Who Tells Your Story?

Alexander Hamilton (from Power Point clip art)

Who Lives? Who Dies? Who tells your story?  These are part of a song in the amazing musical, “Hamilton,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The show will soon be a movie and I for one cannot wait. Those lyrics are in two songs – first in History Has Its Eyes On You and later in a refrain.

Some of the other lyrics are:””Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story. … And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells our story?  …history has its eyes on you.”

A lot to think about, right? In my family, that person is my mother and before her my grandparents. Mom wrote a family book about her dad’s side of the family. We learned that some of our ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Amazing. Now, she is working on her mother’s family history and is able to go back to the 1300 and 1400s.

It means so much to know our family history and what the people many generations ago did: where they lived, who they married, and their children.  I am blessed and know that I am. And, over the course of this project, I have realized that not all people have this legacy.

My ancestors chose to come to America. They decided as a family to make the dangerous crossing across the ocean for a life in a new land. The ancestors of my black friends did not have that choice. They came as slaves, often forced on a boat in chains, or were born into slave families. Worst of all, they were treated as property.

The notion of owning a person is disgusting and quite troubling but was part of our nation’s history. In a PBS show about “Hamilton: The Musical,” Christopher Jackson was interviewed. He played the part of General George Washington and later our first President. Jackson said that he enjoyed doing the show but had a very hard time dealing with the fact that President Washington had owned people.

Many years later and thanks to President Abraham Lincoln and many others, slavery was abolished. Still it took centuries to make changes. There were struggles in the 1960s and a Civil Rights movement where some changes were made. Many people were killed during that fight, including the eloquent Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But, we still aren’t past it. We are seeing that only too clearly again this year. The racism and hate is something I don’t like or understand. In fact, I am very much against it. However, I haven’t consistently done much about it. I haven’t thought about my privilege and for that I am sorry. There are things that I have taken for granted that so many families don’t have in their lives or that they are asked about or profiled about.

A partial photo of my son and his friend from several years ago.

It is time to change and realize that with the privilege comes responsibility. We need to stand up for our brothers and sisters and speak out against mistreatment, violence, and hate. We need to change the narrative, how we treat one another, and practice the love that Jesus taught us. And we need to vote for leaders at all levels of government who aren’t racist, but instead believe in real and true opportunities for all people.

As my son and I discussed yesterday, we are all made in God’s image. All of us – everyone. We are all equal. We all have value. The two of us talked about this and a lot of other things during the commercial breaks of the Sesame Street-CNN Town Hall on discussing racism with children and fighting against that racism.

It was stunning to see 6-year-old children asking why people didn’t like them because of their skin color, or how should they talk with police officers, or are their fathers safe?Also, a 12-year-old boy was interviewed and a clip was shown of him singing a song that his mother wrote. The song was called, I Just Want To Live. 

“…I am seeing what’s being done to my kind. Every day, I’m being hunted as prey… I just want to live,” sung by Keedron Bryant. These words gave me chills and I cried when I heard the entire song.

He is 12 and is singing about being hunted as prey.  That is shocking to me and should not be happening – to anyone. My son is in his age group, so it really hits home for me.  The fact that his mother wrote these words too is telling  She knows what can happen to black men, women, and children.  And, that to me is heartbreaking,

Let’s remember that the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Sadly at the time that this declaration was written, black men and women were owned by white people and not treated as equals. That too is so very wrong but I know it happened. So, now it is long past time for all men and women to be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity.

We all need to be treated as equals by the government, by society, by police officers, by our religious leaders, by our medical community, by our schools and educational communities, by all walks of our lives, and by all of us.

We must do better for our fellow men and women, for our children, and for each other.  We must live in peace, not in violence or by causing harm. We must treat each other with respect and kindness, not disrespect or hate. We must remember that Black Lives Matter. And, we must remember to always love.

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