From ages four to eleven, I went to an elementary school which also served as a church. Every Monday and Friday morning, we had a school assembly in the church’s sanctuary to go over the latest updates of our small but growing school where everyone knew everyone.
The pastor of the church was also present, giving us a small sermon on things that I was too young to understand.
Time changes that.
Yet, for every single assembly, we made a pledge of allegiance to the flag and sang the National Negro Anthem. Every. Single. Assembly. After seven years in elementary school, I moved on to middle and high school, and expected to sing the National Negro Anthem, but did not. Maybe for Black History Month, but that was about it.
I was always interested in the song, and even went to lengths to learn not only the first verse, but also the second and third verses of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was the third verse that stayed with me: “Shadowed beneath Thy Hand/May we forever stand/ True to our God/True to our native land.”
This verse spoke of a past I did not know, but see through glimpses of today’s current news and events, a future that is uncertain but is hoped for nonetheless, and a present that is bleak at times but resistant to the status quo.
Today, I watched June’s Diary performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on the Internet and words that I have not sung in 15 years came up from deep within me and enveloped my living room.
For people that came before me who guide me, the people here with me who encourage and console me, and the people after me who challenge me to be my best self… I sang those words and remembered.
It was easy to forget sometimes. People marched, went to jail, were beaten, made strides, and speeches. It cost them their life. But the golden years between 1965 to 2011 made it easy for many of us from the Black diaspora in the Western hemisphere to forget.
I really could not pinpoint why I had this reaction to June Diary’s performance. I felt awe, those young ladies have some serious pipes! Yet, while they were singing, I remembered the seeds planted in my childhood as I searched for those same words and found them. They came out of me and I sang my heart out. I was my younger self listening to my older self sing words that I did not understand then, but have a better handle on now.
It was kind of like when you become woke. It blossoms like a flower.
This video went viral. I could imagine and not at the same time what everyone’s reaction was. I am just glad I had the chance to be reminded that in the future ahead, you must never forget your past.