By: Deric Muhammad 

      It seems like Dallas Mavericks basketball forward, Josh Howard, has become the new face of every “dartwall” in America.  After a youtube video surfaced of Howard saying that he doesn’t “celebrate” the national anthem, he has all of a sudden become the poster child for treason even as President Bush tries to push a 700 billion dollar package through Congress in an attempt to rescue the country from an economic funeral.   

      After failing to find a that wasn’t news station that wasn’t talking about this, I decided to pull it up on youtube and watch it for myself.  First of all, it appears that Josh seemed to be “just joshing” around for some guy’s cell phone video recorder when he made the comment.  It wasn’t like he held a press conference and made an official statement denouncing the very national anthem that I’m sure he has stood in recognition of before many professional games.  While I understand the media’s chokehold on the story, the racial inflammation and threats of boycotts are a bit much.  Some of the emails, exposed by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on his blog, reminded me why there is so much division along racial lines in this country.  

      I’m no media outlet, but I guess you can say I have my own BREAKING NEWS for America.  If Josh Howard indeed meant what he said, he is not the only Black person in America that does not “celebrate” the national anthem.  Proof of this is evident when you consider that Black leaders collectively deemed it necessary to adopt a Black National Anthem. 

      Earlier this year a jazz singer by the name of Rene Marie opted to sing this Black National Anthem, entitled “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, at the Denver Mayor’s State of the City address where she had been billed to sing the national anthem.  To the mayor’s chagrin, she switched songs unexpectedly.  Some conservative commentators criticized her switch as racist, the mayor opined disappointment and one Denver councilman said he was so mad he almost walked off the stage.  When asked why she “flipped the script”, she flatly said that she felt that the traditional national anthem “does not represent her”.  Go figure.

      If Josh Howard is multi-million dollar pro basketball star, then I am sure that he pays more taxes than the average American.  This being the case, he shouldn’t be marginalized for exercising the freedom of speech which is guaranteed by the 5th amendment of the constitution.  It is the same amendment that makes the media the force and power that it has become in this democracy.  It is my contention that those who call Howard unpatriotic are indeed unpatriotic for threatening him for exercising what the constitution guarantees.  Individuals like this are the worst hypocrites to the national anthem and what it is supposed to represent.

      Let’s be honest.  Most Black children do not learn the national anthem in their homes.  If it were not for public schools, whose curriculums are designed by the government, most Black children wouldn’t even know the song.  Furthermore, most Black children are never taught what the words represent. 

      As a follower of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad under Minister Louis Farrakhan we are taught to stand during the singing of the national anthem, for it represents respect and honor for the United States of America as a sovereign nation. This is the way that we are trained as and we teach our people as we are taught.  But, when I hear a Black man say that he doesn’t “celebrate” the national anthem I am not surprised one atom’s weight and anyone in this country who is needs a history lesson and a reality check. 

      The national anthem was written, first as a poem, during the War of 1812.  How could it have been written for Black people when we were still under the merciless stroke of American slavery?  It was put in song form and later adopted as the country’s national anthem by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Only three years later the Black National Anthem, which also began as a poem written by educator James Weldon Johnson, was adopted by the NAACP as the Negro National Anthem. Would one venture to say that Black leadership adopted a national anthem for their own people, because they felt that Wilson’s anthem did not represent our experience in this country?  How many white people in America “celebrate” the Black national anthem or even know that one exists?

      It is amazing to me how aggressively we protest the Confederate flag in the south.  It is as if we did not suffer just as much, and more, under the stars and stripes.  One reporter ventured into Howard’s old neighborhood and interviewed locals, some who criticized his comments.  One brother said that Howard needs a history lesson concerning Black soldiers who sacrificed their person and their lives in defense of the red, white and blue.   

      Unfortunately too many of those soldiers are living under bridges, in homeless shelters and insane asylums.  My response to that dear brother is this.  If we as Black people fought and died to preserve the constitutional rights of tax-paying Americans then a young Black man like Josh Howard should be free to speak his mind in America.  If not, then those soldiers died in vain. 

      Deric Muhammad heads the Millions More Movement Ministry of Justice and can be reached at