"Lift Every Voice And Sing", considered The Black National Anthem, was performed by Beyoncé at Coachella, bringing out of oblivion and into the hearts of millennials.
Many songs throughout the course of history have become anthems thanks to their iconicity and perdurability. We could go on and on about many artists and bands who created such fine pieces of music that they achieved immortality, and this song is one of them. “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” an important song of the Civil Rights Movement, lately received global attention, like a millennial renewal of sorts, after Beyoncé’s performances at Coachella.
Originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson, it was turned into a song and then performed by 500 hundred children from Jacksonville, Florida, for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday back in 1900. Later on, it would become the anthem of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1919, and it has been known as the Black National Anthem ever since.
Photo: James Weldon Johnson
Though the lyrics talk about racism and discrimination in the United States, the anthem encourages everyone to look forward to a brighter future. It's an everlasting song that can still be heard in churches, schools, and celebrations, like those related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It has also been used as a form of protest against the injustice of racial inequality in the States. For example, when it was performed by Rene Marie who decided to combine the music of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the lyrics from “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” or when it was played at the University of Florida to support those who felt uncomfortable by the visit of white supremacist Richard Spencer.
It is important not only for African Americans to know these symbols, but also for people in general to know their relevance to create a global awareness of situations of injustice. This anthem has a meaning and a purpose that should not be taken lightly. Aisha Ansano, a ministerial intern in Boston, states that we should not perform it thoughtlessly and that we must feel discomfort, as it evokes the cruelty and violence of racism and currently as “the struggle for racial justice continues.” In addition, Timothy Askew, a professor from Clark Atlanta University, explains that the song becoming the Black National Anthem had the purpose to give hope and inspire people in a segregated America. Nowadays, “many races of people have come to this song and said, “This speaks to me.”
Though it’s symbolic and historical, the anthem has lost its power as younger generations seem to ignore the song. I would bet that many of us had never heard the song until it was part of the playlist for Beyoncé’s Coachella performance. I would even dare to say that she rescued the song from oblivion for this new generation and handed it to the masses that were streamed it on Youtube. We may not have known the name, nor the lyrics or history behind it, but we were moved enough to be curious and look it up. Thanks to Beychella, people from all around the world discovered one of the most important songs from African American culture.
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