Wednesday, July 2, 2008

artistic intergrity

cnn news reported a serious controversy in denver yesterday when acclaimed jazz singer rene marie performed that national anthem at the annual state of the city address.  to everyone's surprise though, the melody was noticable but the words were foreign to most.  what marie did was take the melody of the star spangled banner along with the words of lift every voice and sing (the black national anthem).  take a listen:

the mayor, the councilman and most of the general public has been making comments about how disrespectful and unpatriotic her actions were.  ive read comments about how that ceremony was not the place for her to make a political statement.  i listened to the comments, (that got redundant very quickly and decided to weigh in)

1.  there is no proper place to make a political statement; but they're best made unexpectedly in places of high visibility where nothing can be done about them.  (think john carlos and tommy smith, 1968, in mexico city, on the summer olympic medal stand)  

2.  i don't think its unpatriotic of her to sing the black national anthem, i think its unpatriotic for it not to be recognized as a beautiful and patriotic song.  i think that in this country we substitute assimilation for diversity with that mantra of "we're all the same."  the truth is, we're not the same, we're different, but its those differences that should be celebrated not suppressed.   people should know lift every voice and sing the same way they know the star spangled banner.  for a significant number of this country's citizens; many of whose ancestors this country was built on the backs of, that acknowledgement doesn't seem like too much to ask.  for those of you that don't know the lyrics:

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 has 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 hast brought us thus far on the way; 
Thou Who hast 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. 
honestly, it doesn't get more patriotic that that!

3. as an artist, and a jazz artist at that, it can't be unexpected that she would put a twist on it.  improv is what jazz is all about.  she did a magnificent job combining the two songs that are written in different keys and tempos.  not to mention that she also sounded beautifully singing the song.  things nobody seemed to recognize.  she took on the challenge and did it with courage and excellence.  whether you agree or not, her effort should be acknowledged and respected as provocative art

4.   i applaud her bravery and am glad that her actions opened up dialog, but sad to see the overwhelming condemnation and lack of even an attempt to understand from her fellow citizens.  we pick and chose the most arbitrary things to hang our patriotic hats on when there are always bigger things.  the fact that the us is participating in the summer olympics despite china being guilty of violating numerous human rights violations was met with a shrug by most americans.  considering that most americans couldn't pass a citizenship exam, we should examine our motivations for claiming patriotism because it is often just a guise for other more destructive isms and not about liberty and justice for all

5. i think she made a wonderful statement about the double conscious that still exists in black americans that needs to be revisited.  many black americans in this country have competing identities of what it means to be black and what it means to be american; trying to reconcile them often leads to completely adopting perceptions of one and abandoning perceptions of the other which can cause serious psychological damage.  this is not something we should continue to take lightly.  anytime the issue can be brought to the forefront, i think it's a good thing, if we choose to actually address it, but i honestly don't think the majority of people know what double consciousness is

unfamiliar with double consciousness theory?  read this 
(never will i link you to wikipedia, i am no fan of shortcuts)

The Souls of Black Folk

so because this country has proved again to be unprepared to really deal with race relations in this country i guess ms. marie should say "pardon my integrity" (c) wale


Prince Letif said...

She ripped it! Nuff said... And wasn't I the one to mention artistic integrity, punk? U shark! lol

leandra said...

i have to jack this. i'm sorry. i'll give you credit. :)