Last week I took some time to talk about my favorite song from Hamilton the Musical. This week I am paying tribute to my second favorite.
History has its eyes on you…
First of all, Christopher Jackson, you have ruined me for anyone else ever singing this song, Sir! My God! Even when I hear other talented singers attempt it… (sigh).
Also, Lin-Manuel, why do you keep doing this to me? And can you please continue because clearly I am giving you my money as long as you keep dishing out these amazing works of art.
See, I have been an uber-minority my whole life. It is my permanent lens and nothing can ever dislodge. So choose to live with it, but I refuse to allow it to limit my ambition. I do sometimes wonder if those who societally exist in a “majority” status ever feel or relate to what it feels like to be “other”. I had a conversation recently with a friend that made me think that it might be possible. He shared one of his experiences of feeling like “other” when he traveled to a country where no one looked like him at all. In that moment I realized that I have never had the opportunity to experience the other side of that scenario.
I do very much feel the duty that comes with being an ever present representative of the “race” that people assign me to. It’s enough to make a person run mad. Why can’t I just live my life? Or can I? Is all of this restriction in the minds of minorities, or is it something that is placed around our necks by society? In either scenario, how do we overcome this?
But back to Hamilton…
One of the answers might actually lie with an aspect of Hamilton that may not have been intentional but happened all the same.
At some point after consuming all the visuals of Hamilton, an image of a black George Washington lodged itself in my minds eye.
I am fully aware that General George Washington identified as a white man so I’m not making any allegations otherwise. What I am saying is that watching a black man play the role of our nation’s first president helped me to see myself in the founding story of this country in a peculiar way.
And before you go off in another direction, yes, I am aware that there were persons of African descent present in the colonies during the rebellion including but not limited to Crispus Attucks who is recognized as the first person to die in what would become the American Revolution. But we don’t focus on telling those stories in the way we talk about the Founding Fathers. The only images we get to see of black people from that period are enslaved persons. It’s as if the world would have us believe that all persons of African descent were enslaved in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time engineers in the Kingdom of Benin (Africa) had constructed a Great Wall that was 4- times the length of the Great Wall of China. During this time the Sayfawa Dynasty (region just south of Lake Chad) was a center of Islamic Learning. Somalia (Africa) had firm trading relationships with the Ming Empire of China.
But we don’t teach that stuff in school.
You can find heroes and villains in any culture, but I thank the amazing casting directors for Hamilton for helping me see myself differently within the origin story of these United States of America.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.