By Liane Membis, CNN


(CNN) -- "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is an uplifting spiritual, one that's often heard in churches and popularly recognized as the black national anthem. Timothy Askew grew up with its rhythms, but now the song holds a contentious place in his mind.

"I love the song," said Askew, an associate professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college. "But it's not the song that is the problem. It's the label of the song as a 'black national anthem' that creates a lot of confusion and tension."

The song and its message of struggle and hope have long been attached to the African-American community. It lives on as a religious hymn for several protestant and African-American denominations and was quoted by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration.

After studying the music and lyrics of the song and its history for more than two decades, Askew decided the song was intentionally written with no specific reference to any race or ethnicity.

Askew explains his position in the new book, "Cultural Hegemony and African American Patriotism: An Analysis of the Song, 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,'" which was released by Linus Publications in June. The book explores the literary and musical traditions of the song, but also says that a national anthem for African-Americans can be construed as racially separatist and divisive.

"To sing the 'black national anthem' suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation," Askew said. "This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window."

Askew first became intrigued with "Lift Every Voice and Sing" while working on his master's degree at Yale University. He was a Morehouse College music graduate, young, passionate and hungry for knowledge about African-American culture. A fellow classmate suggested Askew explore Yale's collection on James Weldon Johnson, an early civil rights activist who wrote the song decades earlier.

Johnson first wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as a poem in 1900. Hundreds of African-American students performed it at a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday at Jacksonville, Florida's Stanton School, where Johnson was principal. Johnson's brother, John Rosamond Johnson, later set the poem to music. By 1920, the NAACP had proclaimed the song the "Negro National Anthem."

"I remember methodically going into the Yale library every day and sitting there on the floor, rummaging through 700 boxes of James Johnson's work," Askew said. "I became so fascinated in his life and letters, that I wanted to know more about the creation of the song and how it related to our modern understanding of it."

He found letters of appreciation to Johnson from individuals of all different ethnic backgrounds. At that moment, Askew had a revelation: The song he'd known as the "black national anthem" was for everybody.

Some will call his perspective on the song a contradiction, Askew said, especially because he works at a historically black college. But he argues that universities like Clark Atlanta accept students of many races and ethnicities; a national anthem for one race excludes others, and ignores an existing national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key.

"Some people argue lines like 'We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,' signify a tie to slavery and the black power struggle," Askew said. "But in all essence there is no specific reference to black people in this song. It lends itself to any people who have struggled."

He's not the only one who sees fault in a national anthem just for African-Americans.

Kenneth Durden, an African-American conservative blogger, responded to Askew's claims on his blog, "A Free Man, Thinking Freely." He said in an interview that Askew is right to make connections to King's view of one America.

"King always appealed to the American dream for all," Durden said. "He was a patriot and he never wanted blacks to deny or separate themselves from being American. I think claiming an anthem for ourselves as black people is doing just that."

What troubles Askew more is that the song became an identity marker for African-Americans.

"Who has the right to decide for all black people what racial symbol they should have?" Askew said. "Identity should be developed by the individual himself, not a group of people who think they know what is best for you."

Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy for the NAACP, said Askew's ideas might be far-fetched.

"I don't see anything that is racially exclusive or discriminatory about the song," Shelton said. "The negro national anthem was adopted and welcomed by a very interracial group, and it speaks of hope in being full first-class citizens in our society."

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" isn't meant to cloud national identity or persuade African-Americans to be separatists, Shelton said. It's often sung in conjunction with "The Star-Spangled Banner," or with the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance at NAACP events.

"His presumption is that this song is sung instead of our national anthem -- that we are less American and we are not as committed to America because we take pride in the Negro national anthem," Shelton said. "It is evident in our actions as an organization and here in America that we are about inclusion, not exclusion. To claim that we as African-Americans want to form a confederation or separate ourselves from white people because of one song is baffling to me."

This isn't the first time "Lift Every Voice and Sing" has sparked debate. In 2008, jazz singer Rene Marie substituted the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" with the words of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at Mayor John Hickenlooper's State of the City address in Denver, Colorado. Marie said it was a matter of artistic expression, but critics viewed the lyrical switch as disrespect toward the national anthem, a lack of patriotism and an insinuation of racial division.

"I think that we often try to separate the black experience from the American experience," said Marc Lamont Hill, an associate professor of education at Columbia University who studies hip-hop culture. "It's a black national anthem, but it's also a quintessential American song because of its message of fighting for freedom. It's not 'lift the black voices,' it's 'lift every voice.'"

Askew, though, maintains there's only one national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," and that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" could take on a new role: a message of victory for all ethnic groups in the United States.

"We need to consider eliminating this alternative label of 'black national anthem' in order to promote unity," Askew said. "I know people will probably think that I'm a sellout, but I think it is important that African-Americans nationally understand that we should be moving towards racial cohesiveness."

 
 

 
Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING...m/index.html?hpt=Mid
 
 BLACK by NATURE, PROUD by CHOICE.
Original Post
Reference:
"To sing the 'black national anthem' suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation," Askew said. "This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window."

Hmmmm….I can understand this perception and I can appreciate his concerns. The only problem I have with his contention is perhaps he is not looking at it in its historical perspective. When the song was created, black Americans were subjected to the worst forms of racial violence, discrimination and abuse. Lynching, segregation, Jim Crow laws and open legally sanctioned discrimination were embedded in American culture. Blacks were prevented from participating and being part of America when this song was created.

As everyone knows, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was the creation of James Weldon Johnson. It was first publicly performed (as a poem) as a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on 12 February 1900 by black school children at a racially segregated school. Eventually, it was given music by James Weldon Johnsons brother (John Weldon) in 1905.

The singing of this song was quickly adopted by black Americans who used it to convey their hope for the future and an anthem against Americas pervasive institutional racism and violence. This song was an outgrowth of the suffering that black Americans were living under for generations. It was adopted as the "The Negro National Anthem" by the NAACP in 1919 and has been part of black American folklore ever since.

Tim Askew needs to understand this. And as I said, I can understand the intellectual premise of his position and concerns. But an historical understanding of the conditions that lead to its ("The Negro National Anthem") creation cannot and should not be overlooked or down played.  I guess Askew feels the song should be retired and no longer celebrated. I’m not sure I totally agree with this…..

As some of my cousins like to say "He coulda kept that ish"...


The Black National ANthem does not divide anything that wasn't already divided...and what tensions is he talking about?  Who has "tension" about the Black National Anthem?


Ok - now this dude is treading in Uncle Tom territory.  I guess we'll be seeing him make the conservative talk show rounds to get his obligatory darkie pat on the head.
Hey, NS, everybody's gotta have a hustle, right? LOL...

Look, this guy is obviously a joke -- the article says it took him 20 years of "studying" the song to conclude that it doesn't directly reference black people.  20 years of study?  Is this a song or is it the genome of the duck-billed platypus?  What the hell is this fool's problem??  And anyway, obviously it was written about the black struggle, whether the word "black" is in the lyrics or not. 

But if there's anything that troubles me about this piece, it's the fact that it was published in the first place.  I'm sure that this discussion about whether the song is "divisive" comes up in some conversation somewhere in this country, at least a few times a day, every day.  Just because this guy is black, it warrants a story on a national news channel's web site?  With all that's going on in the world these days?  Really?
Reference:
the article says it took him 20 years of "studying" the song to conclude that it doesn't directly reference black people. 20 years of study?
It took me 20 seconds to channel my inner Frederick Douglass and ask:

  • What to black folks is the "Star-Spangled Banner"???

There are no references to any particular race and, yes, in an ahistorical, decontextualized and intellectually vacuous and dishonest manner (or a conscious decision to forgive past transgressions), a person who was/is not White can view the Star-Spangled Banner as a song that applies to them, as their national anthem. 

I know Crispus Attucks was the first to go in the Revolutionary War but it wasn't freedom from the British (alone) that Attucks, a runaway slave, struck a revolutionary pose against.  Had he lived through the Revolution, the red, white and blue would have rivaled the stars and bars, in that time, because those who sang in that period about the rocket's red glare and bombs bursting in air and the "proof through the night that OUR flag was still there" continued to hold people like Attucks under the yoke of slavery well after the British retreated.  

So, go ahead (and make this non-issue out of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"... go there and see where it gets you.
Reference:
"To sing the 'black national anthem' suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation," Askew said. "This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window."

Yeah .. this guy is an idiot. 

But, the thing that really baffles me about people who think like him is ... what's with the either/or thing?    Can Black people not be Black AND American??  Does being American mean that you have to negate everything else about yourself??

I would say that maybe that's why they tried their best to extricate us from our heritage and culture .. but, at that time, being an "American" wasn't even a remote possibility.  So what's the deal??

Being an "American" is merely a matter of nationality .. and not the totality of ANY person!!  Do they ask Asian-Americans not to be Asian anymore?    Can they no longer appreciate, let alone celebrate their Chinese/Japanese/Korean, etc., culture and heritage?

I'm sick of people like him belittling the value of our African ancestry.  They need to get a damn grip! 
Reference:
Askew, though, maintains there's only one national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," and that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" could take on a new role: a message of victory for all ethnic groups in the United States. "We need to consider eliminating this alternative label of 'black national anthem' in order to promote unity," Askew said.


 "I know people will probably think that I'm a sellout, but I think it is important that African-Americans nationally understand that we should be moving towards racial cohesiveness."
Of course, the ethnic majority will quickly grab us up in tight embraces of unity once we stop calling it the black national anthem...and all this time we been dying and marching and facing dogs and hoses and filing lawsuits...who knew?
Such... ABSOLUTE... ignorance!!!!

And that applies to all those quoted in the article agreeing with him.

Here is a college professor saying that the people singing the song are not singing about themselves...BECAUSE THEY DID NOT IDENTIFY THEMSELVES!!!!!!!!!!!

DID NOT IDENTIFY THEMSELVES?????????????????????????

In it's original performance...in 1900...there were 500 African American-American children reciting the words like.... "... 'We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,' signify a tie to slavery and the black power struggle,"..., and this traumatically stressed man concludes that it does not apply to them, BECAUSE THE AUTHOR DID NOT BOTHER TO SAY IT WAS ONLY ABOUT THEM??????????????????????????

AND THEY LET THIS MAN TEACH OUR CHILDREN????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Askew, though, maintains there's only one national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," and that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" could take on a new role: a message of victory for all ethnic groups in the United States.

"We need to consider eliminating this alternative label of 'black national anthem' in order to promote unity," Askew said. "I know people will probably think that I'm a sellout, but I think it is important that African-Americans nationally understand that we should be moving towards racial cohesiveness."

This is a face-to-face example of the conclusions of Dr. DeGruy-Leary.

This man is damn near brain damaged.

 

PEACE

Jim Chester

It was adopted as the "The Negro National Anthem" by the NAACP in 1919 and has been part of black American folklore ever since.---Xeon

I didn't think of screaming fact!!!

It is our simply because we say it is ours!!!!

Such stupidity!!

Clark University is allowing this man to teach our children...AND PAYING HIM TO DO IT!!!!!!!!!

PEACE

Jim Chester

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