'Kidizenship' Civics Contest Urges Children to Write Their Own National Anthems

'Kidizenship' Civics Contest Urges Children to Write Their Own National Anthems

Action civics platform Kidizenship is urging “tweens and teens” to enter its contest titled “Sing Your Anthem,” in which the young people are asked to “write and perform your own national anthems,” that “represent your values and vision for your community and country.”

Listen up music lovers! We are launching #SingYourAnthem, a contest for kids ages 8-18 to write + perform their own national anthems. Co-host: YMCA Youth & Gov @ymcayag@YMCA. Judges: @JasonIsbell @dariusrucker @rhiannongiddens@genesisbe. $1000 1st prize! https://t.co/VkuV2uos3Rpic.twitter.com/DZKPe0d2sA

— Kidizenship (@kidizenship) June 9, 2021

The civics contest is sponsored by Kidizenship, which describes itself as “non-partisan,” and is cohosted by YMCA Youth and Government programs. Kidizenship itself is funded by a grant from the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise & Public Policy at Vanderbilt University.

The program kicked off June 9 and will continue through October 12. Children between the ages of 8-18 are eligible to participate in the contest.

Kidizenship’s slogan is “Youth. Rising.” and it states on its website the platform “reaches beyond the classroom, merging civics education with creative self-expression and community action.”

“Kidizenship will convene respectful conversations and publish powerful content by and for young people about building a brighter future and an inclusive, just, and sustainable democracy,” the site continues. “Kidizenship is where citizens come of age.”

A post about the “Sing Your Anthem” contest is coauthored by Amanda Little, the platform’s founder and director, and a journalism professor at Vanderbilt University.

Little has written for Rolling Stone, Wired, and the New York Times. Her bio also states she has “appeared on media outlets including NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ with Terry Gross, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and CNN with Fareed Zakaria.”

In their description of the civics contest, Little and coauthor Emily Lordi first draw children’s attention to President Joe Biden’s inauguration:

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the national anthem? Do you see the crowd standing at the presidential inauguration and Lady Gaga hitting the high notes on the White House balcony?
Do you think of “rockets’ red glare” and the flag waving “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

🎤 #REMEMBER to #SingYourAnthem for us this #summer! #Kids ages 8-18: enter our #music#contest with $ #prizes for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place to be #heard by our judges @JasonIsbell@dariusrucker@RhiannonGiddens@GenesisBe!#Singers, who will YOU #SingYourAnthem for? 🎶

— Kidizenship (@kidizenship) August 2, 2021

Following a brief description of how Francis Scott Key’s poem “The Star-Spangled Banner” came to become America’s national anthem, Little and Lordi write, “America has many unofficial anthems, too — songs that celebrate different kinds of empowerment and beauty, unique groups and strongly held beliefs. Songs written to bring hope and unity to those who sing them.”

The authors name “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “America the Beautiful,” and “God Bless the USA” as examples of “unofficial anthems,” and then include “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as “the Black national anthem,” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” as a song “encourag[ing] Black kids to believe … in the ‘lovely, precious dream’ of their lives – when their country as a whole did not.”

Also included as an “unofficial” anthem is “Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which, the Kidizenship authors describe, is a song that “has been embraced as an anthem by the LGBTQ+ community,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” which, they say, is now the “unofficial anthem of Black Lives Matter.”

“The best of these anthems unite, rather than divide, us,” Lordi and Little write, after naming so-called “anthems” of several political identity groups. “They celebrate what we have in common as a community or as a country. They leave us feeling inspired.”

“What is your song for America or for your community?” the authors extend their invitation to children considering the contest. “How will it unite people across divisions?”

According to Kidizenship, musicians judging the contest include: “Folk-rock guitarist and four-time Grammy winner Jason Isbell; Americana multi-instrumentalist and Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens; country icon and three-time Grammy winner Darius Rucker; and hip-hop artist and activist Genesis Be.”

Varietynoted in April that actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a Kidizenship contributor and one of the contest’s judges as well.

“This contest is about thoughtful communication and understanding as to how our government works,” said the Veep star.

“Its nonpartisan mission is to promote civic awareness and discourse for young people, which is critical right now given the fact that discourse has become so fraught,” she added. “And I love the idea of encouraging young people to use whatever platform they have to do the right thing.”

According to Kidizenship, additional contest judges are Jon Favreau, a head speechwriter for former President Barack Obama and co-host of the left-wing “Pod Save America;” comedian Baratunde Thurston, host of podcast “How To Citizen;” and former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX).

Dr. Susan Berry