Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Embarrassing the race

Did you hear about what happened in Denver yesterday?

The mayor was getting ready to present his “State of the City” address. But first... jazz singer Rene Marie was given the honor of singing the National Anthem.

Rene Marie decided to do something different.

To the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” she sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Negro National Anthem.” (Her performance is embedded below.) This has caused a scandal.

She later explained: “What was going on in my head was, I wanted to express how I feel about living in the United States as a black woman, as a black person.”

Uhh... okay. Except that nobody gives a fuck about your feelings, Miss Thang! This was about honoring your country. You had a job to do, and you screwed it up. Plain and simple.

One irony is that this happened at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building... named after the black man who served as Denver’s mayor for 12 years.

Another irony is that Denver is where Barack Obama next month will accept his party’s nomination for President of the United States.

So what the hell was Rene Marie protesting?

(Note to my boy DeAngelo Starnes: Denver’s your city, bruh, so I’m asking you... Was this a “bonehead” move? Or did she do the right thing?)

You can see Rene Marie’s explanation – along with Mayor John Hickenlooper’s reaction to it all – by following this link.

Right-wing blog reaction, of course, has been hot ’n’ heavy. One of Lawrence Auster’s commenters wrote: “I’d like to play ‘Dixie’ on a continuous loop outside that uppity female’s house.”

Mr. Auster himself declared: “[B]lacks just can’t help asserting their blackness in public settings that are supposed to be non-racial, because that is what the entire black culture (e.g., Trinity United Church of Christ) is constantly telling them to do.

“And the more they do it, the more they lose any moral claim on white America’s respect, concern, solicitude, or guilt.”

One of Michelle Malkin’s readers put it just about right: “Selfish, self centered, ungrateful. You may call it art, I call it a slap in the face of good old Uncle Sam. Shame on you.”


brotherkomrade said...

If I had singing abilities I would have belted out every song by Rage against the Machine, then proceeded to the entire KRS-One catalog.
You don't want to know what I do with flags...

Phelps said...

Irony is defined as "incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs". I don't think that applies here.

Anonymous said...

I heard about this mess. Why does Mr. Auster have to over-generalize? How does one assert her blackness in non-racial settings? My culture did not tell me to do this. That is insulting.

Rene Marie was just plain wrong. Not the best venue to express oneself.

Lola Gets said...

Now you know Im at the library on a crappy computer so I cant listen to or view any of the videos but I think this is absolutely hilarious! So she sang what she wanted to sing: If theyre pissed off at her, dont pay her! I just hope shes not mad when she stops getting gigs. You gotta pay to play.


Anonymous said...

I think it was a bad move -- but a slap in the face of Uncle Sam? Gee...I'm not sure if I'm ready to go there. I mean, maybe if she had unleashed a profanity-filled "F YOU AMERICA" tirade to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner. But it's not like Lift E'vry Voice is some song talking about killing whitey. It's a very religious and beautiful song (with a better tune, to me, than the SSB)

I can get behind calling it a selfish move on the artist's part, but Auster's comments, predictably, get my back up. I don't want to judge wrongness by what a racist thinks...even if maybe he is right in the broad sense that it was inappropriate. Why can't it just be one woman acting crazy instead of a smear on all black people? I'm sure all white people wouldn't want me to judge them by the things that guy says.

They call me JB! Holla! said...

Wow, I love it, LOVE IT, BECAUSE AMERICA WAS BUILT BY MANY RACES, she combined the words of the Black National Anthem with the Brits wait, American National Anthem, hey we stole it from the Britsk we steals so much, ya'll don't even know right from wrong...SANG IT SISTA...I've known rivers, dark dusky

Anonymous said...

She shouldn't have done it. Inappropriate and selfish. However, I agree with Christina. It's actually quite a patriotic song.

Ann Brock said...

After watching the clip she was wrong There's no excuse for doing that.

TwoFishFive said...

For some reason, I just don't care about this that much. I suppose it is because I ain't the least bit patriotic. Francis Scott Key was a racist anyway. And as for anyone from Michelle Malkin's blog having a complaint...

Basically, the sister did her 1st Amendment thizzle. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Whatever! Rene Marie is freaking amazing! Check out her combo of Dixie with Strange Fruit!

SeeMurphy said...

The point of civil disobedience is to be, um, disobedient. Debating whether Rene Marie was right or wrong misses the point.

I'm kinda proud of her. Nonconformity is a beautiful and, post-1960s, rare thing in our society.

Undercover Black Man said...

Rene Marie is freaking amazing! Check out her combo of Dixie with Strange Fruit!

I’m not knocking her singing ability, daughterofthedream. Indeed, artistically speaking, her gene-splicing of “national anthems” was cool.

But in the context of what Rene was there to do -- and what the audience had every right to expect -- the performance was an insult. Indeed, an insult to the nation.

Suppose you’re a guest in someone’s house for a meal, and you’re invited to say the grace. And you get up and say, “A minister, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar...” The joke might be hilarious... but dang, this ain’t the time or place.

And I bet if the mayor would’ve walked up in the middle of her song and took the microphone away, Rene would’ve copped an attitude, wondering why she was being disrespected.

By the way, here is Rene Marie’s “Dixie/Strange Fruit.”

Christina said...

Though I don't think this is the greatest offense in the world, I also can't get with the idea that this was somehow an admirable act of civil disobedience. She was asked to sing as an honor, she wasn't compelled. If she thought that the SSB is an tune of an oppressor, she coul have just declined. It was selfish.

Anonymous said...

I gotcha, UBM! It's just that I love it when people flip the script sometimes, even at the risk of showing poor etiquette!

And I must admit I'm biased because there's a small group of awesome black women jazz artists who I have girl krushes on, lol: her, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and Abbey Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

Countdown starting to when the wingnuts find some kind of connection between her and Obama and then he has to disavow, again.

She made a big mistake but at least she's getting some press out of it.

Anonymous said...

It's okay for the club gig,the NAACP gig, church, the CD, any gig, but not the State of the City address gig starring the (isn't that a Black) Mayor??? On the flip side, the comments on Denver sites are just plain stupid. I refused to even read what was below the main story on the link someone sent me.

However, there's a protocol to these things and this gig was not about her. It's was the Mayor's show. IMO the move was unprofessional and disrepectful to the Mayor, especially to drop it on him like that. But now it is about her and I'm sure this is not the last time you'll hear this version. BTW Good Morning America is playing Whitney Houston's "Star Spangled Banner." She blew that one out of the stadium; but some people had a problem with that too.

Anonymous said...

Okay, folks NEED to get a GRIP!!! Lighten up a little ... NO...actually a whole lot!!!

Apart from not getting this patriotic thing, I certainly don't think what she did was worth more than a raised eyebrow by the public if THAT and if the person who is paying her wants to take issue with her then she and them can get into it.

It's amazing how much national energy there goes into to catastrophising the smallest things. I shouldn't complain too much though because this bit of palaver has introduced me to an amazing singer, whose album I have just bought from itunes ... perhaps that was the point all along ... that lass is smart.

Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

I agree with cuz: It wasn't appropriate for a State of the City address. But she got my attention; and I'm going to check out one of CDs now. I hear she's got a wonderful voice.

Unknown said...

No big deal. We have pretty much gotten used to inappropriate behavior. And I am sure 'we ain't seen nuttin yet'...

The important thing is, did she get all the words right? Us white folks have an ongoing bet that blacks singing our national anthem will actually know all of the words 10-15% of the time.

We would prefer any song be sung properly versus our national anthem being butchered repeatedly.

This is the first I have heard of a 'black national anthem'. This was on Youtube. Kim Weston was fabulous.

Dollar Bill said...

I think if Denver had wanted to play it "safe",a quick visit to her website,being familiar with her material,history or viewpoints,would have sent up enough red flags for them to look for someone else.

They wanted edgy and different and got it.
I'm certain that they weren't expecting this,but they weren't looking for the ye' old faithful version either.
They wanted a Marvin/Whitney moment that people would talk about ot they would have gotten some American Idol cast-off to do a generic version.

Anonymous said...

For all my interest in jazz, I have never really gotten into Rene Marie. But after listening to "Dixie/Strange Fruit", I'd forgive her just about anything.

That lady can SING!

Anonymous said...

By the way, Rene has a rather lengthy "statement" on her website about the furor over the "Star-Spangled Banner".

While I think she should have informed the Mayor's staff of her intentions before singing (so they could decide whether it was appropriate for the situation), I'm getting mighty tired of what seems to be a full-time "outrage" industry in this country.

Why don't we all just apologize for everything we've ever done on one National Apology Day and be done with it?

Anonymous said...

I'd be behind a National Apology Day paid holiday :-D

Catholics apologize everytime we step into a church. Y'all could learn from us ;-D

Undercover Black Man said...

Doug, thanks for mentioning that "statement."

What a heap of narcissistic horseshit it is!

"As for offending others with my music, I cannot apologize for that."


brotherkomrade said...

"As for offending others with my music, I cannot apologize for that."

Good for her.

Dollar Bill said...

I have always said,"I can not apologise for how I feel,only for how I may have expressed how I feel.".


Hey there!

Renee! {raised fist}

Show 'em whatcha working wit my sista!


Kristin said...

Dang I take a quick mini vacation from TV and the 'net and I come back to this foolishness. Damn Damn Damn all I have to ask is Why? Shit wrong time and wrong place. I agree with you UBM her feelings should not have come into play, if she felt a contradiction then she should have declined to sing the song in the beginning.

Kellybelle said...

I like her arrangement and all, but that was not the time nor the place. You know they're gonna blame Barack.

tanisha said...

@Neptune. You are a psychic, because they already interviewed our new Black ambassador to break it down for the White people. He shared the same view as many did here, that while Lift Every Voice and Sing is a beautiful song, it would have been appropriate for her to sing the song she was asked to sing.

Now, who wants to go in on a bet with me to see if someone from the "media" digs up that "controversial" Alicia Keys interview, where she starts talking about the "government" and asks for Obama's take on it? Anyone? (yes, I am overzealous with the quotes, but it seems appropriate considering the topics)

Michael Fisher said...

How would this be for some great lyrics to the National Anthem by Key?

Are you willing, gentlemen,
to abandon your country;
to permit it to be taken from you, and
by the Abolitionist,
according to whose taste
it is to associate and amalgamate with the Negro?
Or, gentlemen, on the other hand, are there laws
in this community
to defend you
from the immediate Abolitionist, who would open
upon you the floodgates
of such extensive
wickedness and mischief?

Anonymous said...

Attention whores never die, they just mess up the national anthem.

Bored with this whole practice.

citizen394 said...

Rene Marie is to be applauded for her brilliant blending of the lyrics of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" with the melody of the "Star Spangled Banner". It is a great and creative construct on her part to project a new component to a needed Twentyfirst Century American paradigm. There was nothing blasphemous in her performance and intent. WAKE UP AMERICA!

Anonymous said...

Although her presentation may have been inappropriate for the venue & constituancy present, the rendition of the "Anthem" was more accurate in regard to how America has affected its citizens. I mean 'the Land of the Free? Who is that referring to?... Blacks still are under the hypocrisy of this nation's policy of us being 'real' Americans...The Voting Rights Act was made for Blacks, not for 'real' Americans. Every 25 years we have to 're-up' our right to vote. We built, fought & died for this country for every war they allowed us to, we served valiantly. Back pay is morally & legally owed to us(Reparations)America...address why we aren't treated like real Americans...address why immigrants can come over here & get more opportunities than Blacks do...address why Blacks STILL have to work twice as hard to get half as much...The LAST thing we should be concerned with is a song that was never meant to be sung in first place (It was written for an orchestra & the lyrics are really just a poem)It's ironic (as well as brilliant) that the phrasing of Lift Ev'ry Voice & Sing fits perfectly with the, not ironic but a testimony of how Black people can adapt to ANYTHING that is thrown at us!!! God Bless Black America!!! And to those who say we always say, 'Black this', and 'Black that'...Treat us like American citizens & we'll stop saying it!!! Like I said, GOD BLESS BLACK AMERICA!!!

Anonymous said...

what's funny is the thoughts that may have been going through people's head at the time. LOL

*Tanyetta* said...

i would have turned her mic OFF.

you wanna come up here with your own agenda? not today miss thing. cut, that piece of hair off the front. let's start with that.