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The Black National Anthem

Remember singing this in the segregated elementary school I attended in Virginia. Remember proudly singing it at my brother’s and cousin’s graduation from Howard. Remember singing it instead of the Star Spangled Banner at events and protest marches in the 60’s and 70’s.

The Anthem was written by James Weldon Johnson

If you haven’t heard it or experienced it –

Black Americans Have Our Own National Anthem. Stand Up and Sing It With Us.

It has been around for 117 years, after all.

On a cloudy day in May 2015, several hundred Howard University seniors, myself included, filed into the school’s main quadrangle for commencement, a ceremony that kicked off with “The Star Spangled Banner.” I can’t honestly recall whether my fellow black students sang the words that day, but many typically did not. The America whose praises we were called upon to sing rarely returned the sentiment, and more often treated us like outcasts. We’d been reminded of this just weeks earlier, when Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina, was shot in the backfive times while fleeing from a cop, the latest in a seemingly endless list of of black men to have their lives cut short by police officers.

But the crowd was galvanized as we moved to the next song on the program. It was one we usually sang as a matter of routine, but on that day we heard it as a rallying cry, and sang it proudly and passionately—fists raised skyward in defiant assertion of a blackness that we loved even if the rest of the nation did not. The song was “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” For us, it had another name: the black national anthem.

James Weldon Johnson (right) and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson review sheet music for “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Unless you attended one of the historically black colleges that pair “Lift” with the official national anthem at ceremonies and sporting events, or you spent a lot of time in black churches, in black civil rights spaces, or in majority-black grade schools, you might never have heard the song. But for much of the last century it was a staple of black life in America.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first unveiled at a school showcase in 1900 marking what would have been Abraham Lincoln’s 91st birthday. It was penned by James Weldon Johnson, a graduate of the historically black Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta).

At the time, Johnson was a writer and the principal of a colored school in Jacksonville, Florida. (He later became a civil rights activist and US ambassador.) Members of the community had asked him to write a speech for the Lincoln affair. Instead, he wrote a hymn (his brother composed the music) and taught it to his 500 students. 

Their performance was a hit. The song caught on in black Jacksonville and began spreading throughout the South. Churchgoers would even paste the lyrics on the backs of hymnals, says Imani Perry, a professor of African American studies at Princeton University whose book about the song, May We Forever Stand, is due out in February. Black newspapers and journals published the lyrics to “Lift,” and by 1906 they were calling it “an anthem for the Negro people.” (Sheet music for the song was imprinted with the subtitle “Negro National Anthem” beginning in the 1960s.)  

Dr Carter and the WSSU CHoir at Ellington

During the 1910s, many black schools and colleges—Howard included—adopted “Lift” for their graduation ceremonies, and the K-12 schools incorporated it into “daily or weekly rituals” according to Perry: “So kids are singing it at segregated schools at assemblies—sometimes every morning.” The NAACP adopted “Lift” as its official song in 1921. (Johnson had become an executive in the organization.) And when Negro History Week (now Black History Month) was established five years later, Perry says, teachers started using the song to teach vocabulary and history.

Shana Redmond, a professor of musicology at the University of California-Los Angeles, says many of those teachers relied on “Lift” to “instill in their students those things that would best arm them” for a hostile world. “One of those things was about pride in self, about knowing your own heroes, your own ancestors.”

At the time Johnson wrote his hymn, lynchings had recently hit their peak in the South, the fall of Reconstruction remained an open wound, and offensive caricatures of blackness were pervasive. Patriotic odes like “The Star Spangled Banner” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” were popular, too, but black southerners were hungry for a cultural product that spoke to them.

“Lift” was that product. “It was the first widely circulated song that tells the story of black Americans, right at the time when black people are building institutional and civic life, as black people are imagining themselves,” Perry says. Johnson depicted blackness as “proud and prideful, as progressing forward, and as enduring, as empowered,” Redmond told me. “It was not solely an ode to this so-called Black Emancipator.” 

With words –

The 1814 poem that became “The Star Spangled Banner” was something radically different, coming from a slave owner who was open in his disdain for the black race. “There was a scorn for blackness,” Redmond says. Many historians read part of Francis Scott Key’s third stanza as a celebration of the deaths of slaves who escaped to fight against their captors, siding with the British during the War of 1812. “But it’s also, to a certain extent, that blackness was not considered, in the least, part of the republic.”

And whereas “Lift” speaks to a future black folks can aspire to, Redmond adds, the anthem “is really not about a future—other than a future already proscribed by what is assumed as a constant greatness.”  

So by 1931, when “The Star Spangled Banner” was officially codified as America’s anthem, black people already had a song they were treating as their own—which spread further as African Americans migrated north and west during World War I, seeking new opportunities and fleeing the violence of Jim Crow. Black intellectuals debated over whether black Americans fighting for inclusion and enlisting in the military to defend their nation’s overseas interests should insist on a separate anthem—Johnson, himself, preferred to call his song the national negro hymn. But there’s “no evidence,” Perry says, that black communities at large were “ambivalent” about the song.

During World War II, in fact, black servicemen, still in segregated units, sang “Lift” alongside the national anthem at sporting events and other formal assemblies on their bases, says Robert Jefferson, an expert on black military history at the University of New Mexico. “During the first half of the 20th century, that song is revered by the black American military.” 

The popularity of “Lift” waxed and waned over the years—it was usurped during the civil rights era by songs such as “We Shall Overcome” and “We Shall Not Be Moved.” But in the 1970s, amid the Black Power movement, it was sometimes sung with an air of resistance. “People are singing the song with raised fists, dashikis, afros,” says Perry, and black students at newly integrated schools fought to keep it in public school programs alongside the national anthem.

Indeed, the opening up of white spaces to African Americans has contributed to the song’s decline. Following the gains of the Civil Rights movement, black people participated less in civic groups that sang the song in their rituals, Perry says. In 1985—roughly 20 years after Congress passed a law mandating the integration of public schools—an Ohio State University sociologist found that about one-third of black college students could no longer identify “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” By that time, enrollment at black colleges and universities had dropped profoundly from their historic highs under Jim Crow. “It is inconceivable,” the researcher wrote, “that African-American college students of even a decade ago would have responded in this fashion.”

The spaces where black people hear “Lift” today are few and far between. We sometimes sing it in church, as I did growing up on the Southside of Chicago. It still can be heard at Black History Month programs and at formal gatherings of civil rights organizations like the NAACP and the National Urban League, and, of course, at HBCUs like my alma mater. But even HBCU students, decades removed from the song’s heyday, don’t necessarily feel connected to “Lift” in the way our grandparents or even our parents were, if my fellow Howard students and I were any indication. Few of us could sing past the first verse. My performance of it was usually pretty perfunctory. It wasn’t until recently that I really thought about the words and discovered how much they resonated with me.

Buried in the history of black people’s storied affair with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a lesson on why we feel differently from white Americans about the NFL players who kneel during the national anthem: Because our relationship with the nation has been so fraught, black people have long felt ambivalent about the symbols and rituals of white America—which is why “Lift,” written for us, by us, exists in the first place. Black folks are compelled to tell our stories on our own terms, and for us the story has been one of unceasing struggle and protest. How fitting, then, that we would use America’s symbols to ink ourselves into its narrative.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2017 in Black History, BlackLivesMatter

 

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The Black Player in the NHL Protests The Anthem

There certainly aren’t many black Hockey Players in the NHL…

Only takes one to start a revolution!

Tampa Bay Forward J.T. Brown does the Tommie Smith and John Carlos Salute

Black NHL player gets death threats for raising his fist during the national anthem

J.T. Brown, a forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning professional hockey team, has been getting death threats after he raised his fist during the national anthem at a game this past weekend.

Via ESPN, Brown this week posted a message on his Twitter page talking about the threats and racist abuse that he’s received while raising his fist during the national anthem as a protest against police violence.

“This is not, and has never been, about the military or disrespecting the flag,” Brown said of his decision to protest. “It is about police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality in this country. It is something that I as well as many others feel needs to be addressed. I love my country, but that doesn’t mean I cannot acknowledge that it is not perfect.”

Brown went on to say that the angry threats that he has received for raising his hand during the anthem will not deter him from speaking out on these issues in the future.

“I will continue to be active in the community, and make sure that we are continually striving for a more equal and inclusive environment,” he wrote in his conclusion.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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Racist Lions Fan Loses Season Tickets

First off – the report on what the Chumph clown did –

Reaction from the Lions???

Detroit Lions ban racist fan for calling anthem protesters ‘ignorant n**gers’

The Detroit Lions fan who posted an angry racist rant on SnapChat has given up his season tickets after being banned from Ford Field, the Lions’ home stadium, said Detroit’s Fox 2 TV.

The Lions organization announced on Thursday that David Doptis — owner of a restaurant supply company in Pontiac, MI — has been banned from Lions games after calling two black protesters who sat during the U.S. national anthem “ignorant n**gers” and saying that if they don’t love the U.S. then they should leave.

Doptis has denied that he posted the photo and its offensive caption to SnapChat, telling Channel 2, “I didn’t post any pictures, any collages anything… I don’t know where that even came from.”

His business was closed early this week as the controversy mushroomed and went viral.

Stacey Graham — the woman in Doptis’ photo — told WXYZ-TV that she was sitting out the anthem because she objects to the references the lyrics make in verse three that some historians say glorifies the killing emancipated slaves, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

“Everybody has an opinion,” said Graham to WJBK. “He probably could’ve stuck with, ‘he wishes we would’ve stood,’ and I would’ve been like ‘okay’, but to write that under our picture — no words.”

 
 

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BLM Protest Growing as HS Kids Follow Kaepernick

This is beginning to spread like wildfire…

Entire High School Football Team Kneels During National Anthem

“We haven’t seen this level of athlete activism in nearly half a century. This is a movement,” one expert said.

A San Francisco high school football team took a knee during the national anthem on Saturday to protest racial injustice, following in the footsteps of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

All players ― Latino, white, Asian and black ― knelt before the game, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

“This is for helping everybody else in the world to understand that black people and people of color are going though difficulties and they need help,” 17-year-old Mission High School quarterback Niamey Harris reportedly told his teammates prior to kickoff. “It’s not going to take care of itself.”

Harris said his team would also kneel for a game on Friday.

Though some are trying to dilute and silence the protest Kaepernick started, it’s refreshing to see how people across the sports world ― including high schoolers ― have joined him.

On Monday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) accused Kaepernick of “activism sympathetic to ISIS.” It’s unclear whether the lawmaker also thinks the students at Mission High School are terrorists.

In any case, Harris and the boys at Mission have a slew of local and national athletes behind them. NFL teams from the Seattle Seahawks to the Miami Dolphins have knelt, stood arm-in-arm or raised their fists in solidarity. Three black volleyball players from West Virginia University Tech knelt before a game. Professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe joined in (though U.S. Soccer has aired its frustrationwith her protest). The list goes on.

These athletes haven’t just started a discussion ― they’ve inspired action. The 49ers announced plans to donate $1 million to charities focused on racial issues after Kaepernick pledged $1 million of his own money to underserved communities. Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall pledged $300 for every tackle he makes to local organizations “that benefit the Denver community and others through the services, awareness and funds they provide for these critical social issues.”

And their advocacy shows no signs of stopping.

“Throughout the nation, athletes on different levels are finding their voice and recognizing that they have a platform,” Jeremi Duru, a professor of sports law at American University’s law school in Washington, told the Chronicle. “We haven’t seen this level of athlete activism in nearly half a century. This is a movement.”

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter, Orange Jumsuit Politicians

 

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NFL Player Flag Protest Grows

Week by week, the number is growing…

These Athletes Have Joined Colin Kaepernick in Protesting Racial Inequality and Police Brutality

“I’m not against the police. I’m not against the military. I’m not against America. I’m against social injustice.”

  • Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos (NFL): When Marshall knelt before last Thursday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers, he said he was prepared for the backlash that might ensue. And it came for his wallet: The Air Academy Federal Credit Union and CenturyLink broke off partnerships with Marshall over the act. Despite this, Marshall says he plans to continue protesting. “I’m not against the police. I’m not against the military. I’m not against America. I’m against social injustice,” Marshall told MMQB on Friday.
  • Jeremy Lane, Seattle Seahawks (NFL): Lane sat on the bench during the national anthem before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders on September 1. (On Sunday, his teammates joined him, standing and linking arms together. The team’s “demonstration of unity” didn’t exactly go as far as it could have, though, as Jezebel notes.)
  • Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers (NFL): A week after his teammate first opened the door to demonstrations, Reid joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem on the San Diego Chargers’ “Salute to the Military” night. It came after the two met with free-agent long snapper and former Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, who recently wrote an open letter in the Army Times about the demonstrations.
  • Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs (NFL): Before Sunday’s game against San Diego, Peters stood arm in arm with teammates in a sign of solidarity with Kaepernick. He took it one step further, raising his black-gloved right hand in the air during the anthem. “I come from a majority black community from Oakland, California…so the struggle, I seen it,” he told the Associated Press after the Chiefs’ win.
  • Arian Foster, Miami Dolphins (NFL): Foster knelt beside three teammates along the sideline before Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “That’s the beautiful thing about this country,” Foster told reporters afterward. “If somebody feels it’s not good enough, they have that right. That’s all we’re doing, exercising that right.”
  • Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins (NFL)
  • Michael Thomas, Miami Dolphins (NFL)
  • Jelani Jenkins, Miami Dolphins (NFL)
  • Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans (NFL): Casey raised his fist along with two other teammates after the national anthem at Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. “A lot of times, a lot of people don’t want to address the issues, and they want us to sit back and be quiet about it,” Casey told reporters. “And I think to bring fairness and (equality) to all races and everything, I thought it was the right thing to do.”
  • Jason McCourty, Tennessee Titans (NFL)
  • Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee Titans (NFL)
  • Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots (NFL): The Patriots tight end and his teammate waited until the end of the anthem to raise their fists—Bennett wearing a black glove, McCourty a white one.
  • Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (NFL)
  • Robert Quinn, Los Angeles Rams (NFL): The Rams defensive end raised his fists alongside his teammate in Monday’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, joining Kaepernick, Reid, and two other 49ers teammates in protest.
  • Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams (NFL)
  • Antonie Bethea, San Francisco 49ers (NFL): The 49ers safety bowed his headand raised his fist alongside Harold during the anthem on Monday night. They joined Kaepernick and Reid, who each knelt in protest.
  • Eli Harold, San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
  • Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign (National Women’s Soccer League): On September 4, the national team standout knelt during a match against the Chicago Red Stars as a “nod to Kaepernick.” When the Reign played its next game against the Washington Spirit, Spirit team officials decided to preempt the action, playing the anthem before players trotted out to the field. (Before Sunday’s rematch against the Spirit, Rapinoe stood and linked arms with teammates.)
  • Michael Oppong, Doherty High School (Worcester, Massachusetts):Oppong, a high school junior, dropped to a knee during the national anthem on Friday. He claimed on Twitter afterward that his coaches and school officials had suspended him for one game. On Monday, school district superintendent Maureen Binienda told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that Oppong’s action did not violate any school rules and that he would not be punished.

Though the 49ers acknowledged Kaepernick’s right to decline to participate in the anthem, the quarterback’s actions were met with outcry from former players, pundits, and celebrities alike. The Santa Clara Police Officers Associationthreatened to pull officers from working 49ers games if the protests continued. (The union eventually backed off.) NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell told the Associated Press last week that he didn’t “necessarily agree” with Kaepernick’s actions; he added that while he supported players who wanted “to see change in society,” the league believed “very strongly in patriotism in the NFL.”

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick told NFL.com on August 27. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” He continued a week later, kneeling alongside his teammate Eric Reid before “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Following his initial demonstration, Kaepernick’s jersey sales soared; he announced recently that the proceeds will go to charity. (Both Kaepernick and the 49ers organization have pledged to each send $1 million to Bay Area charities toward “the cause of improving racial and economic inequality.”) Kaepernick’s protest is expected to continue Monday night, when the 49ers face the Los Angeles Rams.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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NFL SF 49ers QB, Colin Kaepernick Sits Out National Anthem in Protest

I remember the ’68 Olympics when John Carlos and Tommie Smith stood tall…

49ers Quarterback Sits Out National Anthem To Protest Oppression Of Minorities

As players rose to stand for the national anthem at the 49ers-Packers game on Friday night, 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick pointedly remained seated.

His gesture was to protest the treatment of African Americans and minorities in the United States, as he told NFL.com after the game. Kaepernick has remained sitting during the anthem “in at least one other preseason game,” according to the site.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said, according to NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”Image result for Colin Kaepernick

He told NFL.com that he did not notify the team in advance. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right,” Kaepernick said. NFL.com reports that Kaepernick recently “decided to be more active and involved in rights for black people.”

In a statement carried by NFL.com, the 49ers said they recognize his right to remain seated:

“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

On his Twitter page, Kaepernick has recently focused on Black Lives Matter, police violence and civil rights issues.

Kaepernick’s protest has drawn comparisons to a similar gesture 20 years ago from Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, which generated a major controversy.He was suspended for one game and ultimately agreed to stand with his head bowed in prayer, as SB Nation reported.

The gesture has also ignited debate and is currently trending on Twitter. It has sharply divided fellow NFL players.

For example, Miami Dolphins running back Arian Foster wrote, “the flag represents freedom. the freedom to choose to stand or not. that’s what makes this country beautiful.” Later, he wrote, “protest is imperative for change. it invokes the conversation.”

Image result for 68 olympics protest

2008 ESPY Awards - Show

On the 40th Anniversary of their protest, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (pictured above L-R) were honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2008 ESPY Awards held at NOKIA Theatre in Los Angeles.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in BlackLivesMatter

 

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