The Fourth of July

is a farce when it comes down

to Black Folks’ Freedom

“Why us always have family reunion on July 4th?” asks Alice Walker’s character Henrietta in “The Color Purple.”Harpo replies:  “White people busy celebrating they independence from England July 4th so most Black folks don’t have to work. Us can spend the day celebrating each other.”

I remember years ago, my own family (on the Dove side) driving 12 hours down Interstate 95, from Philadelphia to South Carolina, to gather by the old homestead in Eastover, to celebrate the 4th of July. At least one hog had been slaughtered and barbecued, sometimes as many as two or three. My Dad and my uncles would stay up all night roasting the pigs on grills they made out of out of 55-gallon metal drums, adding their secret sauce when they were almost finished cooking.  And believe me, the meat was tender and luscious. While the pulled pork was the star of the show, when the gathering commenced, there was also plenty of potato salad, collard greens, fried chicken, corn on the cob, lemonade, cakes, pies – all kinds of delights. The up-to-the-moment rhythm and blues music on the radio would be blaring. At a certain time, all the children gathered around in a circle and danced, danced, danced, gleefully transforming the dirt into dust with nary a care in the world.

None of us – neither the children nor the adults  –  gave a thought about Independence Day from England. And even as they watched their children twist and turn to the beat of the music in the dirt, none of the adults were foolish enough to delude themselves into thinking Blacks were free in America. But we celebrated anyway, knowing that we were untethered (at least for those precious moments), dancing and singing and talking and eating and laughing on the land our ancestors had bought, cleared, built up and made home.

For whatever reason, we don’t gather down there where the old house used to be for the 4th of July anymore.  Since those golden days, the old house burned down, another one was built and now even that house has been jettisoned for a newer, prettier, ultra-modern edifice a little further up on the property.  You would think our family had arrived.

Yet as I sit here reflecting from my 2020 point of view, I realize that with all the gains we have made as a race, Blacks in America, (and throughout the Diaspora) still are not free, still remain disenfranchised, still are no where near experiencing ubiquitous equity. We still face mountains of injustice on a daily basis. We are still in the throes of daily warfare, not to mention the utterly unacceptable fratricide and Black on Black crimes within our own conflicted communities. We are all very aware there is still, without a doubt, ever-present danger in our very being Black in this country. We are reverently reminded of too many of our brave foot soldiers who were lost on the battlefield. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Trayvon Martin. 

Michael Brown. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Freddy Grey. Reika Boyd. Dorian Hunt. And down throughout the ages including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Medgar Evans, Emmett Till and countless others, too many to name.

Indeed, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them,” once wrote the journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, who was born in 1862 and died in 1931. Talk about shining light on the truth! Especially on this day – I am reminded of Fredrick Douglass’ landmark speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth for the Negro,” presented in Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852. The masterful orator Douglass told his predominantly white audience, in part:

“…I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! -The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can today take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“…Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting…”

These injustices notwithstanding, as Maya Angelou so eloquently stated: “And Still I Rise!” So you go on everybody. In spite of harsh truths about our station in this country, go on and enjoy this day. Do as Harpo said and “…spend the day celebrating each other.”

Excerpted from Pheralyn Dove’s Forthcoming Volume of Essays:

“No Time For Tears” A Book of True-Life Stories

How do we, as Black people, navigate the onslaught of being the most vulnerable during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, along with the continued terroristic acts committed against us every single day? How do we deal with the pain of seeing these atrocities played out in the media every day, every week, every month – year after year? We must convene in private, and plan for solutions to get out of our plight. Our job is to get focused, get organized, like never before. Nobody is going to do this for us! Sure, it’s nice and even necessary to have allies outside of our race, but the job of Liberation rests on our shoulders. There’s no Calvary out there coming to save us, nobody handing us over a silver platter of FREEDOM. The tasks of family healing, emotional healing, physical healing, financial healing, spiritual healing – the responsibility for all of this rests on our shoulders, and ours alone. Get Focused Black People! 

Resist the status quo! Fight against the 400 plus years of oppression that created a global system built on the backs of Black people, designed to profit off of our disenfranchisement and subjugation.  Yet even as we are processing the horror and the pain of Being Black in America, focus and planning are key.  I repeat:  “focus and planning are key.” We can all learn from our Ancestors, who paved the way before us. Study books and films reverberating the voices of Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells,  James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, and so many countless others. When trying to figure out what to do next, listen to you heart for signs. Ask the Universe for guidance.  Ask the Wise for direction. Ask the Ancestors for protection. Aim high. Figure out a plan. 

Examine your own sphere of influence, in your own daily world.  Where can you make a difference? How can you realize the best parts of yourself?  Start with your very own talents, gifts, skills and abilities. What action do you have in your power to take? Act now! Take baby steps. Take giant steps. Stay encouraged, especially because you know you are doing the right thing. Envision a time when peace and love rule the world, when the current world order of white supremacy and structural racism is dead and gone.   

 #BreonnaTaylor #AhmaudArbery #justiceforGeorgeFloyd #7PrinciplesofKwanzaa #Self-Determination #kujichagulia @pheralyn  
A friend texted me a recent photo of myself. The most profound thought popped into my head when I saw my image reflected back to me. “What if we could all accept the idea that we are perfect just the way we are?” Writing the Haiku you see above, which expresses the same sentiment, soon followed. What about you? How would a positive affirmation about yourself change or alter your world view?

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Gracious when in Pain.
Fair when Angry.  Calm when in
Chaos:  Enlightened.

Although I do my best to “live in a state of perpetual gratitude,” and claim to have an “ageless” consciousness, I can tell I am getting older.  But this has nothing to do with my physical being, or “aging” in the negative (“breaking down”) sense of the word. Because actually, I feel great. I am truly blessed with enough energy to get everything done I need to do and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

But what lets me know I am on an advancing trajectory (besides my silver hair) is more about my inner world.  I am less concerned about what other people think. I am a much kinder person these days. I am a much more patient person these days. My thoughts are geared more toward peace, happiness, tranquility and productivity in the “inspired” sense of the word.

Other clues that I’m getting older? I am paying more attention to how I treat myself and how I treat others. And the biggest clue that I am advancing in age is that each and every day I find myself focusing on what my legacy will be after I leave this earthly plane. Altruistic ambitions indeed. But I’m not ready to go so far as to say I am “enlightened.” Enlightenment is an advanced stage of wisdom I still aspire to and plan to continue striving toward. During my 20s, 30s, 40s and even 50s, I never did quite follow the memo about being aggressive and competitive professionally.  It seems as though instead of chasing after money and being ambitious, I was always trying to find myself. Decades flew by as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

As I look back, I  see that I was restless and forever seeking —  wandering aimlessly — following my intuition from one position to the next until after many years I realized I was a writer and creative artist. I spent a lot of time working as a freelance writer, spoken word artist, and public relations consultant, not to mention stints as a reporter, press agent, social worker, executive director of an arts agency and grant writer. It has been a fascinating journey, let me tell you.

What is important to me now is not so much about going after another day job, merely to “pay the bills,” or imagining what “retirement” will look like, but working on my passions in earnest, savoring each moment as I go along. Working on book projects, photography projects, and theater projects consume me each and every day.  I absolutely love being in the flow.  And I  feel so humbled and blessed to be on this path. But enlightened? Not even close.What about you? Do you feel you have reached a stage of enlightenment? Does this idea even matter to you? I would love to know your thoughts. Peace, Love & Blessings Always.

*This post first appeared on my former blog: “Sacred Journey to Self Love.”


Fresh thoughts, like right rain,
illuminate my sphere of

*This post first appeared on my former blog: “Sacred Journey to Self Love.”


Magical thinking
makes miracles happen in
our everyday lives

I live my life in a state of perpetual gratitude. I believe in magic. I believe in miracles. Not just the ethereal, other-worldly stuff. But the everyday stuff too. The stuff we all too often take for granted. Like our breath. What a miracle –  the way our bodies breathe for us each and every moment of our lives. And what about other functions our bodies perform, like sight, mobility, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and so many other wonders.

Sometimes I am aware of divine intervention during the course of my daily routines. I find my car keys just in the nick of time, pay a bill and revel in the realization that I have the money to pay it, or consider the fact that I am one of five siblings and we are all friends. Indeed. My family, my friends, my comfortable lifestyle  – all miracles. And this precious gift of writing – another miracle that I am humbled to perceive. I’ve shared my artist’s statement many times before and I’ll repeat it again: “Each and every poem I write, I consider a gift from God. A turn of a phrase. Emotions that surface. An experience distilled into verse. Each offering is a present from the Creator. All praises, I say. Thank you for choosing me as the vessel.”

My writing has spun me all over this world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. From all across these so-called United States, to Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and Europe. At this writing, ports in Asia and Africa beckon and trust me, I fully intend to heed their call.

Just imagine. Me. Pheralyn. That same little girl who started out on Clifford Street in North Philadelphia. Reciting poems and Bible verses at Morris Brown AME Church. Writing letters to my grandmother who lived 500 miles away in South Carolina. Just imagine. That little girl is now a woman being paid to write about whatever the muse whispers in my ear. Just imagine. That little girl grew up to be a professional poet, paid to join the bandstand with some of the world’s most awesome musicians, offering my spoken words to the beats and riffs and melodies and harmonies that float off their instruments. Yeah. Just imagine. Is it any wonder I believe in magic? Any wonder I believe in miracles?

I took the photo above in Paris of the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Avenue des Champs Elysees. I was in the City of Lights to cover the 2008 Richard Wright Centennial Conference for the Philadelphia Tribune. Now you have to believe me.  That was quite a magical moment to find myself in the middle of traffic in Paris, on assignment to write about one of my favorite authors. First of all, I’m not even a staff writer for the Tribune. I’m a freelancer. And secondly, the Tribune, which is the nation’s oldest African American newspaper, does not have the kind of budget required to send freelancers across the Atlantic to cover a story. But thanks to magic, it happened for me.

Upon the recommendations of poets Lamont Steptoe and Aziza Kenteh, the cultural community in Philadelphia came together to raise the funds for my air fare and lodging, making sure there was no excuse for me not being there. I’ll never forget it. Once the word was out, Aziza circulated a letter of support on the Internet. Then on one of her famous “First Fridays on the Vine” open mic sessions, she announced my trip, asked for donations, and dropped a crisp $100 dollar bill in the basket before passing it around. The miracle manifested right before my eyes.

I feel so blessed to be on this path of finding my way through the brush and the thickets, all the while following my passions, lifting up my gifts to spread throughout the world. My wish, my prayer is that you too are ready to embark on a magical path of self-discovery, service, and gratitude. I hope that you too exist in a wonderland where the angels and the ancestors, the Creator and the muses all align to make your dreams come true. Where magical thinking makes miracles happen in your everyday life.

Here. Let me sprinkle some of this fairy dust on you too. Yes, yes indeed. I believe in magic. I believe in miracles. I believe in love.

*This post first appeared on my former blog: “Sacred Journey to Self Love.”


This is to our brother,
A thank you to our brother,
This is to our brother,
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Mumia Abu-Jamal had quoted a passage from an article I wrote for the Philadelphia Tribune. But before I get into that, let me start by saying I was a member of the Association of Black Journalists in the late 70’s and early 80’s, including when Mumia Abu-Jamal was President of the Philadelphia Chapter.

The terrible shooting occurred during the freezing, pre-dawn hours of December 9, 1981. Following the shooting (during which Police Officer Daniel Faulkner – just days shy of his 26th birthday – sustained fatal gun shot injuries, and Mumia suffered severe gun shot wounds to his abdomen, which required hospitalization and surgery, and with the ensuing trial in 1982, after which he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death row), Mumia was immediately catapulted into international prominence as a political prisoner, as a real life emblem of the prison industrial complex – the mass incarceration system strategically designed for African American males. Mumia, (who was born Wesley Cook on April 24, 1954), was barely 28 years old when this life-changing event occurred.

A plethora of versions of exactly what happened – and who was at fault – are still being debated to this day. Through it all, Mumia has not wasted his decades in prison. He continues to be a tireless civil rights activist, a prophet, a scholar, an intellectual, a philosopher. Indeed – Mumia is a kind and gentle soul. He continues to read, research, agitate and write prolifically.

Mumia wrote a speech for a conference titled “Prisonment of a Race,” held at Princeton University, on March 25, 2010. Through “Prison Radio Broadcasts,” this speech originated from the confines of Death Row, in Pennsylvania. Via streaming technology – Mumia brilliantly parallels the South African apartheid system with the American caste system.

“As in South Africa,” Mumia said, “Black political elites have benefited from an economic system that is profoundly unfair to the vast majority of African people, especially the poor and working-class. Your topic, is, to say the least, a daunting one, for the sheer numbers are breathtaking, especially when you consider its familial, social, communal and political impacts. I dare say, for those among you who are African-American, no matter your class or income, you won’t have to think very long to recall a nephew – and far too often a niece – (not to mention a son or daughter!) who, if not presently a prisoner, is then an ex-prisoner of some county, state or federal system.

“That speaks to the ubiquity of the problem, of the vast numbers of men, women and juveniles who populate the prison industrial complex here in America. As many of you know, the U.S., with barely 5% of the world’s population, imprisons 25% of the world’s prisoners. As Michelle Alexander [author of The New Jim Crow] has noted, the numbers of imprisoned Blacks here rivals and exceeds South Africa’s hated apartheid system during its height.” (Research presented in Ms. Alexander’s book also reveals that more Black men are behind bars or under the watch of the criminal justice system today than there were enslaved in 1850.)

(To further illustrate the magnitude of this problem, here are statistics from the Center for Law and Justice []): The U.S. has over 2.4 million behind bars, an increase of over 500% in the

  • The U.S. has more than 2.4 million behind bars, an increase of over 500% in the past 30 years
  • People of color represent up to 60% of the U.S. incarcerated population
  • One in eight black men in their twenties gets locked up on any given day
  • Nearly $70 billion dollars is spent annually on prisons, probation, parole and detention

Mumia also said during his March, 2010 “Prison Radio Broadcast,” that: “We shouldn’t take this analogy lightly, for the South African apartheid was the epitome of the racist police state, second only to Nazi Germany in its repellent nature. Moreover, much of its energy was consumed in a de facto war (or, at the very least, in military-espionage jargon, a low-intensity conflict) with the Black majority — that criminalized almost every feature of African independent life, restricting places to live, work, study and even love.”

Mumia continued to weave relevant (and what turned out to be prophetic) political context into the narrative of the research he presented. “This speaks to how blind we are in this country to the scope of the problem (much less its resolution), and how it has been normalized in social and political consciousness, in part because the corporate media neglects or slants such a story; for if they can fail in reportage leading to a hot war (here I mean Iraq) they certainly can fail in reporting the parameters of a low-intensity conflict that crushes Black lives. Perhaps the words of a non-American (I hesitate to call him a foreigner), but long an observer of this country, can give us some insight.

“At 71 years, South Africa’s great musical gift, Hugh Masekela gave an interview in which he made note of the post-apartheid South Africa: Masekela said, ‘The majority of the population only got the right to vote and a lack of harassment from the police. But any further changes would be bad for business. Same like here in the United States – the fruits of the Civil Rights Movement are very minimal.“I quote Masekela here not merely because of his celebrity (

“I quote Masekela here not merely because of his celebrity (nor because I love his music), but because he, like millions of Africans, lived under the madness of apartheid, (even though he escaped it by later moving abroad) and therefore knows it intimately. He therefore is able to recognize its elements in American life.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Mumia cited the article from which he quoted – “Masekela: My Music Comes From My People,” Written by me for The Philadelphia Tribune – Tuesday, October 12, 2010, page 3D. I feel so honored, so humbled to know that Mumia Abu-Jamal not only read one of my articles, but also quoted from it. Thank you so very much.

Yes. Thank you my Brother. Thank you for all the sacrifices you have made, for the atrocities you endure without complaining. Thank you for showing us what it means to be human under inhumane conditions. Thank you for your passionate love for us – your people. Thank you for being a social justice icon, even as so-called conscious artists such as myself write lame mission statements and hawk our “art for social change projects.” Thank you for staying woke and even from behind bars – waking us up – especially in my case seven years after the fact, when I stumbled across this “Prison Radio Broadcast” speech where you quoted from my Tribune article, no less. Thank you, my Brother, for being so profound, so prolific, and so eloquent under the most painful, debilitating and difficult of circumstances.


Welcome to Dove Culture, my repository of passions, thoughts and feelings. This is the place where I talk about this sacred journey called life. Here I share words and images about the passions that drive me.

My passions run deep. As a woman. As a mother. As a daughter, sister, friend, lover. My ever-evolving artistic practices include writing essays and poetry, performing spoken word, taking nature photographs, and making collages. I am passionate about family and community. I am passionate about peace, love and togetherness. I am passionate about the struggle for the liberation of my people throughout the African Diaspora, about preserving and perpetuating Black arts and culture. I am passionate about my work as an emotional healer, where I conduct workshops designed to help people feel better about themselves.

I travel the world, but I live in Philadelphia, the city where I was born and raised. Following high school I matriculated at Hampton University in Hampton Virginia, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Mass Media Arts. After college, I returned to my beloved Philadelphia and have stayed here all these years.

I began my career cutting my chops at places like The New Freedom Theatre, Philadanco, KYW News Radio, and Power 99 FM. I developed writing skills as an arts journalist for The Philadelphia Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and many other publications. Over time, in order to support myself, I became an arts administrator, a social worker, a grant writer. I love music, especially jazz, and often perform with jazz musicians. I love to read. I produce my own one-woman- shows. I love music, especially jazz, and often perform with jazz musicians. I love to read. I produce my own one woman- shows. I love independent films, cooking, eating, fashion, podcasts, jogging and being out in nature. I love being on this adventure called life. Won’t you come along on this journey with me? I would be so very honored.