I woke up this morning so full I couldn't speak. I had the television tuned in to TVOne and there was Rev. Otis Moss III from Trinity United Church of Christ delivering a message rebroadcast from Sunday, November 9, 2008. I listened intently as he made the connection between Moses and Joshua, Dr. King and President-elect Obama. He talked about this not being a post-racial society as the pundits declared, but a post-wilderness and pre-promised land time, we have not all arrived yet. He asked the question I have been pondering since history was made on the memories of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Shirley Chisholm, and Carol Mosley Braun who trod this path before him, "Where Do We Go From Here?"
My heart beat loudly as he rang out in classic black preacher oratory the names of our Great Cloud of Witnesses. He said Fanny Lou Hammer, A. Philip Randolph, Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Malcom X, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass and on and on. As he said each name, I felt a sense of my elders watching over this moment in time.
This did not happen by chance, this did not just happen, this 40 years after Dr. King's assassination, 40 years after my mother died, 40 years of a generation, 40 years of wilderness, the impossible became possible. Forty is a generational change number in my spiritual upbringing, 40 represents stepping over, a new time, a new possibility, a new era.
Remember and reflect, celebrate and prepare. I know my daddy is one of those witnesses, all the soldiers in the day-to-day struggle, those who were hosed, those who marched, those who stood in the face of dogs and water hoses, those who worked in the school houses and court houses, those who told the story in song and prose.
In my muse of the history happening and trying to put words to the swirling in my spirit, I couldn't get the words of the Negro National Anthem out of my head. I am not one blessed with the melodic voices of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, but in my own way, I rang out the words of this song and felt the weight of the history behind it.
Certain parts of this magnificent oracle of hope and promise and faith and purpose, stood out to me this morning as I reflected on this moment in time. I thought about the men that met their maker after a lynch mob hung them from a tree or the women who lost their virtue through the lustful fantasies of a roving owner, the children who were used as belly warmers and unequal playmates, the teachers who declared they couldn't learn, the gates to keep them out, the ever raising bar, I thought of all the different aspects of our collective history and found myself singing parts of the song with an unction foreign to my mind.
WE have made history, we are history, and we will write history, the story continues...full of faith, full of hope, full of change.
The Negro National Anthem
"Lift Every Voice and Sing"
by James Weldon Johnson
Originally written by Johnson for a presentation in celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. This was originally performed in Jacksonville, Florida, by children. The popular title for this work is:
'THE NEGRO NATIONAL ANTHEM'
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.
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 have 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
James Weldon Johnson June 17, 1871 - June 26, 1938