Actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph belted out the song prior to kickoff on Sunday.
“It is no coincidence that I will be singing the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing at the Super Bowl on the same date it was first publicly performed 123 years ago (February 12, 1900),” the “Abbott Elementary” star wrote on Twitter prior to her performance.
“Happy Black History Month,” Ralph added
The historic performance was the first time the song has been performed in an official capacity on a Super Bowl game field. Two years ago, Alicia Keys first performed the ballad during a pre-recorded Super Bowl broadcast. In 2022, singer Mary Mary gave a performance of the song from outside of the Super Bowl stadium in Inglewood, Calif., notes Billboard.
The anthem, written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, rose to prominence during the Civil Rights Movement when it was commonly used as a “rallying cry,” notes the NAACP.
The song was performed on Sunday prior to the National Anthem, which was sung by country star Chris Stapleton.
Before long, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” would become, in Perry’s words, “a universal signifier of Black identity.” It was sung at church services, civic organization meetings, pageants and graduations; it anchored Emancipation Day and Negro History Week celebrations and daily school rituals.
“I sang the Negro National Anthem when I was hungry,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote in Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem, edited by Julian Bond and Sondra Kathryn Wilson. “I sang the Negro National Anthem when my tooth was hurting because of an exposed cavity—I sang the Negro National Anthem when I did not know there was a future for a little black girl with twelve sisters and brothers.”
Demonstrating that wokeism and hyper-nationalism do mix, the National Football League can promote the Pentagon in a pretentious flyover by the US Navy featuring an all-female cast of pilots. It has the same right to feature Lift Every Voice and Sing, even in the same context as the Star Spangled Banner.
But as this corporate decision exemplifies, legal is not always wise. The Black National Anthem, the Negro National Anthem, or the African-American National Anthem (the song is not a response to the experience of Jamaicans or Haitians in the USA) is not a national anthem. It is no mere semantics to note that there is no nation of Black, neither here nor on any continent; the song applies to a people, not a nation. Similarly, there could not be a Protestant or Catholic national anthem, nor a woman's or men's national anthem.
The song was sung immediately before, and juxtaposed, with the Star-Spangled Banner. Yet, it is not akin to the USA's national anthem, nor to the national anthem of Canada, played adjacent to The Star Spangled Banner at some National Hockey League games.
The purpose of any nation's national anthem is to offer a unifying message, one meant to unite individuals of all ethnic and economic backgrounds- in this case, to bring together all Americans as Americans. It shouldn't be left to the likes of Lauren Boebert, of all people, to point out the obvious: "America has only one NATIONAL ANTHEM" (emphasis hers). If a stopped clock can be right twice a day, Representative Boebert can be right at least once a year.
There is not, cannot, and should not be any white national anthem, Italian-American national anthem, Norwegian-American national anthem, or Black National Anthem. However imperfect a vehicle The Star Spangled Banner is to unite Americans. it is presently the one and only national anthem in the United States of America. Live with it.