Penn. School District Controversially Opts to Cut Black National Anthem from Concert After Students Speak Out

The Blair County NAACP said it would hold a formal investigation into the school district’s decision to remove the song from the concert

<p>Getty</p> A stock image of a concert stage


A stock image of a concert stage

A Pennsylvania school district’s decision to remove the NAACP anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from a school’s concert has sparked concern from parents and community members.

The song — written in 1900 by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson — was cut from the Spring Cove Middle School’s concert on Tuesday May, 7, according to Associated Press and The Altoona Mirror.

Blair County School District Superintendent Betsy Baker and middle school principal Amy Miller told The Altoona Mirror that they made the decision to cut the song a day before the concert after students expressed worry that it might cause controversy in the community due to its “divisiveness,” and after they received calls from other people on the issue.

“We wanted everyone to feel comfortable,” Baker told the outlet, so removing the song “would allow all the kids to participate.”

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“We can’t make everyone happy,” Wright added. “We have to do the balancing act between who supports it and who doesn’t support it, and our job is trying to find the balance between it.”

However, some parents disagreed. Stephen Hershberger, whose son was set to perform in the concert, argued that if students did not feel comfortable singing the song, they should have been given the option not to participate.

“Cutting the song just sends the message that a few individuals’ discomfort outweighs the perspective and care and concern of minority students and others who don’t have the same beliefs as them,” Hershberger told The Altoona Mirror.

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“Being a minority student is already a daunting task, and dismissing the little representation that the minority students have in the school sort of reinforces the inherent racism in this country,” he added.

The Blair County NAACP, which represents the area where the school is located, said it would hold a formal investigation into the district’s decision to remove the song, per the AP.

The Blair County NAACP and the Blair County School District did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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Andrae Holsey, president of the Blair County NAACP, told The Altoona Mirror that the song “calls us into unity together,” and the decision to remove it is “the first step in a slippery slope.”

“We are more than happy to communicate with the public and schools about it to create a more inclusive program,” Holsey said. “We just want to strengthen community ties.”

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