I took a much needed break after the Democratic Primary and like millions of people, I couldn’t wait to finally watch the musical Hamilton on Disney + on the Fourth of July weekend. A couple of quick takeaways, once again Hip-Hop made history exciting to me. It made me want to know much more of a story in history I cared very little about. It should be showed to the youth and be a rallying cry for the national protest going on right now.
I knew very little about the life of Alexander Hamilton, who was an American statesman, politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer, banker, and economist and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and the New York Post newspaper. As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the main author of the economic policies of George Washington’s administration.
As a Hip-Hop head, the musical told this story in my language in the language of the streets and featured a multi-cultural cast. One of the things that connected me with Alexander Hamilton in the musical, was that he wrote “like he was running out of time.” Something I can totally relate to and anyone who knows me can tell you with the work I do with Black Westchester that describes me to a tee. People always ask me how do I do this non-stop. Like the songs, I write like I’m running out of time. Write like I need it to survive. When every second I’m alive.
This track made me realize the importance of what I do. Often I ask myself if what I do even matters, but this song inspired me and showed – as we just celebrated our sixth anniversary – the need for me to continue to be the voice of the voiceless and continue to deliver the News With The Black Point Of View. Documenting this moment of history, covering this movement we in the middle of.
How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?
How do you write like you need it to survive?
How do you write ev’ry second you’re alive?
Ev’ry second you’re alive? Ev’ry second you’re alive?
But the one song that moved me the most when Leslie Odom Jr who played Aaron Burr expresses his desire to make it to ‘the room where it happens.’ This is something persons of color have been fighting for since we have been in this country to be in the room where it happens, to be in decision making positions. It made me wanna to address all our elected officials and ask what are you doing now that we put you in the room where it happens?
No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens
It made me realize what I and many others in my city take for granted. I live in a city with a Black Mayor, a mostly Black City Council, a Black Comptroller, a Black Police Commissioner, a Black Superintendent of Schools, several Black Board of Education Trustees, a Black Library Trustee President, a Black Democratic County and City Chairman and Board of Elections Commissioner. And even though we had a Black President and now have a Black Female Senate Majority Leader in NY State, breaking the eternal image of three men in a room who make it happens and a Black Deputy County Executive, the national protest after the killing of George Floyd shows us how much more we need to truly be in the Room Where It Happens. The need to make the changes we claim we want and hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand, when it comes to criminal justice reform, changes in legislation, better education, more services in our community and so much more.
It made me realize like the 19th song of Act One of Hamilton, for the city of Mount Vernon, ‘History Has It Eyes On You.’ Black America is watching. As Damon likes to say we are the Wakanda of Westchester, but our elected officials keep giving our vibranium away from free. How this Black run city – where mainly African-Americans are in the Room Where It Happens – have a responsibility to all of Black America. It is up to us to show the world how it should be done. To be the model for the county and the country.
But like the re-telling of history of this country in Hamilton, much is expected from those in the Room Where It Happens. Like the fore fathers of the country the expectation is high, sometimes maybe too high. That’s because too many people fought for the right to be in the room where it happens. To my elected officials on the local, county, state and national level, now that we voted to have people who look like us in the room where it happens, history has its eyes on you. How will you be remembered? What did you do when you got to the room where it happens? Are you listening and advocating for the people who put you there or are you moving on your own agenda, now that you are in the room where it happens?
The voters, the residents are not off the hook in this either. The musical shows us the need to hold our elected officials feet to the fire to make sure they are representing our interest in the room where it happens. When we find they are not it is our responsibility to make sure we replace them with people who will. But just voting is not enough. You have to fight for and demand what you want. No one – not even people who look like you – will represent your interest, if you are not engaged. We must educate ourselves on the process, so we are informed. Hamilton the musical did its part to start the conversation, to ask the questions. Now we must do our part for the city, state and national government we want. To reshape it in our image. History has it eyes of you as well, so you must do your part.
The 2018 Midterm election saw a much diverse cast of characters elected to serve in the two chambers that has been mainly filled with White Men making decisions. In 2020 an openly gay African-American man and Afro-Latino man were elected to the Congress to represent New York State. This is only made possible when the people not only protest in the street but protest at the ballot box. So again I say we cannot expect our elected officials to serve our interest if we are not involved, engaged and willing to do our part.
Hamilton the musical – although now 100% any more historically accurate than any other production – was about individuals creating a new nation and shaping democracy. We should all after watching be full and now do our part to shape the nation that we want, that represents all of us. We all have a part to play. Start demanding and fighting for the change we want to see. The musical shows us it was young ordinary people that stepped up and created this nation, flaws and all. And it will take young ordinary people to reshape this nation and lead us into the future we want to see. Fighting the be in the room where it happens and holding those in the room accountable.
The characters that we see in the beginning of Hamilton, they were young. There were saying the things that a lot of the young people in the street all over this country are saying now. We are in a situation where we are seeing some of the same things happen in this moment of time and I repeat, history is watching the biggest movement since the Civil rights era of the 60s. The biggest movement in my lifetime. It is my responsibility as well as others who cover this moment in time to document it to represent our voice. I may not always be in the room where it happens but it is still my duty to document it for history.
As Leslie Odom Jr said in an interview it is interesting that we are viewing this time in history as the statues are coming down in the streets. As the people are demanding statues of some who committed treason against the county come down because of what the represent. That only happens when we are in the room where it happens and we put pressure on those who look like us and those who don’t who are in the room where it happens. Same can be said for criminal justice reform.
Hamilton the musical started the conversation now it’s its up to us to not just be entertained but inspired to ask the questions, demand the change and be part of the process of that change.
So in closing again I pose this question to all current, former and future elected officials. What did you do now that we got you to the room where it happens? I remind you history has its eyes on you. How will history remember you?