Kerry James Marshall, Now And Forever; Elizabeth Alexander, “American Song,” Washington National Cathedral

Kerry James Marshall and Elizabeth Alexander create words and images that fill the Washington National Cathedral with hope.

Kerry James Marshall, Now and Forever, 2023 and Elizabeth Alexander, “American Song,” 2023 (Washington National Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington). Speakers: Kevin Eckstrom, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Washington National Cathedral and Beth Harris

“American Song” by Dr. Elizabeth Alexander

Imperfect, in struggle, contested, more
than one voice at a time. Onward, multi —

American song, American psalm.

A single voice raised, then another. We
must tell the truth about our history.

How did we get here and where do we go?

Walk toward freedom. Work toward freedom.
Believe in beloved community.

We are not yet close enough to heaven.

Aspire to song. Aspire to the lift
of voices joined to make a mighty noise.

What are the luminous, sacred words?

Courage, evolve, freedom, community,
truth, trust, love, peace, yes, why, agape.

American song, American prayer.

All of our voices combined into song.
Sing sacred words, true and just.

May this portal be where the light comes in.

Dr. Elizabeth Alexander © 2023

Additional resources

Now and Forever and “American Song” at the Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral

Kerry James Marshall: “Now and Forever” | Art21 “Extended Play”

Google Arts and Culture on Now And Forever

Elizabeth Alexander, Poetry Foundation

Elizabeth Alexander, Academy of American Poets

Cite this page as: Kevin Eckstrom and Dr. Beth Harris, "Kerry James Marshall, Now And Forever; Elizabeth Alexander, “American Song,” Washington National Cathedral," in Smarthistory, January 22, 2024, accessed February 23, 2024,