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Breaking from tradition, the NFL chooses gospel recording duo Mary Mary to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl 56.
With imagery drawn from the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the “promised land,” the hymn was written from the perspective of the African American experience with lyrics by James Weldon Johnson with the music accompanied by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson.
It is now sung communally in Black communities since its first recital in 1900. Shortly after, the NAACP began to promote it as a “Black National Anthem” in 1917.
Allowing the Black National Anthem is a refreshing surprise amid the NFL’s latest controversy of not having enough Black head coaches and zero Black owners. However, Mary Mary, accompanied by the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, made for the perfect patriotic opener.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” (Lyrics)
Lift every voice and sing,
’Til 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 ’til 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 died.
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
’Til 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.