Rene Marie

A singer who was to perform the “Star Spangled Banner” at the presentation of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s State of the City address yesterday substituted the “Black National Anthem” without notifying anyone, because she says as a black, she just doesn’t feel American.

“I pulled a switcheroonie on them,” Rene Marie said in a report in the Denver Post.

In a video of the event, Marie had been introduced by city council president Michael Hancock, who said she would sing the national anthem. Instead, she sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Black National Anthem,” to the tune of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Audience members were bewildered, council members outraged and the mayor expressed his disappointment.

“We were as surprised as anyone that jazz singer Rene Marie did not sing our national anthem at today’s State of the City ceremony, as our staff had requested. As I listened to her sing, I assumed she would eventually move into the traditional Star Spangled Banner,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Council member Charlie Brown said, “There is no substitute for the national anthem. Period. This is the State of the City address. It’s not an NAACP convention.”

Some of the strongest reaction, however, came from Denver area residents who were participating in the forum page on the controversy at the Rocky Mountain News.

“Can you imagine what it would be like for whites if we had a ‘white national anthem’?” speculated “Jan8.” “I heard someone saying this had nothing to do with race? What?”

“Was she asked to sing the Black National Anthem? Obviously her color is more important to her than this country. Is it a ‘black pride thing’? Is she trying to tell us she wished the U.S. were a black country?”

The newspaper reports said the singer explained she had decided months ago not to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” anymore.

The Post reported she was being interviewed by a Russian broadcaster who asked her what it was like to be American.

“And I realized I didn’t feel like an American, and that bothered me a great deal,” the singer said.

She said she feels like a foreigner sometimes.

The anthem was written by James Johnson and first performed more than a century ago. It marked nearly four decades of freedom for blacks in America. It now still appears in some church hymnals.

Its lyrics:

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring.
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning 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 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.

The singer told the Post she deliberately didn’t tell anyone her plans, “because I don’t think it is necessary for an artist to ask permission to express themselves artistically.”

Hancock said the stunt was “inappropriate, and he’s been getting hate-filled e-mails over her actions.

“As if I made the decision to do this – I’m receiving a lot of hate mail,” he told the paper. “I’ve received quite a few e-mails that are quite nasty.”

Also on the Rocky Mountain News forum page, “Dinty,” concluded, “A total lack of respect for the occasion.”

Among the hundreds of comments, “scotterjag” added, “all i can say about her, and anyone who supports her, is CLASSLESS! when given the chance to sing The National Anthem, it should be considered an honor, and not one’s personal platform to express their views. if you want to express your views like that, i’ll buy you a one way ticket to any other country you want to live in, and you can get the hell out of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!”

To which “American100,” said, “I’ll pitch in on that one way ticket out of the US.”

“Scott” added an alternative:

“Thank God for Al Gore’s invention of the internet :^) Here is the YouTube link to Miss Houston singing the REAL National Anthem: If that didn’t bring a tear to you eye, then ya ain’t an American!”

The lyrics to the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner, written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key as the results of the U.S. military battles remained unconfirmed, are:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”


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