LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
By James Weldon Johnson
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of 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 chastening 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.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" is the acknowledged African American National Anthem. It acquired this acclaim by popular demand and consensus. James Weldon Johnson wrote it in 1900 for a commemoration of Lincoln’s birthday at Stanton High School, in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as principal. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, set the words to music.
James, born in 1871 in Jacksonville, was the first son of James Johnson and the former Helen Louise Dillet. His mother, a schoolteacher, imparted to him her love for English Literature and music. Upon graduation from that same Stanton High School at age 16, he enrolled in Atlanta University. The summer of his freshman year, 1891, he went into the rural districts of Georgia to teach the children of the formerly enslaved. Of that experience he would later express in his autobiography, Along This Way (1933), that:
"In all of my experience there has been no period so brief that has meant so much in my education for life...It was this period that marked the beginning of my psychological change from boyhood to manhood. It was this period which marked also the beginning of my knowledge of my own people as a ‘race’."
He also realized during that summer that his rural brethren were not "something apart." "They were me, and I was they...a force stronger than blood made us one." This spirit with which he became imbued was fused with a classical education at Atlanta University from which he graduated in 1894. Responding to a sense of obligation to work on behalf of his people, 23 year old James Weldon Johnson returned to his former Alma Mater to serve as its principal.
However, something profound happened after the event for which "Lift Every Voice and Sing" had been composed. The brothers James and John had taught the song to some five hundred of their students. And James wrote in Along This Way that they "kept singing the song; some of them went off to other schools and kept singing it; some of them became school teachers and taught it to their pupils. Within twenty years the song was being sung in schools and churches and on special occasions throughout the South and in some other parts of the country."
The spiritual lyrics of the song poignantly captured and spoke to the pulse, sentiment, longings and aspirations of Africa’s descendants in America. When the NAACP adopted "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as its "Anthem," it confirmed the reality of the validation already taken by the African American people.
To this very day this song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," still resonates at cultural events held dear to the descendants of Africa. Its author, James Weldon Johnson, Jr., went on to become one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance and the first African American to head the NAACP. In December of 1930, he resigned from the NAACP and accepted a position at Fisk University as a professor of literature. He died as a result of a tragic automobile accident while vacationing in Maine in 1934.
- By Leon Dixon
- Johnson, James Weldon; Along This Way. Da Capo Press, 2000.
The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, edited by William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, & Truder Harris. Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.
The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1997.
THE OFERINGS & THE ARTISTS
The Sojourn Invitation Suite – CLIFFORD SYKES
Brother Clifford Sykes, also known as Sunjari Yaw Boafo, is a respected and dedicated musician and educator currently teaching in Pontiac, Michigan. He has taught African American youth for over 25 years in venues that include Detroit, Pittsburgh, Madison, Jefferson City, Yellow Springs and Antioch College. He is a veteran of the NBUF’s 1985 Frontliners album (remember Clifford’s Rap), and serves as the NBUF Cultural Committee Chair.
Lift Every Voice and Sing (1st verse) – Ms JOY JONES
Female Vocalist singing "A Cappella"-has been singing from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Seattle, Washington for more than two decades; notably with: The Gospel Music Workshop of America, Bellevue Community College along with both Seattle's Opera and Symphony Orchestra. She offers her thanks to God, her Mother and Father, and Son-LeNard.
Lift Every Voice and Sing – NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHOIR & S.T.A.N.D.
The combined choirs of New Hope, an inner city Seattle church (Alice James, director, Rev. Robert Jeffery, pastor), and S.T.A.N.D. ("Shout Triumphantly! Announce a New Day" or "Song Theatre AN’ Dance") have partnered on other occasions, including singing the Star Spangled Banner at a Seattle Sonics basketball game.
S.T.A.N.D. is a Seattle based multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-faith theatre troupe under the overall direction of Cora L. Jackson, S.T.A.N.D. tours and performs regularly at ticketed and donated venues. Cora L. Jackson and husband Edward, are the owners of Sonojack Records and N D Valle’ Music. Cora has been writing, performing and directing music for 25 years. She is the author of more than 175 songs and three full-length musicals. Cora has released four CDs, and has taken one play overseas on tour.
I Love You Mothers – LOIS MOSES
A Poet, Actress, Lawyer and entrepreneur, she has self-published two books of poetry: Not Just Another...Black/Woman and Missing Pages...(Women behind the Glass Door), works which explore the political/social voice of African American women in America today and in relation to ancestry. Her work implores that African American women speak for themselves, thus defining themselves in an effort to heal from a challenging past and trying future. Lois has performed extensively on and around the East Coast and the Midwest, combining theatrical, musical and spiritual elements in her work. She is co-founder of The R.E.A.L., and African American Collective and Clearinghouse for African American writers. ã2000 Lois Moses
The "Along This Way" Segue – CLIFFORD SYKES
"Star Spangled Banner"/ "Lift Every Voice And Sing" – THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE GOSPEL CHOIR
Founded and directed by Pastor Patrinell Wright in 1973, the Total Experience choir has toured the United States and has sung for President Bill Clinton and in 38 states and 13 countries, including Africa. They have also produced 4 records, and appeared in numerous TV ads. Pastor Wright, considered Seattle’s First Lady of Gospel, is very committed and serious about herself, her world, her community and her religion. Pastor Wright is currently pastoring her own church, the Oneness Center, located in Seattle.
This selection features Pastor Patrinell Wright singing Lift Every Voice and Sing overlaid with the Star Spangle Banner performed by the Total Experience Gospel Choir. This rendition reflects the true African in American experience. We are the descendents of slaves. Off-spring of men and women who were kidnapped from their native land and chained in ships like beasts. We are the heirs of a great and exploited continent known as Africa. We are also Americans. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. America is now our home, a home that we helped to build through blood, sweat and tears. The harmonies in this rendition reflect the discordant melodies while combining for a truly unique and powerful song.
Choir Members: Gena Brooks, Lulu Strange, Tanisha Brooks, Leah Vladowski, Mary Strange, Joseph Connor, Jessica Howard, Patrinell Wright
Why Islam –SEMAJ & "THE BURNING SHOES ENSEMBLE"
SEMAJ, formally trained in the biological sciences, is currently the Director of Muhammad University of Islam. She is also founder of the Burning Shoes Ensemble, an artistic production company that seeks to reveal to audiences the connectedness of art to life. She has performed for "standing room only" audiences at Wayne State University and Washtenaw Community College; and has shared the stage with world renowned poets Jayne Cortez and Detroit’s own Ron Allen. Her recent book, The Dancing Shoes on Fire Book of Poetry, is available at area outlets.
Issa Abramaleem-keyboards; Darolyn Brown-vocals; Wayne Wardlow- guitar; Riva Stewart-actress; Arlene-vocalist; Laurie-vocalist; Robin Sampson-child prodigy, poet; Farouk Z. Bey-band director, composer, saxophone; Sunjari Yaw Boafo (Clifford Sykes)-drums, percussion. ã 2000 Semaj
Serengeti Ballroom – MILLARD (Pitch Black)
Millard is a well known Detroit area poet, and one of the founders and directors of Pitch Black Poetry, a group of word warriors who have performed in numerous venues including Chicago and New York. Millard and Pitch Black are a major force on the cultural arts scene.
Beats by Raheem of Flint, Michigan & Mojah of Toronto, Canada
Engineering & backup vocals by Chuck Nyce.
ã 2000 Millard
Lift Every Voice and Sing (guitar solo) – RAS KENTE
Ras Kente is a major force in Reggae and Funk music in Michigan. He has recently premiered on the European Market with the assistance of his Godfather, George Clinton. In his recent interview with Vibes Magazine, Ras states that "To be on stage and in the studio with George and P-Funk is a dream come true."
Lift Every Voice and Sing (2nd verse) – Ms JOY JONES
- The Sankofa Suite Segue – CLIFFORD SYKES
I Hear Voices – GROUND LEVEL
Ground Level, from Kansas City, Missouri, is a veteran of the Black United Front’s "Frontliners" album projects in 1984 – 1987 (Flesh & Bone, Passed This Way, Dr. Bob, Ring Down Apartheid). The group, also known as the Elton Gumbel-Keith Leathers Quartet, has been providing strong messages through its music since 1980, and has performed for countless community programs, benefit concerts, and conventions. The group is contributing "I Hear Voices", a work which celebrates the strength of our ancestors and our history as the "voices" that keep us moving forward.
Elton J. Gumbel Jr. – keyboards and vocals, Keith Leathers – bass guitar, Lee A. Barnes Jr. – drums
Contact Ground Level at [email protected] ã 1985 Elton J. Gumbel Jr.
Lift Every Voice Yo! – BLACK ANGER
This group is building a strong underground following both regionally and overseas. Black Anger is on the edge of inspiring a cultural revolution with their socially conscious message and their captivating stage performance. They back up their message by staying active in community through grassroots organizing and all the while fulfilling the responsibilities of fatherhood.
DJ Sayeed: "The Beat Mechanic" - d.j./producer
Kendo: "The 3rd Eye Assassin" - vocals/co-producer
E-Real Asim: "The Lyrical Assassin"- vocals ã 2000 Black Anger
Conquering Lion – RAS KENTE
Ras Kente has performed and recorded with such diverse talent as Mr. Fiddler of Elektra Records, The Nomads of Strictly Roots Records, Floor Nine, King David of Aziza Records, Frankie Paul, Sugar Minott, Leroy Sibbles, Sister Carol, Luckie D, Roy Brooks, Steel Drum Star Emile Borde, and Rap Creator Daddy U-Roy who guest appeared on Ras Kente’s first album Island Boy Inna Urban Ghetto.
In the Take No Prisoners Posse Band, Ras Kente is supported by co-leader King Sundiata Keita, an extraordinary drum master for some 20 years. Mr. Keita has played and recorded with such artists as Wynton Marsailis, Dizzy Gillespie, Steel Pulse, Roy Ayers, Cab Calloway, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers. In addition, he recently completed a tour with Carlos Santana. Mr. Keita also founded and conducts the Omawale Afrikan Drum and Dance Troupe. He has been featured on Ras Kente’s Albums Island Boy Inna Urban Ghetto and the recent chart climbing African War March.
Ras Kente – Guitar; Squidly Cole – Drums; Chris Meredith – Bass;Ziggy Marley Band; ã 2000 Ras Kente
Stay In School – QTMC, INC.
QTMC is organized for charitable purposes such as for relief of the poor, distressed, or the underprivileged; lessening of neighborhood tensions; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency, through music. For 14 years, it has been the mission of QTMC, Inc. to educate young people and adults concerning drug awareness, anti-violence, drug abuse prevention, and avoiding negative peer pressure; and to encourage young people to avoid those potential situations. "We shall provide a dynamic, live concert performance in schools and other venues which will deliver a strong, unforgettable "SAY NO TO DRUGS" message to all youth."
QTMC Members: Dave Coleman, Manager, Steve Coleman, John Foster, Jamon Randolph. ã 2000 QTMC, Inc.
Nkosi Sekeleli Afrika -MSHENGA a BABU (Ancestral Message)
"Nkosi Sideleli Afrika" (Lord Bless Afrika) was written by Enoch Monkayi Sontonga using Xosa and Zulu languages in 1898, and has emerged as our global, Pan-African Anthem. It is performed here by the Drum Healers of KMT Temple—an All-Afrikan faith and cultural community in Seattle formed to preserve, practice and promote our ancient heritage and Afrikan worldview through our classical Maat-an spiritual system.
DunDunBa, Bell, Vocal – Truth Allah; SongBa, Bell, Vocal and English voiceover – Kamau Taplin; Marimba and Vocal – Khalfani Mwamba.
Spoken Word –NU BLACK ARTS WEST with MSHENDA a BABU
Nu Black Arts West is the only Afrikan American Theater Company. in the Pacific Northwest. Their goal of "promoting creativity by providing an opportunity to use the arts as a way of expression and learning" is facilitated by Executive Director Ms. Kibibi Monié. She is the only woman to have directed double-pulitzer prize winning playwrite, August Wilson. Sista Kibibi Monié offers the English call, while Brotha N. Khalfani Mwamba offer the response in Kimwafrika (The Language of Pan-Afrika) which promotes the linguistic unity of Afrikans globally. Kimwafrika uses the grammar and syntax of Swahili while drawing liberally from the lexicon of Swahili and other "Niger-Kongo" languages.
Lift Every Voice and Sing ( 3rd verse) – Ms JOY JONES
- The Ashé Segue – CLIFFORD SYKES
Lift Every Voice and Sing – TACHUNDA
Tachunda is a deeply spiritually gifted vocalist who hails from Pontiac, MI where she began singing in church at age 5. TaChunda travels regularly and is widely recognized as an anointed, vocalist and is the founder and director of "Anointed for Christ’s Sake Productions." TaChunda is the mother of two beautiful daughters.
ABOUT THE COVER
In The Spirit Of ...
Top Photos: James Weldon Johnson, who wrote the lyrics, and his brother John Rosamond Johnson, who provided the music. First Row: Ida D. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Cinque, Mary McCleod Bethune, George Washington Carver, Billie Holiday, John Henrik Clarke. Second Row: Malcolm X, John Coltrane, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Joe Louis, and Carter G. Woodson.
The above ancestors are representative and symbolic of the "Many Thousands Gone," some famous and some not so famous, some known and the vast majority known only to Eternity. We pay homage to them all whenever we
"Lift Every Voice and Sing!!!"
THANKS AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The National Black United Front would like to extend its most sincere gratitude to all of the artists for lending their immense talents and generosity to this project.
We would like to extend special thanks for work above and beyond the call of duty to Mrs. Lucille Washington (and her family) of Pontiac, Michigan for her typesetting and computer skills.
To (my friend and brother of 25 years) William Townley at Alpha Base CyberCafe, (Detroit) for his impeccable skills with the graphic artwork on the cover of this project.
To (my friend) Doug Martin of Abel Recording Studios in Pontiac, Michigan for his excellent skills and for being patient with me on this project.
My personal thanks and sincere gratitude to The Creator, and to My Ancestors; to NBUF; and to Brother Khalfani Mwamba, who envisioned this project and was its executive producer, to my Mentor and Project Guru, Brother Leon Dixon, and to Elton Gumbel (of GROUND LEVEL) for his help with these Liner Notes, and for all of their assistance, advice, and many, many phone calls in bringing this project to fruition.
Sunjari Yaw Boafo (Clifford Sykes)
NBUF Cultural Committee Chairman and CD Project Coordinator