Prior to the Super Bowl 55 kick-off, a slew of artists gave patriotic live performances, with Jazmine Sullivan singing the national anthem alongside country star Eric Church, GRAMMY-winning guitar virtuoso H.E.R. singing “America the Beautiful”, and Alicia Keys performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in a pre-recorded spot.
(For background, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a poem written in 1900 by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson that celebrates the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. It was then set to music by James’ brother and adopted as the “Black National Anthem” by the NAACP more than 100 years ago.)
Fans responded favorably on social media to the pre-game display of national unity, and to Sullivan’s pantsuit, which reportedly was meant to match Whitney Houston’s 1991 outfit.
Likewise during the pre-game program, 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman read her poem about the impact of educator Trimaine Davis, nurse Suzie Dorner, and Marine veteran James Martin, who the NFL selected as honorary captains for this year’s game for embodying the league’s message for this football season: “It Takes All of Us.”
“Today, we honor our three captains for their actions and impact in a time of uncertainty and need,” said Gorman. “They’ve taken the lead, exceeding all expectations and limitations, uplifting their communities and neighbors as leaders, healers, and educators.”
Describing the heroism of Davis, Dorner, and Martin, she went on: “Let us walk with these warriors, charge on with these champions, and carry forth the call of our captains. We celebrate them by acting with courage and compassion, by doing what is right and just. For while we honor them today, it is they who everyday who honor us.”
Teasing what fans could expect at her pre-game performance, Alicia Keys told Billboard, “People can expect to really feel. To feel engaged, to feel motivated, inspired, to feel the love of different people coming together to support each other. Right now, we just need that so much.”