"Rise Up and Fight," penned by award-winning American composer Nolan Williams, Jr., was premiered on The Kennedy Center Concert Hall stage on Monday, January 15. The premiere was a highlight of the 2024 Let Freedom Ring Concert, Georgetown University’s annual commemoration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The performance featured Broadway stars Benjamin H. Moore (HARMONY) and John Riddle (BEAUTY & THE BEAST), singing sensation Rayshun LaMarr (NBC’s The Voice), Helen Hayes Award-winning Nova Y. Payton, Teriauna Duran, and the NEWorks Voices of America, with stage direction by Niegel Smith (associate director of the Tony Award winning musical FELA!) and music direction by Nolan Williams, Jr., Warren Jones, Phil Lassiter, and Daryl L.A. Hunt.
Music has long served a critical role in inspiring and mobilizing the masses. This was certainly the case with the Civil Rights Movement. As Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked during the Albany Movement:
“The freedom songs are playing a strong and vital role in our struggle... They give the people new courage and a sense of unity. ...They keep alive a faith, a radiant hope in the future, particularly in our most trying hours.”
In this tradition, award-winning American composer Nolan Williams, Jr. has penned a new anthem as a call to action for the 2024 national election cycle. Williams Jr.’s “Rise Up and Fight!” is written in the voices of James Earle Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, three civil rights workers who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during “Freedom Summer.”
In the song, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner return 60 years later to evaluate progress made since their untimely deaths. They are disheartened to discover that not much has changed on the civil rights front. In fact, in some ways, things are worse. They issue a call-to-action to their audience: “We’ve come too far to just resign. Now is the time to rise and fight, fight for what is right!”
“Rise Up and Fight!” and its complementary music video will anchor our national civic campaign aimed to educate, motivate and mobilize key communities to vote in the upcoming 2024 national election. The roll-out of the anthem and video will be supported by a marketing campaign, educational curriculum, and grassroots local initiatives. Stay tuned for more information.
“Freedom Summer” is produced in collaboration with Higher Frequency. It is a non-partisan project, not authorized by any candidate or political party.
The Freedom Summer campaign commemorates the 60th anniversary of the 1964 “Freedom Summer” voter registration drive, designed to increase Black voter registration in Mississippi. Over 700 diverse volunteers joined forces in Mississippi to resist voter intimidation and discrimination at the polls. They also established Freedom Schools in Mississippi to augment the mostly substandard education Black youth received and to prepare disenfranchised Blacks to become political actors on their own behalf. The daring efforts of these freedom fighters helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of “Freedom Summer” provides a unique opportunity to draw direct parallels between voting suppression then and now and to provide compelling motivation for citizens to make their voices heard at ballot boxes across the nation.
-OVER 2 MILLION GLOBAL HITS-
Released in 2020, “I Have A Right To Vote” is an award-winning voting rights anthem and music video that has raised awareness around voter suppression, encouraged voter education and registration, and increased voter motivation, contributing to the record turnout of ballots cast for the 2020 national election.
Composed and video directed by Nolan Williams, Jr., “I Have A Right To Vote” features a stellar cast of celebrities speaking the words of historical voting rights icons, including: Billie Jean King, Billy Porter, Chef Carla Hall, Christopher Jackson (from the original cast of HAMILTON), Hill Harper, Ebony Jo-Ann, and Ryan Jamaal Swain (F/X Network's POSE). The video also features cameos by luminaries like businesswoman Sheila C. Johnson and American citizens gathered at iconic places across the country—from New York’s Times Square to Milwaukee’s Art Museum, and from the “Rocky” Steps in Philadelphia to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles—all affirming their right to vote!
-OVER 1.3 MILLION GLOBAL HITS-
The America Song Project (2021-22) was a viral video campaign celebrating American democracy and the peaceful transition of power. It featured adapted lyrics of the patriotic anthem, “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee),” sung by diverse performers across the nation.
-OVER 3.5 MILLION GLOBAL HITS-
WOKE! (2020-21) was a multifaceted digital arts campaign that raised civic awareness and engagement. It included voting rights educational materials curated in partnership with the L.A.-based Constitutional Rights Foundation; “Gen-Z Perspectives on Voting and Human Rights,” a digital art exhibition featuring works by students from the Art Institutes of Atlanta, Virginia Beach and Miami; video briefs developed by young creatives to raise awareness around voter suppression and increase voter motivation nationwide; and the “I Have A Right To Vote” anthem and viral video.