Vanessa Williams is set to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” for the Capitol July 4th celebration and Twitter, more accurately, racists are losing it. On one hand you have the people that recognize the beauty that is this iconic song. It was written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, who was the NAACP leader. John Rosamond Johnson, his brother, then went on and transformed that poem by composing the music.
“At the turn of the 20th century, Johnson’s lyrics eloquently captured the solemn yet hopeful appeal for the liberty of Black Americans. Set against the religious invocation of God and the promise of freedom, the song was later adopted by NAACP and prominently used as a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.”
With Juneteenth just being cemented as a national holiday, and the continued racism and discrimination that African Americans have had to experience, this is the right move. African Americans are Americans and they deserve to know, feel, and experience the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And this, Vanessa Williams singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is only but a small step.
And of course, there are those that are against it. They shout that it’s un-American and that it’s a plot by the Left to divide the United States. My response is, “Bitch, please.” The United States was built by African Americans (yes, they are Americans, just in case you needed that reminder) while living in a system that works against them. Change is happening and Black and brown Americans aren’t waiting for white people or racists to be comfortable with it or give them permission.
Also, what’s so fucking un-American about “Lift Every Voice and Sing”? If anything, this white Latina knows that song before the “Star Spangled Banner” and I wonder how many people have actually looked up the lyrics for the National Anthem or how its racist. Because while one feels fake and full of false bravado about the greatness that is our nation, the other feels honest, hopeful, and literally says, “Out from the gloomy past, ‘Til now we stand at last.'”
And since I don’t give two two shits about the assholes that are calling it un-American, here are some of my favorite renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Because, yes, the heavy hitter that is Beyonce might’ve brought it to the attention of some, this song has been around for over 100 years and has been sung by Alicia Keys, Kirk Franklin, and so many other wonderful choirs.
But first, here are some of our favorite tweets schooling people on “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:
And here are my favorite “Lift Every Voice and Sing” renditions:
And if you still haven’t learned anything, let The Root’s Felice León school you on why the National Anthem is so problematic in the first place!