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You Tube’s three stanzas of the anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” moved me deeply, its one hundred-year-lyrics still sung in Black Churches, in Black History Month seminars, and other events. The anthem’s vision speaks to those willing to listen: a plea for Liberty to the God of silent tears.

The dismal failure of the Civil War Post-Reconstruction in late nineteenth-century America compelled James Weldon Johnson, lawyer, school administrator, prolific writer, and poet in Jacksonville, Florida, to compose these lyrics. Tears flooded him after listening to his brother’s rendering them in the word-painting technique: the melding of images upon the soulful melody in A flat major, often used in spirituals.

“ Lift Every Voice and Sing” was first presented to honor the1900 visit of educator Booker T. Washington to the Black school, Stanton, where Johnson was principal. Those five hundred singers, many becoming teachers, carried the anthem with them, and taught other classrooms, which, in turn, spread this vision of hope.

In 1919, the NAACP proclaimed, “ Lift Every Voice and Sing” the Black National Anthem of America; it also spirited the1960s Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

YouTube carries several versions of this stirring anthem.

Like spent fire-works, emptiness stings consciousness; it creates new space and raises questions: whether to distract empty hearts or to reframe empty scenarios more congenial to our tastes or to accept what is, with grace. Multiple experiences of loss have always demand change, with subsequent satiation and depletion—The cycle is endemic to human nature.

At the same time, emptiness activates the multi-faces of grief today, and there is much to grieve about: the global pandemic and death, the cancel culture, CRT, little people smarting under dictatorships, the physically and spiritually malnourished, psychic unrest dulled with substances, the rancor of political divisions, the killings, and so much more. Such angst can undermine the still small voice within our depths; though not heard at times, we are never alone, even in the midst of dire suffering. It’s about humility, about accessing empowerment when all seems lost.

The Psalmist knew this as well as Job and they thrived; through them, we learn that life brilliances with unimaginable depths and shores up the faint of heart. We remain in God’s hands, no matter what’s coming down around us …

Spring’s whispers continue leafing out maples and oaks and casting lacy patterns of shade upon the road in front of us; within its transient beauty, we pause. A gossamer breeze tickles the overhanging branches and shimmers the shade into splinters of direction. A few steps further—sunlight squints our eyes until moseying within yet another shade-splotch and catching our breath before moving on.

A fitting analogy for the Sacred who gives light to those in dark places, to those in the shade of death, so that our feet may be guided into the way of peace. Luke 1: 79

For this, I yearn …

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