The Black national anthem: why we sing

Black National Anthem - Thorns Juneteenth 2022

“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, is a hymn written by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader James Weldon Johnson. Since the early 20th century, the song has been a stirring rallying cry for the Black community’s fight for freedom and equality. 

Local singers Trevor and Kyra Smith will perform the song prior to kick-off on Monday evening. "Having the privilege to perform the Black National Anthem is a joy of ours," the father and daughter said. "Performing this song is a way to celebrate all the sung and unsung heroes who fought for the end of slavery and the hope of civil rights."

Portlanders may recall Trevor and Kyra’s moving performance last season ahead of the Portland Thorns game on Juneteenth. “When we sang on Juneteenth (Freedom Day/Black Independence Day), it was so impactful to [perform] a song that once symbolized a feeling of hope, and that has since come true", said Trevor and Kyra. "This song is so impactful to the progress of equality and to sing it for Black History month is truly an honor!”

The song speaks to hope and resilience, of transcending enslavement and discrimination, while looking towards their future. Each stanza evokes the struggles and resilience a community that is healing and moving forward, while keeping the past in remembrance:

Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

This season’s performance pays tribute to the Black community in MLS and beyond while helping kick-off the Timbers’ 2023 quest for MLS glory, setting the stage for what should be a great inaugural match of the season.