Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lift ev'ry voice and shout hallelujah.

The late, great Ray Charles

"I got somethin', y'all
in my bones. . . . .

Make me wanna shout hallelujah!
It's in my bones. . . ."

~ Ray Charles

My friend and fellow Grady doctor, Neil W., is the world's greatest Ray Charles fan. He loves Ray Charles so much that when he got married to his wife, Tam, he actually jumped through five trillion hoops in a serious attempt at securing the legend for his wedding reception. (Seriously.) His wife loves her husband so much and knew he loved Ray so much that she also tried to get him to perform at their reception. (True story.)

Turns out that Ray was getting a hip replacement that weekend. But, hey, it was definitely worth a shot.

Ray Charles died in June of 2004. Fortunately, he lived to see a wonderful movie made about his life that even won somebody an Academy Award. That movie is a beautiful depiction of what's on my mind today. Today I'm reflecting on black history.

It's pretty apropos that I'm thinking of this today. For starters, February is "Black History Month." Those of us who work at Grady Hospital know that we see black history in three dimensions every single day. We see it in the elders who tell you of the days when there was a "colored Grady" and a "white Grady." I recall one ninety-something year old woman who told me that because of her fine hair and light complexion that "so long as she wasn't with her husband" she'd go on over to the white side "cawse it sho' was a lot nicer." I also remember another man who told me that every member of his (very large) family was born at Grady. From him (the "Paw-Paw") all the way down to his little "great-grands." Yeah. Grady just oozes black history.

Which makes sense considering a stroll around the corner from Grady Hospital puts you directly onto Auburn Avenue--the very street where both Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father, Martin, Sr. preached in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. A rocks throw (literally) from Dr. King's childhood home and the building where he helped organize the SCLC.

Literally, not even a mile away from Grady. Talk about in being in the epicenter of some sho' nuff black history!

Our congregational hymn in church today was "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing." For those unfamiliar, this song is what many know as the "Negro National Anthem." We all learned it growing up, and sang it loud and often. I'm not sure if kids still learn it today, but I'm thinking I will teach it to Isaiah and Zachary after revisiting those lyrics this morning.

More than ever, this morning I could feel the words deep down in my bones. I'm no singer at all, but the more I thought about what I was singing, the louder and prouder my voice became. I kept seeing the faces of my Grady elders, of my parents and grandparents, of grainy photos of slaves, and etchings of those dreadful ships that brought a reluctant people to a completely foreign land. By the final verse, I was crying. . . very close to ugly crying, even. I almost felt embarrassed, until a grandmotherly woman reached across the row and rubbed my back. Something about the way she touched me and the knowing nod she offered told me there was nothing awkward about my emotions. That, and the tears that were in her eyes, too.

So, it seems, that I'm not the only person that feels moved by those words. When Ray Charles sang his version of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" on a television talk show back in 1972, he felt it in his bones, too. So much so that it made him "want to shout hallelujah." Now that I think of it, the very idea that Ray Charles, a blind, black man raised by a single mother during the most Jim Crow of times would even have the audacity or opportunity to get on a national program singing a remix of the negro national anthem is a.) reason enough to make him your hero like Neil has, b.) reason to have at least tried to hunt the dude down to play at your wedding, or c.) reason to at least shout hallelujah.

So, today, I'm with Ray. I'm shouting hallelujah. . . . .

  • I'm shouting hallelujah for the stony roads that were trod so that I could be where I am.
  • I'm shouting hallelujah for selfless parents who expected the world of me until eventually I expected it for myself.
  • I'm shouting hallelujah for life experiences that have made me look at the skin I'm in and give it a thumbs up because that's how God made me. . . . and simultaneously give yours a thumbs up for the same reason.
  • I'm shouting hallelujah for authentic friendships with authentic people--some of whom share my race, but many of whom do not--and how much better we all make each other.
  • I'm shouting hallelujah for the acceptance that makes me okay with even telling you all of this--instead of disappearing into shadows of self hatred, fear, or aching need to assimilate.
Yeah, man. I'm shouting hallelujah. And if you even knew the half of what it took for me to get here. . .man. . . . you'd be shouting hallelujah, too.

Worth lifting my voice for.

Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing (lyrics written by James Weldon Johnson)

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.

**(The point where I always start crying)**

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast 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.


Alright. . .out of those seats--whether you're black, white, blue, brown, or green-- and lift your voice, too! Hey and while you're at it, why not shout hallelujah to Ray Charles singing this uplifting version . . . .

Amen to that!

Happy Black History Month!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dr. Manning. Words fail me...YOU are an inspiration to anyone who "shares your story."
    Thank You!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails