As an advocate of free speech and civic engagement, especially through the resources of community media centers like CMAP TV, I enthusiastically celebrate the birth of our nation today.
I imagine the very moment when our right to free speech and a participatory democracy was sprouted and took root during the Continental Congress.
It may be a bit easier for me to imagine than those who grew up in California since I was born and raised in western Maine where the distant memories of the American Revolution lived on. As a child, I climbed over rock walls covered with moss where the Continental army had shot at British soldiers marching through New England.
We found old muskets from the war in someone’s barn, and in 1976, my parents took me to participate in Revolutionary War re-enactments at Concord and Lexington, Mass., including the historic ride of Paul Revere. (I was dressed in period clothes, and played the snare drum for the march of the soldiers.)
And, as the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, I especially feel it is my duty to uphold this right to free speech, as each American should.
At CMAP, we have an opportunity to protect that right daily. We ask the community to help us to keep it alive by exercising their free speech, and staying involved and well-educated in local government and community life. One way you can do this is by telling your stories and sharing your opinions on CMAP’s public, educational, and government access cable and online channels.
CMAP is not allowed to censor anything that airs on our channels, with the exception of hate speech and pornography. This means that any resident in Gilroy, Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Morgan Hill, and San Benito County can use the resources of our media center. Residents can create a television program about ANY subject, and say anything they wish to say.
Residents can be trained to use our high-definition cameras, television studio, and video production equipment at practically no cost, and air their completed productions on local television and on our online channel, www.cmap.tv. There are very few community forums like CMAP left, where residents have access to true freedom of speech and an audience of thousands of localized viewers.
We value this aspect of our vibrant democracy and defend it as a critical right for all Americans, no matter their beliefs. We advocate regionally and nationally to protect community media centers like CMAP who are providing this last bastion of free speech in their communities.
Please contact us to learn how you can protect our democracy by supporting or participating in this local free speech resource at CMAP, at 408.846.4983 or by emailing email@example.com.
Or, join us at one of our upcoming “Take One” events to learn more about CMAP and our youth and adult programs, and media resources. Visit www.cmap.tv/takeone to sign up!
A short addendum about my ancestor, John Hart, for those who are interested in history.
(my ancestor, John Hart)
The Fourth of July is a particularly special holiday for my family.
My great-great-great-great-great grandfather, John Hart, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. And, according to oral history and genealogical theory, my mother’s family in West Virginia ended up there because of the Revolutionary War, and likely due to George Washington's suggestion.
My ancestor, John Hart, (c. 1711 – May 11, 1779) was a Delegate from New Jersey to theContinental Congress and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. You can see his signature at the bottom left corner of the document.
(According to Wikipedia) When New Jersey formed a revolutionary assembly (or provincial congress) in 1776 he was elected to it and served as its Vice President. Prior to June 1776, the New Jersey delegation in the First Continental Congress was opposed to independence. As a result, the entire delegation was replaced, and Hart was one of those selected for the Second Continental Congress. He joined in time to vote for and sign the Declaration of Independence.
He served only until August of that year, then was elected Speaker of the newly formed New Jersey General Assembly. He would later take on additional duties as Treasurer of the Council of Safety (which was given "extraordinary and summary powers" to carry out affairs of the state during emergencies), President of the Joint Meetings of the New Jersey Congress, and Commissioner of the State Loan Office.
In December 1776, the British advance into New Jersey reached Hunterdon County. A marked man due to his status as Speaker of the Assembly, the elderly Hart was obliged to escape and hide for a short time in the nearby Sourland Mountains. His farm was raided by British and Hessian troops, who damaged but did not destroy the property. The Continentals' capture of Trenton on December 26 allowed Hart to return home.
Prior to the Battle of Monmouth, Hart invited Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army to make camp on his farm, and his offer was accepted. From June 22–24, 1778, 12,000 men occupied his fields, and on at least one occasion Gen. Washington dined with their host.
Reportedly, John Hart died of kidney stones the next year, his New Jersey farm raided, wife and family members murdered, and his children scattered. Only two sons survived, and they fled to the hills of western Virginia, where George Washington had been a surveyor and knew the land well. John Hart’s son Daniel was my direct line, and his descendants still live in the hills of West Virginia.
Today, and on many days, I remember John Hart’s sacrifices, and feel honored and grateful to be his descendant. Like many early American families in the colonies, we can trace our family line back to this critical moment in our nation’s history.
No matter when your family arrived (or lived) on the continent, every American should be proud of what freedom we have accomplished together. Let us work hard to protect our rights to free speech and equal opportunity, and continue refining the vision and dream had by our forefathers to keep our democracy vibrant and representing the best of our nation.
I hope you’ll join us in doing this work at CMAP. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to protect free speech locally, and how we can best engage the community in that conversation.
We hope to help you to create local programs to celebrate your stories, share your opinions, and to facilitate strong public dialogue about our community, local government and quality of life.
To support community media’s free speech forums nationally, please visit the Alliance for Community Media at www.allcommunitymedia.org for information on the CAP Act, HR 1796, that would protect community media organizations like CMAP for years to come.