Rise up. There are many lines from the uber popular Hamilton that have been running through my mind for the last few days since it’s anxiously awaited television debut last week. But RISE UP keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.
I think the Hamilton production is wonderful. The music, the lyrics, the beats, the rhymes, the part about forgiveness gets me EVERY. TIME. I listen to It’s Quiet Uptown. I have been a fan since I was first introduced.
But I also know it’s kind of problematic. Our hero, Alexander? He wasn’t the abolitionist he appears to be in the production. And immigrant status? I guess. Kind of. Not really, if you dig into the facts of history. I know there is a collective eye roll from the historian contingent about so many people taking in the entire production as truth.
But listen. I don’t think Lin Manuel Miranda set out to tell this story with exact accurate facts. Personally, I think that is part of his genius. The casting (of course) is the first clue. The cast is almost entirely people of color. The white people are King George and that farmer, refuted. We know Thomas Jefferson wasn’t black and neither was George Washington. We can add this to the list of how this story didn’t go down exactly as portrayed.
However, I’d like to think that Miranda intended for this story to be told exactly the way he told it. People of color fighting for change. The ridiculous characters, who seem out of step with the revolutionaries, and make the audience laugh at their songs and tone deaf requests in the face of this big movement and are asking for the status quo to remain, to keep things exactly as they are? White men in power.
History was told with the Hamilton production, but it was told with a creative rewrite. An invitation to see the story differently. We are asked to see these familiar characters of the revolution as modern representatives of a revolution.
So yes, let’s keep talking about how the production is fraught with historical inaccuracies. I want to talk about the whitewashing of our history. In all its forms. Let’s talk about how often that holy document, that so many revere as a revelation from God, by holy men, (who also owned, bought and sold slaves) that is the constitution, had to be amended several times to make this country lean more into that idea that all men are created equal. Even now, in the 2000s we are still making adjustments to that document to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
Rise up. That’s what I hear. Especially now. Especially now in a time when science has somehow become partisan and basic health and well being for everyone is at risk because scientific facts are now political talking points. Especially now that we elected a president who throws King George-esque tantrums on Twitter and at press conferences, is on record that he assaults women, is a documented racist, believes that some Americans should not have equal access to an emergency room, or a doctor and a hundred other things I could list here.
Especially now when the nation can watch time and time again, a militarized police commit acts of violence and brutality against the BIPOC community, and those standing as allies and accomplices to their plight for justice and equality. (Are we really going to give our president , who gassed peaceful protesters for a photo op with the bible another term?) Especially in a time when people can literally watch a man die, begging for his life for a few cigarettes or a $20 bill, and people still have the gall to say, “Well, did you see his record?”
Rise up. We need a new president. Climate change is real. COVID-19 is real. Black Lives Matter. Join the revolution.
Note: I have been learning so much these past few months from a lot of African-American thought leaders and change makers. Rachel Cargle, Ibram X. Kendi, Austin Channing Brown are just a few. Find them, follow them, buy their books, support their work and get information for ammunition for this fight we are in right now.