January 9, 2017
Shana Redmond’s most recent essay in the Massachusetts Review “'And You Know Who I Am': Paul Robeston Sings America"
A passage from the essay...
"As the contemporary moment continues to broadcast, “The Star Spangled Banner” is ill-equipped to engage or reflect the complexities of a citizenship like Robeson’s—a curious citizenship that remembers. For Black communities who live under the terror of longstanding forms of violence—from segregation to unemployment to policing—coerced performances of unity silence those dreams that do not sound like the national anthem, but instead sound like the hopeful visions of James Weldon and J. Rosamond Johnson’s “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” or the piercing screams of Abbey Lincoln on “Triptych” or, perhaps, the bass loops of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” These songs are not forced on participants, they are actively sought out, making listening to or performing them democratic in ways that “The Star-Spangled Banner” cannot produce. As Robeson knew and demonstrated with each performance, the histories and futures of those labeled “American” are numerous; they sound different depending on whom you listen to. Thus, it only makes sense that we, like him, sing multiply, choosing our own songs in order that we might regularly create anew the nobodies who become everybody."