United States, United For Real

United States Representative James E. Clayborn, from South Carolina, is the House Democratic Whip and the highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress. Rep. Clayborn recently introduced a bill in Congress to make Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing the official National Anthem along with The Star Spangled Banner.

Rep. Clayborn says, “To make it a National Hymn, I think would be an act of bringing the country together. It would say to people, ‘You aren’t singing a separate National Anthem, you are singing the country’s National Hymn”. He went further to say, “The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song”.

The Black National Anthem

Just in case you don’t know, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is known as the Black National Anthem. The poem was written in 1899 by Black activist and writer/poet James Weldon Johnson and in 1900 the poem was set to music by John Rosamond Johnson who was James’ brother.

According to the Library of Congress, the song was first performed at a Lincoln birthday assembly at the Stanton School which was a segregated Black high school in Jacksonville Florida.

The history of America is complicated, painful, and ugly; many people don’t like to talk about it — but we must

We have to begin to have real honest conversations about the history of our country. Yes our country — which would never have grown to the power structure it has been, if it were not for the government sanctioned and legal institution of slavery. The importation and breeding of (human) slaves provided an endless supply of free labor. The wealth that was created still exists today. The economic impact was felt by the entire world; everyone prospered but the slaves themselves.

We can’t ignore it

We must, together, scrutinize our past and face it so that we can move into a more perfect Union. And so, to make Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing our National Anthem would be an optimistic way to begin the process of healing and truly becoming a United States.

Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening 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.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Let our feet stray from the places, our God, where we meet Thee;
Lest our hearts drunk with the vine of the world we forget thee,
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

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