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Ms. Mary, an African American senior citizen, lived alone in an all-black neighborhood. a neighborhood in which she had lived all her married life She was now a widow. She had neighbors of all ages, but she especially liked the children, teenagers included.
Children would drop by to say hello or see if Ms. Mary needed anything every day. In the fall they raked up her leaves and put them into bags, and in the winter they shoveled her sidewalk without her asking them to do so. They only took money if Ms. Mary forced it into their hands.
“My goodness,” Ms. Mary would exclaim as she stepped out onto her porch and saw what the children had done, “Look at what my wonderful chocolate children have done for this old lady. Bless your hearts. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Come on inside and have some refreshments.” Ms. Mary served them hot cocoa in cold weather and homemade lemonade when it was hot. She would talk to them about the history and accomplishments of black folks in America, mentioning black heroes and heroines, politicians, artists, musicians, et al. She wanted the children to feel okay about being black.
One fall day, the children joined Ms. Mary in her house and told her that they wanted to sing a song for her. One of the children hummed a note and the children began:
”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 faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won. …”
Ms. Mary’s mouth fell open. She stood up while they sang. When the children stopped singing, Ms. Mary asked, “Where’d yall learn that song?”
“Well,” said one of the teenagers, “You recited it to us one day and told us it was the Negro National Anthem, so we looked it up and decided to surprise you by at least learning and singing the first verse.”
Ms. Mary grinned from ear to ear, hugged each of the children and thanked them for making her so happy and so proud of them. They were black generations together.
* Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” – often referred to as the Black national anthem – is a song written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1900 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1905. (Wikipedia)