The NFL started its new season with a moving performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,“ often nicknamed the Black National Anthem. Listen to Alicia Keys sing as Anthony Mackie narrates scenes of protest and joy, many involving NFL players.
There’s even a cameo by Colin Kaepernick, whose protests at national anthems sparked a debate in the league.
The lyrics and song are over 120 years old, according to a great piece in the Washington Post:
“Lift Every Voice” was composed as poem in 1899 by novelist, poet and civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson when he was principal of a Black high school in the segregated city of Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Library of Congress. His brother John Rosamond Johnson — who had trained in musical conservatories in London and Boston — composed music for the poem.
The song, according to James Weldon Johnson, was first performed by his students. “A group of young men in Jacksonville, Fla., arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900,” Johnson explained. “My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored school children.”
Naturally, the haters are out in droves disliking the video, even though it played 20 minutes before The Star-Spangled Banner. Time to sing it even louder!
Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til 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 ’til victory is won
Image: YouTube / NFL