A Fourth of July performance of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” better known as the Black National Anthem, by Vanessa Williams has sparked controversy on social media. Some users called it “divisiveness”, while others said the response was “ridiculous” and showed support for the implementation.
Williams sang the song PBS‘ A Capitol Fourth program on Sunday, which was also presented by the actress/singer.
Williams told the Associated Press July 2: “It’s in celebration of the great opportunity we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So we reflect on the times,” as they promoted the show.
The AP reported that the show, which had been on the air for 41 years, was broadcast to millions of viewers on PBS and via streaming platforms and troops around the world.
Opposition to the gig started just after it was announced on Saturday.
Lavern Spicer, a Republican candidate for Florida’s 24th congressional district, tweeted Saturday, “Vanessa honey, a BLACK national anthem is something a black African country would have, not a country like America that exists for everyone.”
Carmine Sabia, a conservative writer/editor, also tweeted on Saturday: “This is ridiculous. There is no black America. There is no ‘Black National Anthem’ because there is no black nation. There is one nation under God. All this has aroused culture does is something that divides us. I won’t watch you create racism.”
On July 4, Sabia tweeted: “My problem is singing it on Juneteenth. This, singing two national anthems, I think is another way to divide us. Two Americas, two national anthems, more separation and that does not bring unity. By definition is it can not.”
Sabia’s tweet Sunday was in response to a tweet from Dr. Darrell Scott, who tweeted: “First there was a problem with ‘Juneteenth.’ Now there’s a problem with Vanessa Williams singing “Lift Every Voice” on Independence Day, because it’s been nicknamed the “Black National Anthem.” It seems that “Right” is the only side that consistently has a problem with “Black National Anthem.” ‘ stuff.”
Author, host and comedian Tim Young tweeted, “Nothing will unite us as a nation more than separate but equal national anthems…” Saturday in response to the performance’s announcement.
“This is not unity… it is division,” Young wrote in another tweet, alongside a video responding to the announcement.
Young said in the video, “What’s the Asian national anthem? What’s the Native American national anthem? What’s the Latino national anthem?…I don’t even know what the white national anthem is because I don’t think so. bull**** is going to do, at least do everything. Go all in, commit. This is not unity, this is stupid.”
Television host Greg Kelly tweeted on Saturday: “THIS IS BAD. Different races will have their own holidays? Their own national anthems? The new SEGREGATION. Vanessa Williams sings ‘Black national anthem’ for the Capitol Fourth celebration.”
User @TonyPaul45 wrote, “There’s only one anthem that covers everyone. It doesn’t matter what color you are.” The tweet has received more than 200 likes since it was first posted.
Other users showed support for the performance, such as author and journalist Sophia A. Nelson, who tweeted, “#VanessaWilliams looks fabulous! She’s singing the black national anthem. I [heart emoji] this! #ACapitolFourth #4 July #HappyIndependenceDay”
Author Karen Dalton Beninato tweeted: “Vanessa Williams dedicates The Black National Anthem to her ancestors and our new national holiday Juneteenth. [heart emoji]#4 JulPBS #ACapitolFourth.”
TV reviewer Hal Boedeker tweeted on Saturday: “So sad that some people would struggle with a hymn written by two Florida men that will resonate through the generations. Hear a great singer perform it tonight on PBS. #VanessaWilliams.”
Father Edward Beck tweeted: “This is so ridiculous. It’s a shame we’re still dealing with this kind of nonsense. I’ll tune in to hear both wonderful anthems. Congratulations @VWOfficial and thank you for your grace and for helping lift each voice.”
News week has contacted Williams, PBS, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Black Lives Matter movement for comment.
Vanessa Williams and 1984 Miss America Scandal
Williams was the first black woman to be crowned Miss America, winning the title in 1983 for the 1984 edition of the pageant.
But in July 1984, she was forced to resign her position as Miss America Penthouse magazine revealed it would be publishing nude photos of Williams. The photos were reportedly taken two years earlier when she was working as a photographer’s assistant. Time reported in 2015 on the anniversary of her resignation.
Time reported that the photos came in PenthouseSeptember 1984 issue and five million copies on newsstands. Late Penthouse editor-publisher Bob Guccione said at the time that “it was a business decision” to post the photos, “not a moral decision”.
The Marriage History of Vanessa Williams
Is Williams still married? According to IMDb, the singer/actress is currently married to Jim Skrip, whom she married in 2015.
Before that, she was married to music director Ramon Hervey from 1987 to 1997. She has three children with Hervey, including actors Jillian, Melanie and Devin Harvey.
Williams was later married to former NBA player Rick Fox from 1999 to 2005. They share a daughter, actress and director Sasha Fox, according to IMDb.