we have seen slow but powerful change that started with the end of slavery and provided equal rights and protections for the  Black community, and that has most recently awarded the same protection against discrimination to the LGBTQ+ community 

At Broward College, we celebrate and support our diverse student body and employees by creating a safe space and welcoming environment for everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or religious beliefs. The College actively promotes the establishment of student-run clubs that celebrate diversity, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance, Muslim Student Association, Black Student Union, among many others. The College also works hard to instate initiatives that guarantee success for minority students like the Minority Male Initiative and Broward UP. 

Support Change

As we prepare to observe the anniversary of America's Independence this weekendit's important to remember that it's our duty as citizens of this nation to raise our voices against injustice and ensure the rights established in the Constitution are upheld equally for all. 

You can learn more about social justice, and the ways you can help from sources such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)the YWCA, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Miami Chapter. 

Happy Fourth of July! 

ABOUT BROWARD COLLEGE:

Serving more than 63,000 students annually, Broward College provides residents with certificate programs, two-year university-transfer degrees, two-year career degrees and baccalaureate degrees in selected programs. The mission of the college is to provide high-quality educational programs and services that are affordable and accessible to a diverse community of learners. For more information, visit www.broward.edu