Cover photo art by Hayley Gilmore and is available for download along with her other designs! Thank you, Hayley!
Well it’s been a bit of a week, I’d say.
On Wednesday, January 18, I saw Hamilton in Chicago with my best friend. It’s hard to put the experience into words (without a lot of superlatives). After listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack for nearly a year and the Hamilton Mixtape since it was released in December, I thought I knew the show pretty well. And it’s true, 90% of what’s on the soundtrack is in the show.
But there’s a reason why musicals are more than just concerts. Everything that’s happening on stage is incredible. From the minimal, rotating set, to the company dancing, to the inflections and movements of the actors, each bit of visual candy creates a richer experience than just blasting the soundtrack in your car every day.
Even though we saw the Wednesday matinee, we saw all the main cast: Miguel Cervantes as Alexander Hamilton, Ari Afsar as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Karen Olivo as Angelica Schuyler, Chris De’Sean Lee (a junior in college) as Lafayette/Jefferson, and the new Aaron Burr, in his second day of shows, Wayne Brady. I had my doubts about Brady as Burr, but rest assured, he was incredible. So many goosebumps in “Wait For It.”
The best thing about Hamilton, though, is what makes it so amazing no matter what form you watch or listen to it in: the history of our country’s founding is told through performances by diverse men and women who more accurately reflect today’s America. It was comforting and empowering to see people of color performing roles previously occupied by white men and women telling a story about a country—our country—that fought for its freedom.
But that fight continues today.
It was a unique experience to see Hamilton just two days before America’s first black president left office, only for that office be taken over by the man we must now call President. I couldn’t bear to watch the inauguration and see our country slide backwards.
So when the inauguration ceremony kicked off, I was at the movies watching Hidden Figures, a story of the black women who helped get America’s astronauts into space. What an incredible film! I had never heard the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and all the black “human computers” who worked at NASA in the early 1960s. Not once. To paraphrase a black woman’s post on Facebook about the movie: “I was moved to tears by the movie and so proud of these women. But I’m also angry that I was never taught about these women and others like them. What would have been the trajectory of my life if I’d known of them?”
I, too, am angry and feel a sense of betrayal that I never once learned about these women. I didn’t know they existed. To not teach little girls that women—specifically black women—helped get astronauts into space seems such an egregious oversight. All women and all minorities should have been looking up to Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary for the past 50 years, but we’re just now getting a movie? It’s not fair, especially not to black girls and women.
And that is just one reason why on Saturday, January 21, I marched. I marched (or rallied, as it were, in Indianapolis) in my pink hat with a Planned Parenthood button on my Hamilton-Chicago t-shirt because of the inequalities we still face in this country. I marched because women don’t make equal pay for equal work. I marched because I’m afraid my access to affordable birth control is in jeopardy. I marched because I am afraid for the lives of the thousands of Americans who will lose their insurance without the Affordable Care Act. I marched because immigrants deserve the same rights as natural born American citizens. I marched because LGBTQ individuals face discrimination every day, particularly in Indiana. I marched because people of color face discrimination every day, no matter where they are. I marched because I believe in the power of women, not just the power of 3 million women and their friends yesterday who marched across the world, but the power of all of us moving forward to fight for what we believe in.
We will not go back. Let’s get to it, ladies.