Arts Devo

A new national anthem for America.

America, the delusional To me, one of the most patriotic things you can do in America is speak freely, and I find it decidedly unpatriotic to vilify someone for exercising his freedom—especially when it’s to call attention to the trampling of the liberties of many of our fellow Americans. So, even though it’s not surprising, the nasty tone of the backlash to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick deciding to not stand during the pregame “National Anthem” has been frustrating to endure. Kaepernick isn’t anti-America. He just wants America to (to liberally paraphrase) stop being shitty to people of color.

Despite their core delusion, those who identify as conservative in this country aren’t the sole owners of patriotism. I’m a pretty far-left-leaning liberal who also loves America. I also am often disappointed by it. But pointing out injustice and advocating for change is part of the damn point of this nutty country!

In an effort to cut through the bullshitstorm, I sought out various smart people’s responses to it all, and a handful of the online threads I followed led me to a video of jazz singer René Marie performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” aka the “Black American National Anthem,” a poem/song written by the Johnson brothers, James Welson and John Rosamond, at the turn of the 19th century. Marie had been invited to sing the “National Anthem” before Denver’s 2008 state-of-the-city address, and instead she inserted the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and sang it to the anthem’s tune.

The crowd seemed stunned (and the backlash was predictably strong), and watching her brave performance now makes me think our country probably does need a new anthem. So, I’ve cobbled one together. I ditched the bomb-bursting militarism and sacrilegiously sewed together inspiring and/or fun-to-sing tunes (starting with “Lift Every Voice and Sing”) to create a more real, and hopeful, anthem for all Americans. Sing along:

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 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 till victory is won.

We’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand some day. Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome some day.

When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose. You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.

This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island. From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me. As I went walking I saw a sign there, and on the sign it said “No Trespassing.” But on the other side it didn’t say nothing, That side was made for you and me.

Oh-oh come take my hand, we’re riding out tonight to case the promised land.

’Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Take the world in a love embrace. Fire all of your guns at once, and explode into space. Like a true nature’s child, we were born, born to be wild.

Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues. Oh, the movie never ends. It goes on and on, and on, and on. Don’t stop believin’! Hold on to that feelin’.

Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave; o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?