When I saw Shaun King yesterday the folks organizing the event at the Harvard University Humanist Hub had a singer-songwriter perform a cover of this song, which Jean Rohe wrote as an “aspirational alternative to the national anthem.”
It’s pretty powerful, as it acknowledges many of the dark places that our country has been while providing a sense of hope and commitment to ensuring that we live up to our ideals.
Words and music by Jean Rohe
Lyric (with gratitude to Dr. Martin Luther King and Abel Meeropol, via Billie Holiday)
Atlantic and Pacific flow
The Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico
The land between sustains us all
To cherish it, our tireless call
I see the future in your eyes.
To a more perfect union we aspire
And lift our voices from the fire.
We reached these shores from many lands
We came with hungry hearts and hands
Some came by force and some by will
At the auction block, in the darkened mill
We died in your fields and your factories
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
With an old coat hanger in a room somewhere
A trail of tears, an electric chair
Our great responsibility
To be guardians of our liberty
‘Till tyrants bow to the people’s dream
And justice flows like a mighty stream