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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Last weekend at the Shaw University graduation we sang, as always, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Fore some time now, I have been able to sing this song without checking the printed words. When I first began teaching at Shaw in 1994, it was a song with which I was only vaguely familiar. At our convocations and commencements, roughly three times a year, I got practice singing this James Weldon Johnson anthem.

The words of this song have inspired many writers in Black studies. Various phrases have become book titles, such as "Lift every voice" or "Stony the road we trod." Singing it as a white man in the midst of people of African descent has certainly stirred reflection on the different point of view my skin color and heritage casts on the lyrics. No line more consistently stands out to me as being sung with a different meaning by me and the person next to me than, "We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered." White or black in the U.S., the generations have trodden a bloody path, but the relationship to the bloodshed is not the same. That's part of singing this song for me.

Shaw University is the place I learned to sing this song and learn its significance. The 2010 commencement is the last time I will sing it together with my colleagues at Shaw. I pray that what I have learned will continue to grow in me as I move on in my pilgrimage.

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