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Let’s celebrate Black contributions, successes every month


While I grew up listening to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Yes, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago and Bruce Springsteen, I found the Super Bowl halftime show featuring Usher to be really entertaining. I was impressed with his masterful delivery of song, dance and energy. I had to look it up, but I can understand why he’s sold 80 million albums worldwide.

I was also very disappointed with the National Football League’s decision to feature “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem.

That observation has nothing to do with race. It’s because we allow politicians, big businesses and activists from both sides of the aisle to keep us divided because it’s good for business and elections. If we found a middle ground on important issues and used reasonable debate to solve other problems, professional antagonists who make a living on creating unrest would go out of business.

The song was written in 1900 by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, and a segregated chorus from Stanton School in Jacksonville was the first to perform it.

We shouldn’t have a white national anthem. Or a Black national anthem. We have one national anthem for all Americans. Whether you’re a man, a woman, straight, gay, conservative, progressive or indifferent, we are one people, not defined by labels, who should be united for the common good.

We can’t keep allowing ourselves to be subdivided into categories or distracted by pacification. When we do, as one side succeeds, the other feels like it came at its expense. Actually, it comes at society’s expense because it pushes deeper into our foxholes.

Now, we are midway through Black History Month. It was a noble gesture that started in 1976 because our nation was slowly moving away from our ugly past, which made the Civil Rights Movement necessary.

There was so much racial hatred in this country for nearly 100 years, spawned and perpetuated by Jim Crow laws. But as we evolved and moved forward, we held onto those divisional old labels – “white” and “Black.”

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honor Black contributions that were essential pillars of the country’s growth. Those celebrations should be part of our everyday life because I respect, appreciate and admire Blacks who’ve played roles in our country’s development.

And I do it every day. Of every week. Of every month. Such reverence shouldn’t be limited to a single month in an appointment book.

My father once told me to be careful of someone patting you on the back because they may have their other hand lifting your wallet from your back pocket. It took me a long time to realize he was saying don’t be distracted by a real issue, like the man behind the curtain pulling levers and igniting flames in “The Wizzard of Oz.”

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan said removing the Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy monument in December was necessary because “Symbols matter. We signal a belief in our shared humanity.”

Does it change what happened before, during and after the Civil War? No. Will it help the city wash away the historic memories of our sullied past? No. Should it remind us of a past we should never revisit? Yes.

Moreover, did it solve any of the city’s real problems? The day the monument was taken down, two men were murdered in separate incidents in Jacksonville.

According to Wallet Hub, Jacksonville had the second-highest murder rate in Florida in 2023 and the 27th-highest in the United States. But if you’re focusing on monuments instead of issues that affect everyone, you have one hand patting your back and another in your back pocket.