My latest book My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Tells the Story of Civil Rights, illustrated by Bryan Collier, was released June 3rd, and we held a launch party at Aunties’ Bookstore in Spokane to celebrate.

I read the text accompanied by recordings of the historic new verses by the Eastern Washington University Mixed Choir and the Spokane Area Youth Choirs directed by Kristina Ploeger. Afterwards the crowd sang new lyrics submitted by local students.

One 6th grade student from Madison Elementary, along with her teacher Patty Driscoll and music teacher Dori Nielson, joined me up front when we introduced two new verses her class wrote:
My country ‘tis of thee
Let us be bully-free
No teasing found.
We are not all the same
Stop causing all their pain
Differences are not to blame
Freedom all around.

My country ‘tis of thee
So sad the poverty
Homeless abound.
God keep them in your sight
Help us relieve their plight
Shelter them for the night.
New hope is found.

We also sang new lyrics written by other elementary students in Spokane. You can read those lyrics on the student submissions’ page and notice that some common themes appear. Today’s students are interested in fighting poverty and protecting the environment, as well as raising awareness about the problem of bullying in schools.

I would love to see new lyrics submitted by students, classrooms, and by you!

Submit a new verse to the My Country ‘Tis of Thee Music Project by using the submissions page. The fall contest will run September 1st – October 30th with books and posters of Aretha Franklin awarded to the best submitted verses.

Thanks to all who attended and sang along. The launch party was a smashing success. Check out the article on the book featured in the Spokesman-Review.