Monday, July 07, 2008

Rene Marie, 'I did not feel like an American.'

Rene Marie, I understand, is a jazz singer of some renown. Most are aware Ms. Marie substituted “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing", the so-called Black National Anthem, for the expected "Star Spangled Banner", the American National Anthem at a mayoral event in Denver, Colorado. (You Tube video.)

Many photons have already been spilled on this subject, so let's just say that most folks didn't appreciate the switch and it came as a complete surprise as Ms. Marie had never done such a thing before. Or so they thought.

The Denver Post blogger Frosty Woodbridge wrote, "Ms. Marie smugly disrespected America!"

At the blog, Planck's Constant, "Some Americans Do Not Appreciate America. I'm not talking about immigrants who become citizens and do not appreciate this country, that is at least comprehensible. I'm talking about black citizens who, had they been born in Africa, would have been slaves to some Muslim overlord or dying of hunger, disease, or war," wrote Bernie.

Can't say that I disagree with either opinion or any of the other dozen or so articles offering similar opinions excoriating Ms. Marie.

Even Rene Marie come to a similar conclusion. In an interview three years ago in Russia, "the interviewer referred to me as an American. I started to interrupt her, to tell her she was mistaken. But I caught myself and was extremely surprised and dismayed to discover that I didn’t feel like an American."

Three points: Ms. Marie was not hired, but asked to sing; it was not the first time she switched songs; she was introduced as Rene Martin (maybe that was the final straw.)

Rene Marie has a Q and A statement at her webpage:

Last month, I was contacted by a staff member of the Mayor’s office and was asked to sing the “Star Spangled Banner”. I knew if I sang at this event I would not be singing the standard version of this song, but would be singing my own version of it. After thinking about it for a day I called back and said I would like to sing for the event. On the day of the event I arrived and followed through on my intention to sing my version of the national anthem. When I finished singing, I returned to my place on the podium with the other participants and listened to the Mayor’s speech. When it ended, I left the podium and went home. I didn’t get that much feedback, but the responses I did get were all positive.

I can see how it may be perceived that way. But I looked at it a different way: I am an artist. As such, if I wait until I am asked to express myself artistically, or if I must ask permission to do it, it would never get done. I wanted to tell them what I was going to do, but I couldn’t because I knew the answer would be ‘no’. I knew that, even if I asked to do my version of the national anthem, the answer would be ‘no’. ...

I viewed the invitation to be a door opened to me to sing this version of the Star Spangled Banner; that others needed to hear it as much as I needed to sing it. Also, I had sung the song successfully right in the city of Denver only two months earlier and received much positive response. The organizers of that event did not know I was going to sing that song, either.


... Actually, I didn’t expect that singing the song would garner this kind of negative attention. After all, I had sung the exact same song in May at the Colorado Prayer Luncheon, an event attended by members of the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of the state government earlier this year and, to my knowledge there wasn’t even a ripple of complaint. In fact, I got nothing but positive remarks about my song. This played a large part in my decision-making process to sing the song again at the State of the City address.
There's something wrong in Colorado if members of the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches don't know the song sung as the National Anthem simply wasn't, and do not know enough to say anything about it.

Rene Marie has an excuse - she's a self-absorbed, ignorant jazz artist, and as her statement indicates, does not have a clear idea of what she wanted, what she did, nor how the choice would affect others. The state officials have no excuse.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

1 comment:

Indigo Rose said...

I listened for a short while while Rene Marie "expressed her feelings of being a black woman in the United States" (I also watched you-tube chan.9 discussing her song).
Have people become so used to the National Anthem, and closed their ears, that they did not notice? The man standing behind her had his hand on his heart!!
If she would like to feel what it is like to be a black woman in Africa she has the right to leave.... I just feel we have the right to refuse her re-entry.
I'm surprised someone in the audience didn't 'boo' or pitch a hissy-fit... or unplug the mik. OF course, than the ACLU would have stepped in and she would become the newest Rodney King.