Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lift Every Voice

I was hoping to hear it all through the inauguration; even just a hint of it. And, I was nearly disappointed that I would not; but then Reverend James Lowrey, civil rights hero, gentle man, man of peace and power began his benediction prayer…

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.

The poem above is the last stanza of "Lift Every Voice and Sing", also known as the black national anthem. I thought it should be part of Barack Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony. It is a necessary part of the program. It marked a new level in the struggle of people of color.

Many whites will be surprised to learn there is such a thing as a Black National Anthem. Some would even argue it is unpatriotic to have it. However, the nation of people of color who live within our borders, but apart from the liberties and freedoms that whites enjoy, need words that bind them together as a nation. As long as they were not, and are not equal citizens, within the borders of the United States, I say keep on singin’ my darker brothers and sisters.

Yes, I know I am an old white woman and Barack Obama wanted his election and inaugural to be all-inclusive. However, without the anthem, without acknowledging the black struggle for freedom, and James Weldon Johnson poem, it would have been lacking.

As a disability rights activist I look to the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s for inspiration, guidance, ideas, ideals, themes -- community. Our fight mirrors theirs. We can learn and we can honor them. Their struggle, in many ways, makes our own easier. People understand now the concepts of liberty, justice, independence, and equality. We “just” need to do the work of claiming them for ourselves.

Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

It is not easy, but we have a path to freedom, laid down for us by others who traveled this road before. Read/listen to the words, they speak of our trials too.

We owe them their due respect. Honoring them by knowing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is one way. We can glean power from those words. Who knows, one day we may an anthem of our own.



Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring.
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

2 comments:

Jimmy Higgins said...

This has doubtless been mentioned elsewhere, but not that I've seen. Thanks for pulling the collective coattails of your readership!

magitator said...

With all the hubbub about Obama being the symbol of the "post race" present, I am proud and moved that Big Noise reminds us that Obama represents the flow of race struggle and not their end.