Today is our final assembly in February, which makes it the final assembly we have this year during Black History Month. In honour of that, we have a special performance from grade 11 students Isabella Taite, Sascha Ouaknine and Justin Fisher. They’ll be singing Lift Every Voice and Sing, which was originally written as a poem in 1900 by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. With the help of his brother, it was turned into a song, and it became the official song of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The significance of the song became so great that it’s widely considered to be the black national anthem.
I went to school in the US when I was younger, and I used to sing this song in my elementary school with my classmates. My music teacher was adamant about educating the youth of today, and she would preach to us about the history of our country: what we were obliged to know and what we had the right to feel. The people she taught us about, the songs, the poems, and this one in particular, were so powerful and so pressing that I remember some of my classmates, in the second or third grade, would cry. I think the importance of remembering and keeping the past with us as we move forward is often overlooked. It’s easy to passively accept something without actively acknowledging it, so today we acknowledge it.
Lift Every Voice and Sing, is a song to acknowledge the past, but also to look forward to the future with hope. During the heat of the civil rights movement, it became a song that was performed around the nation, that was an anthem for all people to unite together and to strive for a proud and equal future. It took the place of the Star-Spangled Banner, which created to represent all Americans, but actualized to represent really only one event or moment. The Star-Spangled Banner doesn’t speak to the other struggles that went on in the US. It doesn’t speak to those whose hardships went unrecognized, it doesn’t speak to all the people. And here came Lift Every Voice and Sing, which is an anthem made to recognize all the people, to unite us all. So today, we remember. – Isabelle Whittall ’20
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.
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,
‘Til 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.