July 02, 2008

The "Black National Anthem"

Okay, we've probably all heard the story of the woman who sang Lift Every Voice & Sing at the Denver city council meeting instead of the Star-Spangled Banner by now.  I see Baldilocks trying to get people to relax and not have a visceral knee jerk reaction to the song itself, which seems to be having the opposite effect, so let me try my hand at it. 

Lift Ev'ry Voice & Sing was a poem written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, and was set to music by his brother John that same year.  Over time, the song became a subtle way to speak out against segregation, Jim Crow laws and racism in the early 20th century.  The NAACP of that era called it "The Negro National Anthem."

It faded in popularity in black culture, until it made a resurgence in the 60's and 70's, where it was sung after the Star-Spangled banner during many civil rights demonstrations and events, and it was often referred to as the Black National Anthem. 

From what I gather, to declare it a Leftist song, a Liberation(of the Rev. Wright variety) song or a "Black Power" song is a vast oversimplification, it has meant a number of things to a lot of different people with a lot of different ideologies over the 100+ years it has existed.  I think what Baldi is trying to explain to people is that they need to tread gingerly, because not having a grasp on what exactly you're attacking can lead to problems.  

Black Americans don't automatically associate Lift Ev'ry Voice & Sing with the sort of radical, aggro ideology of a Rene Marie, note again, in the 60's and 70's Lift Ev'ry Voice & Sing was sung after the Star-Spangled Banner.  What she did was not the norm by any means.

Undoubtedly, many black Americans probably just associate it with the civil rights movement itself, or the fight to end segregation law in the early 20th century, not the ridiculous Black Power characters we see dragged onto cable TV shows for the hosts to feign outrage and kick around every once in a while. 

What I think Baldi is trying to do is to warn people to take a breather, do their homework, and to not deploy a carpet bombing when a surgical strike is the better approach, because the collateral damage from a carpet bombing is unnecessary and counterproductive.  By attacking or falsely characterizing Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing itself instead of just this singer, people open themselves to false charges of racism, but false charges that could be effective at sowing discord and causing unneeded and unwanted destructive racial tension in our nation.

Posted by: doubleplusundead at 05:01 PM | Comments (31) | Add Comment
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