Campanile carillon to play ‘black national anthem’ Wednesday

A much-beloved anthem, James Weldon Johnson’s ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” will ring from atop UC Berkeley’s Campanile on Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the stroke of noon.

tower bells

Wednesday’s noon concert, played on Sather Tower’s massive carillon, will begin with “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”

All members of the campus community are invited to meet at Sather Tower for this first-ever performance from the campus bell tower of the song known as the black national anthem.

The Black Staff and Faculty Organization (BSFO) suggested the piece for the noon concert after learning the results of the UC’s 2013 systemwide climate survey. That study revealed that  African American students, staff and faculty are among those who feel “the most excluded and disrespected,” notes BSFO’s LaShonda King.

“Lift Ev’ry Voice” is a standard at African American events and celebrations — conveying the feeling of “uplift and positivity” needed in light of the current campus and national climate, she says.

The song will kick off the traditional 10-minute noon concert by university carillonist Jeff Davis. BSFO members will be on hand at the Campanile to lead the singing of the lyrics, with guidance from Dr. Mark Wilson, director of the University Gospel Chorus.

Writer James Weldon Johnson penned the words to “Lift Ev’ry Voice” in 1900 as a tribute to African American endurance, hope and religious faith, for a celebration of President Lincoln’s birthday. Johnson’s brother, J. Rosamond, wrote the music. The lyrics are as follows:

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

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 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.