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Proud of the home of brave, land of free
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In the past few days, many people have been heard. They include people who wave Confederate flags and hate Confederate flags as well as people who are gay or those who hate gays.

Depending on your point of view, a lot of people were happy while others were angry last week. But I’m not going to weigh in on any of those issues.

Because as America celebrates its 239th birthday, I am still proud of this country.

My great-grandfather was named Atticus Bunyan Dillard. He was born 12 years after the Civil War. He died when I was almost 11. He was the oldest person I had seen at the time. He was just five days shy of his 94th birthday.

His daughter, Daisy Belle, was born the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 1899. She only lived to be 48.

Daisy was burned by caustic lye when she was trying to clean a sharecropper house for her family. She never fully recovered from the accident.

My uncle once told me after the accident, he drove her to town, about 10 miles away, in a mule-drawn wagon.

I didn’t know my Grandmother Daisy, but she was born at a time when women in Georgia and other states were denied the right to vote. Folks thought it was the end of times because women were being given the same vote as a man with the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920.

The women’s movement in Georgia began the year my grandmother was born, but didn’t come to pass until she was old enough to vote. I don’t know if she ever cast a ballot, but I hope she did.

A wonderful woman named Lula Mae Williams was our housekeeper, my playmate and friend for the first few years of my life. I remember her taking me to get new shoes at Rich’s or Thompson Boland Lee in downtown Atlanta. I was little, but I remember she never sat beside me when the clerk would fit me for my shoes. She would charge the shoes to my Mama’s account and we would ride the bus back home.

I remember her house had a picture of the Kennedy brothers and another of Martin Luther King Jr. On another wall, there was a picture of Jesus. It was the same Jesus we worshipped, but at a time when our church did not welcome people of color.

When I started school in Atlanta, school integration was underway. During the first few years, I saw more and more of my white classmates move with their families to suburbs such as Douglasville, Marietta, Conyers and Lawrenceville.

One of my friends in third grade was Blake Barlow, an African-American boy who had to use a wooden prosthetic leg. One day, we were playing kickball and Blake broke his wooden leg. He didn’t cry, but I did. He wasn’t my black friend, he was just my friend.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen people march in the public square for everything from equal rights for women, fair prices for farmers, racial equality and even legalization of drugs. I didn’t agree with them every time, but I strongly agree with their right to be heard, just like I’ve been heard.

Am I proud of how Americans on all sides of various issues of our current day have expressed themselves? Absolutely not. But would I fight for their right to do so? Any day of the week.

Folks thought America was going down the tubes when women were allowed to vote, folks danced and drank bathtub gin, Elvis swiveled his hips on TV and protesters burned the American flag in opposition to the war in Vietnam.

The years of my lifetime hold a number of events I wish we could erase, but nonetheless, I remain proud of America and am proud to be called one of her own.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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