Blair County NAACP Takes ‘Aggressive Approach’ To Investigate Removal Of ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’ From Middle School Concert

A decision by the Spring Cove School District in Pennsylvania to remove the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from a student choral concert on May 7 has sparked an investigation by members of the Blair County NAACP’s executive board.

According to the Altoona Mirror, District Superintendent Betsy Baker and Middle School Principal Amy Miller made the call to axe the hymn from the program after students voiced concerns. Baker said the decision aimed to ensure everyone would “feel comfortable” and be “able to participate” after students said they were worried “the song would cause a controversy in the community.”

The decision, driven by concerns over potential divisiveness and controversy, has drawn scrutiny and prompted calls for accountability. Spring Cove School Board President Troy Wright acknowledged it as a “lose-lose situation” after parents threatened to withdraw their children from the concert over the matter. “We can’t make everyone happy,” Wright said. “We have to do the balancing act between who supports it and who doesn’t support it and our job is trying to find the balance between it.”

Stephen Hershberger, a district parent of one of the chorus members, revealed Baker’s concerns over maintaining order at the event as a factor in pulling the hymn. Teachers in the music department selected the songs for the concert lineup and felt “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was an appropriate selection among the other musical ensembles. However, another selection filled the slot after the anthem was dropped.

The hymn, penned in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson and nicknamed “The Black National Anthem,” has held profound significance as the NAACP’s anthem for over a century. Altoona Mirror mentioned that Blair County NAACP President Andrae Holsey said the branch would pursue an “aggressive approach” on the matter, which will include public press conferences to address “why our anthem could ever be considered divisive,” considering it has been sung for over a century.

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