FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” – The Appropriate Anthem

Given the Blackness of most of the players, why not precede football and basketball games with the first verse of what used to be called the Negro National Anthem? The first verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is moving, inclusive, relatively sing-able, and doesn’t glorify bombs bursting through air. Any fans singing along could be calling for their team to win. It would have been perfect for the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. The Browns’ fans should start singing it right away.

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

I thought I’d had an original idea until I checked with Wikipedia and learned, “In Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ the song is sung by the audience and students at Maya’s eighth grade graduation, after a white school official dashes the educational aspirations of her class.”

The online encyclopedia also notes, “‘Lift Every Voice and Sing'” was publicly performed first as a poem as part of a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, 1900, by 500 school children at the segregated Stanton School. Its principal, James Weldon Johnson, wrote the words to introduce its honored guest Booker T. Washington. The poem was set to music soon after by Johnson’s brother John in 1905. In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it

‘The Negro National Anthem.'”

The second and third verses are specific to those whose forefathers were enslaved and who have faith in God.

YouTube has many renditions.  Ray Charles, the greatest piano player ever —backed by the Raelettes in pastel gospel gowns on the Dick Cavett show in 1972— modifies the lyric and jazzes it up. Most performers seem impelled to do something special with an anthem.  YouTube yielded two straightforward versions which happen to have graphics glorifying Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.

The ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ was first played at a baseball game in 1918, when US Americans were fighting in World War I and there was such patriotic fervor that Gene Debs, the antiwar Socialist who got a million votes for President in 1916, was imprisoned for sedition. The hideous ballad was performed during the seventh-inning stretch of a World Series game between the Cubs and the Red Sox in Chicago. Fans loved it so much that the team made it a regular feature and ticket sales went up. Source: Stephen Colbert. Herbert Hoover named it “the national anthem” in 1931.

The words “under God” were added to the pledge of allegiance in the 1950s when patriotic/religious fervor had been stirred by the Cold War against atheistic Russia. It broke the rhythm for those of us accustomed to “one nation indivisible.”

The singing of “God Bless America” during ball games was introduced in response to patriotic/religious fervor following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

The waves of fervor may subside a bit as the years ago by, but the nauseating rituals never get retired.

Thank you, Colin Kaepernick. May your injuries heal and may you get to lead the Niners till victory is won. (If Gabbert can’t do it against better teams than the Rams.)

More articles by:

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail