Whites Creek Songwriters

Lift Every Voice
Class of 2021: Whites Creek Seniors Encourage Listeners to “Lift Every Voice”
Posted on 05/24/2021
Whites Creek student songwriters
It started with a beat Jeremiah Billings created on his laptop.

Desmond Nance heard the music and wrote a verse to rap over it. Tahil Sage added another verse.

And with that, the three Whites Creek High School Class of 2021 seniors had the genesis of “Lift Every Voice,” an uplifting song about being a young, Black male with unlimited potential, despite the challenges life and society can bring.

“I’m the hottest in the city yeah I came from the block, I’ma get to the top and you know I can’t stop,” Desmond raps.

“I’m a beautiful, young, Black man, melanin dripping from my skin,” Tahil adds. “Just letting you know I ain’t playing, my family shaped me to a better man, I’m flying too high, cannot land, fighter pilot Tuskegee Airman.”

The song is partly inspired by “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often called the Black National Anthem. The hugely influential song was written by brothers James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson and was first performed by a group of Florida schoolchildren in 1900.

Jeremiah said he was working with a sample of a recording of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which Tahil had previously sung in choir, when he created the beat.

Whites Creek's band director, Joshua Latham, had considered making a new recording of the classic song, but the plan shifted once Jeremiah came up with the beat and inspired Desmond and Tahil’s lyrics.

“I just listened to the beat over and over,” Desmond said. “The day we recorded it, I just wrote it out of the blue.”

“I wanted to harp on some of the themes that the song conveys and really just put it in a modern way so some of my peers could digest it a little better,” Tahil said. “I wanted to make it a good listen for people who otherwise wouldn’t think twice about it. I always wanted to do something interpolating the song.

“There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in our city, a lot of peculiar situations for youth. I just want to let people know they can lift their voice and sing, too.”

They also created a video that incorporates several locations on the Whites Creek campus.

Although many African-Americans feel especially vulnerable right now, a year after George Floyd was killed by a police officer on a Minneapolis street, the songwriting trio said they feel positive about the future that lies beyond their graduation from Whites Creek on Monday evening.

“I’m excited,” Jeremiah said. “I feel covered. I’m never worried anytime I step outside the house as long as I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I do what’s right. I do the stuff I want to do so I don’t drift off into doing negative things or things that are not for me.”

Both Jeremiah and Desmond plan to work after graduation and pursue music careers. Tahil, who is Whites Creek’s valedictorian and already has two college credits, plans to attend Volunteer State Community College to study media management, with a concentration in music production.
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Class of 2021,Students