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'Fighting For Change': This July Fourth, Black Leaders Call On The Community To Take Action

Keren Carrión
Sara Mokuria is the co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality.

From protests against police brutality to virtual pride parades, Black Americans are making their voices heard. As the July Fourth weekend arrives — and with it, thoughts of patriotism and freedom — many are reflecting on what it means to be American. 

Black leaders across North Texas said they’ve long been advocating for the rights and freedoms of their communities. Now, they want to see fellow Americans rallying alongside them for lasting change.

Brandon J. Vance thrusts a fist into the air while wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. He's a U.S. Air Force veteran and president of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
Credit Keren Carrion / KERA News
Brandon J. Vance is a U.S. Air Force veteran and president of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
Brandon J. Vance

Heading into the July Fourth holiday, Brandon J. Vance is balancing frustration, rage and excitement as he sees fellow Americans protesting and rallying for change. 

“We are loud, boisterous. We are going to argue. We are going to push the government. We are going to question authority,” Vance said. “I think this is such a perfect moment in time to really encapsulate what it means to be American.”

He said in this “watershed moment” across the country, everybody has an important role to play. Vance would like to see the country confront racism, tear down confederate monuments, reform policing and work toward true marriage equality for the LGBTQ community. 

“We are fighting to change and fighting to change America for the better,” he said. “As it says, we’re trying to make America a more perfect union, and that is the constant struggle in America.”

Sara Mokuria, the co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, is seen in a garden of sunflowers.
Credit Keren Carrion / KERA News
Sara Mokuria is the co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality.
Sara Mokuria

Sara Mokuria won't be celebrating July Fourth. Instead, she’ll be focused on fighting for freedom from police brutality. 

“This July Fourth I think as I do every July Fourth," she said, "back to Frederick Douglass’ words that ‘Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.’ ”

She described a “cultural uprising” as the community grapples with white supremacy and the impact it has had on American lives. Mokuria said the country has never really experienced full freedom for everyone who calls it home, and she's eager for this to change. 

“I look forward to the day that we have a truly free and independent country.... What day or moment that comes, I’ll look forward to celebrating,” she said.

Credit Mercedes Fulbright
Mercedes Fulbright works with BYP100 and In Defense of Black Lives.
Mercedes Fulbright

As a queer, Black, Southern woman, Mercedes Fulbright said July Fourth doesn’t live up to the freedoms that she and her community deserve. From housing to mental health, she said it’s clear that all Americans are not granted the same rights. She hopes this will be a time to reflect on the ways people can fight for equality. 

“You should spend this holiday talking to your family about what does it look like to join in solidarity and join in numbers for the liberation of Black people and oppressed people across this country,” she said.

Fulbright said in striving for freedom for all Americans, there is still a long way to go. 

“But I hope that this day means that we haven’t arrived — and that there’s so much more to fight for — and that it should not be left to those who have been historically left out, displaced, looted from and discarded to take up the torch and the helm of fighting for freedom and liberation in this country,” she said. 

Credit Keren Carrion / KERA News
Deborah Peoples is chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party and coordinated the 'End Racism Now' mural in Fort Worth.
Deborah Peoples

July Fourth reminds Deborah Peoples of her childhood. She said her mother always made it a point to celebrate the holiday, in addition to Juneteenth.

“She said we are Americans...and even though America didn’t recognize us as full-class citizens, we’re Americans and that was our holiday just like anyone else’s,” Peoples said. 

For the last 50 years, she has worked as an activist. And now she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the change she’s seeing as more people attend protests and discuss race. She’s eager to see progress on racial justice -- for her and her 2-year-old granddaughter.

“I don’t know how much longer I have left on this earth, but I would like to see some substantive change - some substantial change before I die,” she said. “And so, I feel like I’m running out of fourth of Julys.”

Got a tip? Email Elizabeth Myong at You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @Elizabeth_Myong.

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Elizabeth Myong is KERA’s Arts Collaborative Reporter. She came to KERA from New York, where she worked as a CNBC fellow covering breaking news and politics. Before that, she freelanced as a features reporter for the Houston Chronicle and a modern arts reporter for Houstonia Magazine.