This is the first installment of this series, the SYAD Award, which I know will have entries for days to come. The SYAD Award is the Sit Yo’ Ass Down Award, if you didn’t guess. Please note the criteria for nominations are the following:
1. Committing any act deemed unnecessary or outright outlandish
2. Speaking on issues and/or making assumptions or committing actions without being properly informed on said issue(s)
3. Basically doing too much.
Perusing Twitter as I usually do, I came across a tweet discussing an article posted on CNN.com yesterday about the Black National Anthem (you know we do have one), “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Supposedly, the story talked about it being “racist.”
Here we go AGAIN. I”m so sick of this racism thing. Please, see my tweet from yesterday morning for my thoughts. I couldn’t wait to find the story and read up on it. What I found was a shocker, but then again, nothing should surprise me anymore.
And the SYAD Award goes to…….
Courtesy of CNN.com
Dr. Timothy Askew, Clark-Atlanta University professor, according to Professor at historically black college questions ‘black national anthem’.
Get this: Askew, who says he loves the song, is a former music major and Yale graduate. In school, he studied James Weldon Johnson’s (the composer) life and compositions and decided that the anthem wasn’t meant only for African-Americans. Quite possible, but I think otherwise.
He says, “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.”
In response to Askew, Hilllary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy for the NAACP, responded. “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.”
Yeah, I agree with ole’ Hillary. How ironic that just last Sunday, a visiting choir sang a beautiful rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. The choir belted out crystal clear notes, and my mom and I noticed no one was standing up. (Yes, protocol requires you to stand during the anthem just as you would during “Star-Spangled Banner.”) I looked around to see some adults, but mostly teens and children fake-mouthing the words. Why didn’t they know the Black National Anthem? I was taught the words at a young age, and we would sing it regularly at church. Was it obsolete now, I wondered. As a I sang the words, I thought about how true and relevant they are historically, and even today, regardless of interracial families, integrated schools and an African-American family in the White House.
If you haven’t seen Wattstax, you’re missing out!
Mr. Askew, I respect your views, and in some way, you make a valid point regarding Dr. King’s dream for unity. I’m all for unity, but, I prefer to consider the anthem to be one of many symbols for us. I find it odd that you, a professor at a HBCU, think a song that has historical roots is meant to be divisive. Do you think HBCU’s are serving the same purpose? Keep in mind that these anthems, institutions of higher learning and even Dr. King’s dream were born out of necessity. We had to have our own songs and our own schools. The theory of unity and equality had to be pushed because we had been divided and unequal for so long.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is and always will be powerful. It speaks to us and our history in a way that no other anthem can. It’s not about separating ourselves from America. America did that on its own. It’s about celebrating ourselves, our elevation in this country and the God who has kept us through it all.
The only way it will become irrelevant is if we, ourselves, make it so.