Sunday I had planned to be somewhere else for the afternoon, a place where I could be with friends I had not seen in a while, enjoy some good food and relax.
That didn’t happen. The host where the shindig was to take place was sick, and understandably needed to be in bed for much needed rest.
I later discovered God had a different plan, so I went to an afternoon church service where I volunteer my time by singing. Because I thought I was not going to be there I did not review the song list that had been emailed earlier in the week. But when I arrived, I found the list and reviewed it. I saw a song I had not sung in years: the National Black Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.
For me, that has always been a tough song to sing: the musicality of the chords, for one, and the lyrics are so meaningful to a group of people that have struggled from slavery times of our country to the present. Anyone who sings it strives to sing it with the respect it deserves. I thought someone else was going to lead it, but she was not present. I was for the moment the only African American female in a band of mainly white musicians who did not know how to play the song, and I tried to teach them the chords. Oh boy, how is this going to turn out, I thought.
Here’s the good part. The musicians took on the challenge, and for the most part found the chords and played the best they could; they respected the song. As for me, my respect of the song came from reviewing the lyrics and noticing they were wrong. Unfortunately, our music leader picked lyrics off the internet from a singer who recorded the song but revised the lyrics. (I don’t know why an African American singer who I’m assuming knew the history of that song would change the lyrics that meant so much to so many.) It was too late to reprint the church’s program, so an announcement was made that the song would be sung using the original lyrics, which the singer (me) had.
I felt I needed to represent. Represent my people through singing this song, presenting it to a congregation, the majority of which were of a different race. I felt James Weldon Johnson who wrote the poem on which the song is based (music provided by his brother John Rosamond Johnson) would want his song treated with respect through the God-given sound of one generations later. I hope he was pleased with the effort of the band, the singers and I .
As I left the church, I walked away with a smile on my face. Only God could have rearranged plans, to get me to the church to sing so important a song that represented a time in history and remains so prevalent to this day. It represented God and His people. The band and the singers bonded together to represent, displaying what it means for all people to come together and honor God.
What can you do, to Represent? Hope you find the path…