Shaprece: Protesting, protesting, 1, 2, 3.
Shaprece: "Protesting, protesting, 1, 2, 3." Daniel Volland

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Seattle triphop/R&B vocalist Shaprece will be singing the national anthem for tonight's Seattle Sounders FC game at CenturyLink Field. But more than simply performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” she will be joined by the Foster High choir and members of her mother's non-profit organization for breast cancer survivors, Cierra Sisters. All will be dressed in black and holding candles, as if at a vigil.

The Sounders originally asked her mother, Bridgette Hempstead, to sing the anthem, but she was in Washington DC on Cierra Sisters business, so she asked Shaprece to do the honors.

Shaprece had some concerns about singing the anthem in light of police brutality against people of color and other racial injustices. She decided to take the offer after talking to Sounders manager of gameday entertainment Jessica Hancock about her concerns.

“I told her I feel honored that you want our family to be involved with this, but at the same time I'm completely aware of where we're at as a nation and that that song wasn't necessarily written to include people who look like me,” Shaprece said in a phone interview. “I wanted to try to come to some sort of common ground where we could do a demonstration while making a stand against it, but also while keeping in mind that my face is very much a face of the nation, as well. To step completely away from that didn't feel right, either. I was born in America. I'm an American."

"I took the stand that if they were not willing to allow me to do a demonstration, then I wasn't going to sing it," Shaprece continued. "They were very understanding and open to what I had in mind.”

Shaprece says that singing the anthem at CenturyLink has larger ramifications than simply a local musician appearing before a soccer match. “This isn't a performance for me. I want people to see me singing this song and thinking, 'That is a face in America.'"

The game is a celebration for breast cancer survivors, but it's also an opportunity for Shaprece “to shed light on the grievances and tragedies that have been happening within my community,” as well as “memorializing women and men who have lost their lives to breast cancer, but also people who have been discriminated against and lost their lives, whether it be civilians or police killing black people.”

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Shaprece says the decision to sing the anthem has been tough. Friends were advising her to take a knee during the anthem or afterward to raise her fist in a black power salute, but she thought it would be contradictory to entirely condemn something she was leading.

She reasons, “The worst thing that can happen is for people of color to be excluded from our patriotism, because ultimately, a bigot or someone who wants to see someone like me not exist would love for me not to be involved with any patriotism. To never see another black person sing the anthem is going in favor of the enemy. To be frank, it's been weird, it's been sad. It's angered me. But I'm at peace with the way that I choose to demonstrate peace and unity.”

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