A relatively unknown jazz singer has caused outrage in the US after unexpectedly singing the "Black National Anthem" in place of the Star-Spangled Banner at a council event in Denver.
René Marie was invited to the city council's State of the City address on Tuesday where she was expected to sing America's traditional national anthem. However, although she sang to the right tune, the lyrics were those of writer James Weldon Johnson's hymn "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" - also known as "The Black National Anthem". The singer, who only told a few close friends about her plans, received mild applause. The council president Michael Hancock, who hosted the event and knew nothing about the alteration, received a barrage of insulting letters. The city's mayor, Michael Hickenlooper, said that the act showed a "lack of understanding" and that it overshadowed his speech. But Marie refuses to apologise, saying that she expressed herself artistically and would do the same thing again. As the controversy entered its third day, Barack Obama said yesterday that there "is only one national anthem" and she should have sung that one.
The hymn was written in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother a year later. It was performed in celebration of Lincoln's birthday in 1900. The lyrics can be found here.
Eric Tappen has been running an online resource centre for African-Americans called Black-Network.com since 1996. He has the lyrics of Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing posted on the site.
She [Rene Marie] is not a well known singer; I don't know what she did it for. It's 2008, we're trying to move forward. It was absolutely silly and it wouldn't hurt her to apologise.
In the last 24 hours we've had 24,000 hits and received hate-mail from three people. I got called a separatist just for having an African-American website. They say things like "Go back to Africa". I normally only get those kinds of emails during Black History Month. I think it's the blue-collar worker that's afraid that the African-Americans are passing him. And he's right in some ways. The comments I received last night: they weren't well written, the grammar and spelling were awful. These are not intelligent people.
I'd have to say this kind of prejudice is normal over here. I had a guestbook on the website for many months, but we got so many nasty, irrelevant comments, we had to take it off. It was just a free forum to call people "niggers". It's such a shame."
Jim Wilkinson is a business owner from south Texas. He's a far-right supporter of the Republican Party.
She did it to water down patriotism in this country like all liberals do. It's the defragmenting of our society - everyone wants to go their own separate ways now. The shift that's occurred in the past 20 years is what's causing problems now. We should not continue that.
I've never even heard of that song. If they wave some other flag or sing some other song then they're not part of our country. These people want to be victims. I don't know if this kind of thing is a result of this Obama period, but Obama is a black liberal socialist. I don't like the man. He's anti-America, anti-military, and anti-white people."