Lift Every Voice and Sing!
By Adam Weatherall
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
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A lesson can sometimes be learned in the least likely of places. Recently I was taught the true meaning of the song “lift every voice and sing”. The teachers in this unlikely scenario were 3 Crenshaw High School students, and the classroom was my doorstep. About a month ago my doorbell rang, my eyes were wearily focused on my computer screen, and I was attempting to coalesce facts about the Ukraine into a cohesive piece. My wife answered the door soon calling me to join her. To my surprise at the door stood 3 high school kids. They looked tired but their dispositions were bolstered by their cheerful smiles and bright blue and yellow hoodies. I was ready to slam the door, having no cash on hand and even less patience. I was in no mood for my pocketbook to be picked by the youth of our nation. To my great surprise these high school kids wanted no money from me, only to share with my wife and me their great passion. That passion was their choir at Crenshaw High School. A school that has been nestled in the Heart of South Central Los Angeles for more than half a century. The students at my doorstep seemed to have a rare zeal for school, which seemed to be because of their participation in the world famous Crenshaw elite choir. Their purpose for being at my door was a simple one, to rescue their beloved choir teacher.
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Their choir teacher, Dr. Iris Stevenson, who leads Crenshaw’s award-winning choir, was removed from the school in December and is reporting to work at district offices, sometimes referred to as “teacher jail” that house instructors who are facing allegations of misconduct. Teacher Jail is the L.A.U.S.D.’s version of a sort of bureaucratic purgatory, where teachers are not fired or disciplined for their alleged reprisals but rather left endlessly waiting, wasting not only their own time but our tax dollars. District officials would not comment on the specific allegations, citing privacy laws. The investigation could take “several months to complete because of the complexity of issues involved,” the district said in a statement. Under Stevenson’s direction for nearly three decades, the school choir has thrived,competing in and winning competitions around the world. Dr.Stevenson has built her choir despite the odds diverting her own personal funds at times to see that her musical oasis would never run dry in the creative desert that is the Los Angeles public school system. Stevenson was reassigned soon after returning from a class trip to France and Washington D.C. where the choir performed at the White House for President Obama. The choirs last trip To France and then subsequently the White House is indeed the reason Dr.Stevenson is now being reprimanded. Her world famous choir had just finished performing in France, when they were invited to perform in the White House. Performing for the president was an honor the famous choir had yet to receive. They of course accepted the opportunity to perform in front of the president. Dr.Stevenson notified each parent personally before diverting the return trip.The district, however, is in an uproar loud enough to ground the globe trotting choir and its beloved leader. The L.A.U.S.D. is irrationally reprimanding Dr.Stevenson by putting her in teacher jail for taking this trip to perform President Obama.
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I signed the high schooler’s petition who came to my door that day. I believe they deserve the source of positivity that is the world famous Crenshaw elite choir in their school curriculum. Dr. Stevenson delivers not only encouragement to her students but also a sense of pride. Not only to her own students, but to any that ever attended Crenshaw High School and felt the pride that choir attracts. Her career has reached near legendary status, becoming the inspiration for the movie sister act 2, and literally teaching the song “Joyful Joyful” to the actress in the film.
Dr. Stevenson has for the last 30 years delivered hope with a side of possibilities to her children. Now it seems that the L.A.U.S.D. is attempting to tie her down with a series of bureaucratic red tape. As the district has up until this point been vague regarding Dr.Stevenson’s case it would require speculation to ascertain the true reasoning behind her current “jailing”. I am not comfortable with such speculation and will wait until further facts are ascertained to disperse my opinion’s on the L.A.U.S.D. further. I will however say I agree with those high schoolers who first brought this issue to my attention…their teacher should be freed.
When the kids left my door, I was struck with a rare sense of jealousy. I was nearly 20 before I picked up my first picket sign or marched for any cause other than my own. These kids have been activated at a young age, they infuse themselves with bravery and courage as they march door to door knocking on behalf of their beliefs. This is why I am writing this article this week. Dr.Stevenson taught these children not only to how to sing, but also to march on until victory is won. It is my suggestion you join the kids of Crenshaw High and rally in support of this transformative teacher and sign the petition that we link to at the bottom of the page. I hope that Dr. Stevenson is let out of teacher jail, so that one day she too can continue to lift her voice and sing If this happens, logic will have prevailed.