Black History Month
February is Black History Month and is recognized in both Canada and the United States.
My 10 years of living in the United States, most of the time living in the heart of black inner city neighbourhoods in Boston and New Haven, introduced me to the anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing", recognized as the Negro National Anthem. I have come to love this song. It moves me deeply ( it can move me to tears) and I am not one to get terribly emotional about music. It is a wonderful lyric (It was a poem first) with a very emotive tune. At the point where it changes key I am deeply caught up in the song, singing loud and proud.
Besides having a good lyric and a wonderful tune a song becomes an anthem when it is sung by large groups in circumstances which add layers of meaning and emotion to the participants. This is how this song, through the years has become a National Anthem for African Americans. I have participated in many large gatherings singing this song, quite often one of only a few white participants. Below is a very emotional presentation of it on video. The images give some indication of the layers of meaning attached to it over the years.
Negro National Anthem
The lyrics for this song were written by James Weldon Johnson and the music was composed by his brother, John Johnson . It was first presented a a poem on Lincoln's birthday to honour Booker T. Washington. For the history of this anthem visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lift_Every_Voice_and_Sing
I was disappointed that at the Inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States there was not an occasion for a great public singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" How emotional and wonderful it would have been to have nearly two million voices singing it. I am sure it was sung in black churches in the Washington area for this occasion. I have read in a couple of blogs that there were spontanteous singing of it in the crowd that day.
It did make a small appearance in the prayer of Reverend Lowery as part of the benediction. He began his pray reciting the third verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" ,without comment, but there must have been some among the black participants that recognized the words.
Below is a video created for Barack Obama using "Lift Every Voice and Sing" I included it below because I think it is interesting to see the difference in tone between the first and second video in this blog entry. How times have changed.
I hope everyone will find some time to learns something more about the historical contribution African Americans and African Canadians have made to our societies.
For Canadians there is a wonderful portal web site to begin to learn of some of this history in Canada. http://blackhistorycanada.ca/