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Jully Black Honoured for Changing Canada’s National Anthem at NBA All-Star Game

Jully Black’s contribution to Canadian music has been nothing but extraordinary, and now her name has been etched in history as she joins the league of celebrated persons who have made significant contributions towards Canada’s national identity. Recently, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) recognized the Canadian R&B singer with an award that commends her for being the first performer to include a Cree version of “O Canada” in her rendition during the NBA All-Star game in 2016. This move by Black has not only put her in the spotlight but has also pointed out the need for inclusivity and acceptance of all backgrounds in Canada. In this article, we take a closer look at Jully Black’s remarkable career and how her change to Canada’s anthem is slowly but surely paving the way for a more comprehensive understanding of diversity and unity in the country.

In February 2022, Jully Black, a Canadian R&B singer, was invited to sing the Canadian national anthem, “O Canada,” at the NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, she had made a small yet significant change to the anthem’s traditional opening line: “O Canada! Our home and native land!” was altered to “O Canada! Our home on native land!” Her decision, which aimed to honor Indigenous people who have lived on the land before European settlers, was well-received by Canadians and Indigenous communities, who praised her for her efforts.

On Monday night, Black was presented with an eagle feather and wrapped in a blanket during a Blanketing Ceremony at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly ceremony in Ottawa. National Chief RoseAnne Archibald and AFN Knowledge Keepers presented Black with the eagle feather and blanket, respectively. Black, visibly moved, expressed her gratitude, saying, “I didn’t realize that my action would garner such a response,” adding that she was “grateful” for the “incredible honor.”

Black went on to express her hope of unity and solidarity among all Canadians, regardless of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, saying, “On behalf of the Black community, I say we are one. We’re better together.”

After the presentation, Black once again performed “O Canada,” including her amended line, which was heartily cheered by the assembly.

Black’s change to the anthem’s opening line was not the first time the lyrics had been modified. The official French version of the anthem has always used “sur nos montagnes, terre pleine de grace” (on our mountains, land filled with grace). The English version of the anthem had used “thy sons” until 2018 when a parliamentary bill sought to alter the wording surrounding gender neutrality, changing it to “in all of us command.”

At a time when the world is grappling with issues of colonialism, assimilation, and reconciliation, Black’s change to the anthem serves as a reminder that even small changes can have a significant impact. It is a step towards recognizing the history and the ancestral lands of Indigenous people, a step towards acknowledging and celebrating diversity and inclusivity in Canada.

In conclusion, Jully Black’s contribution to the Canadian national anthem is a powerful reminder of the value and importance of diversity in our nation. Her willingness to take a stand for inclusion and equality is both inspiring and commendable. As Canadians, we must continue to celebrate those who lead the way in promoting inclusivity and acceptance. Through her music and advocacy efforts, Jully Black has left an indelible mark on Canadian culture, and we can all learn from her example. Let us embrace the diversity that makes our country so great, and endeavour to create a more inclusive Canada for all.

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