Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 28, 2014

Respect doesn't always mean agreement

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Lift ev’ry voice and sing,

‘Til 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 ‘til victory is won.

Lyrics by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

Music by John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954)

These are the words of the first verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which has been known for generations as the Black American National Anthem. The lyrics were penned by the great African American poet laureate James Weldon Johnson, and were set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

According to naacp.org, the song was originally performed by a choir of over 500 children, as part of a celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday, on Feb. 12, 1900. It was sung at the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Fla., where James Weldon Johnson served as the principal. 

Fast forward over 100 years, and on Jan. 20, 2009, I watched, along with millions around the world, as Rev. Joseph Lowery quoted the third verse of this historic song, during his benediction, at the inauguration ceremony for the first African American President of the United States, Barack Obama.

On this last day of February, as Black History Month draws to a close, I am moved to reflect on how far we have come as a nation, and how far we have yet to go towards respect, acceptance and cooperation. A year ago, I wrote in this column, “if we are to strive for excellence in a country as vast and as diverse as our United States, we must find a way to work together — even when we don’t agree on absolutely everything.” I believe with all my heart that this sentiment remains true.

I sincerely feel that, perhaps, some of the struggles we have seen in recent political, social, religious and/or economic disputes across the nation have come as a result of a deep-rooted failure to respect the rights of groups to think, act, believe and behave differently from each other. We don’t all have to agree on absolutely every point in life in order to find a place of collaboration and compromise. We will, however, never reach to negotiating table, if absolutes insist on prevailing, with absolutely no room for cooperation.

In my own personal life, I don’t have to absolutely agree with everyone who crosses my path in order to treat them with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves. It wounds me deeply when someone doesn’t grant me the same, simply because we are different. There are no easy answers, but I hope and pray that we will find a way.

One has only to look upon the historic “miracle” that brought the 50 united states of America into existence, to realize how much collaboration, cooperation and, sometimes, “blood, sweat and tears” went into the development of a country that stretches from sea to shining sea.

Without acceptance and respect for our diversity, we would live on a continent divided by 50 different countries, instead of in “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Jackie Davis is an inspirational vocalist, musician and speaker with over 20 years of television broadcast experience. Her column is published every first, third and fifth Friday of the month. Contact her at jjd.22344@yahoo.com.