When you reflect on freedom, what comes to your mind? What helps you keep your vision alive?
During a heated exchange in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Lena Younger says to her son Walter Lee, “Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money.” He responds, “It was always money. We just didn’t know it.”
There’s a world of truth and hurt expressed in what each says to the other. I must admit there are times when I lose my way and side with Walter’s cynicism. I make myself find things to think on that are “true and honest and just and lovely and of good report and virtuous and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8) so I can stand shoulder to shoulder with Lena’s idealism. One of the things I think on is FDR’s “Four Freedoms” and Norman Rockwell’s depiction of them. (https://rockwellfourfreedoms.org/).
In a 1941 speech Roosevelt gave to Congress as part of the rationale for taking on the fascism then engulfing the world, he urged his listeners to help secure a world founded on four essential human freedoms: Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship and Freedom of Speech. In 1942, Norman Rockwell was inspired to paint them. In 1943 they were shared in the Saturday Evening Post. The paintings then went on a sixteen-city tour. I get teary as I study Rockwell’s portraits of people with their heads reverently bowed in Freedom of Worship and of the young man standing to speak his mind in Freedom of Speech. My heart yearns for a world where everyone is able to tuck their children into bed or partake of a Thanksgiving meal in safety like those painted in Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want. I hope I share my longing for and my beliefs in the four freedoms through my art as Rockwell did.
While I lived in NYC, whenever I was tempted to let Walter Lee win, I could go to Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island (https://www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org/#). There on the tip of the island I sat with the United Nations in view on the Manhattan side of the river, gazed out onto the water and reflected on FDR’s words until I could say “Amen” to the truth in Lena Younger’s declaration, the truth that freedom is life. On your next trip to NYC, take the subway or the Roosevelt Tram to Roosevelt Island and experience Four Freedoms Park yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt referenced the four freedoms as she helped craft the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I’m in the process of writing a set of romance novellas using each of the four freedoms as a theme. For me, justice tempered by love is the driving force in creating a world founded on the four freedoms. I, like FDR, believe that having a world based on them “…is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”
I hope the romances I write will inspire readers to believe so too.
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman is his mate foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Sheriff Ambrose and his posse arrived in a thunder of hooves. Although he assured Mary he and his men were there to insure justice be done, she still worried.
Twilight filtered through the windows as she sat at her kitchen table, wringing her hands. Only the fact that she had saved Eban’s life brought her peace. He sat beside her. His warm, comforting hands clasped hers. Her lips wobbled in an attempt to smile.
“You don’t have to pretend with me.” He patted her hands. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“What if Denton dies?”
“There’ll be a new face in hell for breakfast.”
She inhaled deeply to keep the tears back. “No Black who kills a White will be allowed to live. When they hang me this time, they’ll make sure I’m dead.”
Eban took her by the chin, made her face him. “You and I will head for the safety of the border and ports beyond before that happens.”
She closed her eyes. “I don’t want to make you a fugitive because of what I’ve done.”
“If I had killed him, wouldn’t you flee with me?” He pulled her into his arms. “The real shame is this oppressive society makes us fugitives for defending ourselves.”
Mary burrowed against his shoulder. “Will we ever be free?”