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Lifting Every Voice: The Power of Song and Solidarity in Celebrating Juneteenth

An abstract image of a choir singing.

As we approach Juneteenth, a day of profound significance for both the Black community and the nation, we explore the themes of liberation, unity, and expression that define the holiday. Among these, the act of “lifting every voice and singing” stands out as a symbolic gesture that resonates with Juneteenth’s history and heart.

Juneteenth, observed on June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States were told of their freedom, marking a pivotal moment in American history. This day not only reflects the end of a dark chapter in the nation’s past but also celebrates the enduring spirit and resilience of the Black community. Juneteenth is a time to honor the progress toward equality while acknowledging present-day struggles.

The hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” widely considered the Black National Anthem, was originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1900. The song was initially performed for President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday celebration and quickly took on a life of its own as a rallying cry for freedom, dignity, and perseverance. The lyrics describe the journey from slavery to freedom by acknowledging the hardships endured while celebrating the faith and hope that guide the path forward. The relevance of this powerful poem to Juneteenth, and its importance in the ongoing journey toward equality and justice for Black Americans, merit deeper examination.

Engaging with the tradition of song, namely on a holiday such as this, has the power to educate and inspire the Black community and allies from diverse backgrounds. Singing this anthem on Juneteenth is a tradition that honors the collective strength of the Black community. We pause to honor the ancestors who fought for their rightful place in society and demonstrated the unity and solidarity necessary to confront ongoing challenges. The act of singing together embodies the importance of communal support, shared history, and the relentless pursuit of justice.

This year, let us not forget the collective power of joining our voices to work together to inspire change. This act honors the past and inspires a future where equality, respect, and freedom are universal rights. By doing so, we recognize the wounds of history while taking steps to promote a more just and fair society one voice at a time. Juneteenth reminds us that the struggle for justice is far from over. Progress is ongoing, and it is through unity, education, and the power of our voices that we can continue to make strides toward the fulfillment of true freedom for the Black community and beyond.

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