A letter to the community from the Washington Conservatory of Music Board of Directors
June 10, 2020
When brothers J. Rosamond Johnson and James Johnson wrote the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 1905, it quickly became embraced in the African American community as an anthem for liberation and equality. The NAACP dubbed it the “Negro national hymn,” and it found its way into the hymnals of churches — of all religions, races, colors, and backgrounds — throughout this country. Its message rang true to many, and the power of its first few bars can inspire even the shyest to stand up and sing.
We at Washington Conservatory of Music struggle to express our shock and sadness concerning recent events as well as our abhorrence of the widespread aggression against any members of the local and national communities in which we live. As a community music school, our song rises from members of the community of all races, ages, and musical abilities, and we firmly reject any and all forms of racism, some of which have been woven into the fabric of our country for hundreds of years.
We also grieve with the families of those who have died from senseless acts of racial violence, particularly when a result of unacceptable practices due to systemic inequality. As a community, we must lift every voice, and we must lift each other up in a spirit of unity through the powerful, positive bond of music. We believe music and the arts are aspirational models for equality, diversity, and empowerment, and we commit to creating our medium of music education for the greatest good.
As we rise and denounce these acts of violence, we are guided by the words the Johnson brothers set to music over a century ago: 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?
Washington Conservatory Music renews its commitment to a safe and inclusive environment and to a community of instruments and voices coming together and ringing with the harmonies of one equal voice.