It seems Macy Gray wasn’t the only one to received hate last week on the eve of Independence Day. Singer and fashion icon Vanessa Willams and PBS are facing the wrath of right-wing Twitter as her rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem. In a time where everyone is on edge around the nation, many feel the choice to perform that show seeks to further divide us. The news gained national media attention after political news outlet The Hill published their story. Their article labeled “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the unofficial Black national anthem.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Vanessa Williams talked about her choice to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on the heels of Juneteenth becoming an official federal holiday.
“It’s in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we are reflective of the times,” she said about the upcoming festivities. Her performance was prerecorded because of the worldwide pandemic. PBS held the fireworks presentation live over the weekend. While Vanessa may have had good intentions with her performance, social media (especially right-wing news) saw it differently.
Most of the outrage was directed at Vanessa Williams for trying to divide our nation with her pro-Black theme/protest. Many felt having “Lift Every Voice and Sing” sung alongside our official national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was distasteful. In a way, many Americans are looking towards the future and situations like this may rub people the wrong way. Looking from another perspective, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been a main stable
According to the NAACP, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first written as a poem by organization leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900, and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, later composed music to accompany the words. NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said the song “spoke to the history of the journey of African-Americans and for many Africans in the diaspora who struggled to get to a place of hope.”
For the past four decades, PBS has held its annual “A Capitol Fourth” event. The event was held in Washington, DC on the West Lawn of the US Capitol. The national celebration incorporated music, art, and cultural information. The event also included performances by Jimmy Buffet, Train, Mickey Guyton, and The National Symphony Orchestra. The celebration was capped off with The Joint Armed Forces Chorus and The U.S. Army Marching Band.