We have a song to sing. But first, I have a story to tell. Back in 2020 I learned the song Jingle Bells had ties to minstrel performances and blackface. I felt as if I was immediately faced with only two choices:
A year later, November 2021, I took my 8 week old newborn with me and got in a recording studio and recorded “Everybody Sing: Jingle Jangle”. I shared the song on YouTube and received positive feedback from family, friends, teachers, and students alike. As Everybody Sing gained popularity in my classroom, I thought what else can I do to bring more to this song? It needed a dance, and maybe more instruments? So I continued to brainstorm and add to "Everybody Sing: Jingle Jangle".
This brings us to now. With the encouragement of my teacher friends and students, as well as with the help of my partner, I had recorded, edited and produced a music video to Everybody sing: Jingle Jangle". I uploaded the new created video with excitement. I was so exited to hear what everyone would think of the dance and play along. I wondered if students would make up their own variations to the dance or if teachers would incorporate other instruments than the ones suggested in the video. I was looking forward to the variety of videos I might receive from family, friends, and colleagues of their kids singing and dancing along to "Everybody Sing",
That's when it happened.
Just below my song on YouTube was a “song suggestion” for a video of Judy Garland in blackface- an easy click away from my song. My heart sank, I felt nauseous, and completely defeated all at once. How could this be? Why would YouTube have this song near mine? Was it because of my research on the topic? Why was this happening? In complete frustration and at a loss for what to do, I went to google and typed the title of my song “everybody sing” only to be more taken aback than before.
I had come full circle.
Here I was, creating new music to cut ties with a song that was performed in blackface only to discover the title of my new song was also the title of a 1938 Movie “Everybody Sing”. A movie where Garland performs a song in blackface. I had come full circle, I was angry. I was mad at myself for not “checking” the title before I wrote it.
I’m sad that a simple and musical phrase like “everybody sing” is tainted by white supremacy and blackface. But that is America. That’s who we were. That is Americas musical truth. I now know I can't ever entirely escape the hurtful and harmful musical past of our nation. Behind the songs, behind the "simple phrases, racism will always be here.
I am on a perpetual path of combating racism.
But I also know what I can do. I can continue to do better when I know better. And I can say with a heart full of hope, my song “Everybody Sing: Jingle Jangle”, was intended to avoid mockery, spread joy, all while playing jingle bells and teaching musical form to my students. I did not plan that in writing this song I would be on a perpetual path of combating racism. But through this experience I was reminded that antiracist work is continuous and often overwhelming, requiring a growth mindset.
ALL human beings should feel safe to share their voices, and be seen for who they are.
My hope is that my song “Everybody Sing: Jingle Jangle” allows everyone an opportunity to feel included and safe. I hope the 1938 movie, is a reminder why we strive to do just that. I want to reclaim the meaning of the phrase "everybody sing". To me it means: ALL human beings should feel safe to share their voices, and seen in who they are. What does it mean to you?
I appreciate everyone who has supported me in this journey of teaching music and being my best self. From the bottom of my heart I wish you all a joyful and tuneful holiday season.
*YouTube Teaching TIP*
To avoid a Youtube "suggestion" that is unwanted:
When sharing videos with my students from YouTube I ALWAYS insert them as a link into google slides for my lessons. This way no suggestions show up and I can avoid unwanted materials from my students view. This may be crucial to do knowing what I now know about phrase "Everybody Sing" and its ties to the 1938 Judy Garland movie.
I am also selling the video for you to download and own if you want to avoid YouTube entirely. Click here or go to my store to purchase the video.