Pop Culture, The Popular Journey

A Letter…

Originally written 14 July 2017, some parts added 14 May 2018

Fort Carson, CO

Dear Mr. Miranda,

May I call you Lin?  I’m going to thank you in advance for your time and I ask that you forgive my loquaciousness in advance.  Listen, I don’t normally do this sort of thing… writing letters to people I don’t know.  I don’t “fan girl” in that way.  I’m a mom of three for goodness sake!  Definitely not the “type” to be writing letters to famous people like you!  But over the past year, I’ve been feeling compelled to write you.  Allow me to tell you a little about myself.  I am an Army wife and a working mother of 3 crazy kids. When Hamilton premiered on Broadway, my family was stationed in Hawaii and I had just had my third child.  I had left work about a year before that due to my two older children’s speech and behavioral challenges.  My son, who has an Autism and an Expressive Language Disorder diagnosis, required about 12-15 hours of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA) per week, and my daughter was referred to an hour of play therapy per week for challenging behaviors, which was recently diagnosed as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Both children needed up to 2 hours of speech therapy per week as well.  I was also in the midst of completing my post-graduate education, which I had been pursuing for six years.  As an Army wife, I have often sacrificed professional growth and personal wants and needs due to my husband’s commitment to this country.  There are many times where I am a single parent because my husband is away for work.  Military life is quite dynamic, Lin; it is full of change and unpredictability, but one I hope will help my children become more cultured, open-minded, and resilient individuals.

One evening in the months following my family’s relocation to Colorado just about two years ago, I got the urge to create a “Musicals” playlist on Spotify.  I don’t know why I suddenly felt the need tobelt out “Seasons of Love” while painting the fireplace in our new home.  (But I’m sure it was my recent watching of  that probably compelled me.  And then I found it… you know, that black and yellow image with you completing the top of a five-pointed star.  Curious as to what all the fuss was about, I streamed the entire album and its mixtape.  I wanted to hate it.  I wanted to belike “this is silly… hip-hop and the founding fathers DO NOT go together!”  I listened a couple times and thought “hmm this is OK.”  I listened a few more times and thought “this is pretty good.”  I listened some more still and exclaimed “this jawn is riding!  Oh my goodness, she was in love with him the entire time, but didn’t like him because he was broke, and now she’s all sad about it and has to watch him be with her own sister forever!  Oh no he didn’t just sleep with that girl, pay her husband off, and then put his business all in the street so as to‘clear’ his name!  That boy crazy!”  The exclamations go on and on, Lin!  I remember calling my best friend a few days later, and despite her boasting about what a bona fide genius you are, I confessed to her that I didn’t want to like Hamilton…that I wanted to desperately reject what had become so infectiously popular.  But I just couldn’t… the music, the lyrics, the story… it was all just too good.

As such, I have grown quite fond of Hamilton… both the show andthe legend himself.  I was moved to read the biography on which your show was based and I’m sure like you, I was inspired! As an African-American woman, it can be tricky to become invested in the early beginnings of this country, as my personal background can be traced back to slavery.  It can be easy to be indifferent to those who were at the forefront at forging freedom from the British, especially since some of those gentlemen owned people who looked like me.  But something about Secretary Hamilton struck me.  This was a man who, for years, had been very misunderstood, even at times vilified.  Many people did not like him simply because of where he came from and because he spoke his mind regardless of the possible ramifications for doing so at that time.  He came from nothing. And he came to this country determined to make a name for himself.  He was driven to rise up and to make adifference not only for himself, but for his family.  His story reminds me of my great-grandmother who, like Hamilton, emigrated from the Caribbean.  She worked as a housekeeper in Philadelphia for years while sending money back to Trinidad so that her daughter, my grandmother, could join her in the States.   It is his story, along with my family’s, that makes me want to be better… to do better… for myself and my family.

Lin, I also must show my gratitude that you have made it a point to cast shows in which the majority of the roles are played by people of color.  This is still such a rarity to see in live theater, and in entertainment as a whole where most of us are constrained to roles in which we are the “token” Black one, Hispanic one, Asian one, etc.  Representation is so important, and it is crucial that my children see people on screen, who look like them, playing important, positive roles.  I think it was genius of you to cast people of color in the main title roles in Hamilton.  I go back to reclaiming the investment of our history. When you made this decision to cast people of color in roles based on White individuals, it makes a powerful statement.  It helps us, who have felt lost in our country’s history… even angry with it…reclaim its founding as something to which we all can relate.  People of color have constantly had to fight for equal rights… for our place in history.  And you have told this story from this very same point of view.  Anything worth having… anything worth believing in… is definitely worth fighting for.

In interviews or on social media you have praised the works of the people who inspire you, such as your parents, your wife, or Alexander Hamilton, himself.  You have stated that while “The Tomcat” helped birth an independent nation, you, on the contrary, have merely created two plays.  In talking about your parents, you hailed the work they did to provide for their family while mentioning that you simply “act and make up songs.” Your calling to simply act and make up songs has inspired a movement.  I cannot speak for everyone you’ll ever meet or everyone who knows your name, but I will tell you that your decision to pursue a career as a playwright and composer has changed my life. While I work a 9-5 to help pay the bills and support three children, I have always heard a calling to pursue writing.  It was something I began doing in middle school as I spent most of my childhood making up stories and characterizing most of my toys, but somewhere along the way, I had lost my afflatus.

Alongside tempestuous life experiences, that calling only grew more vociferous once I listened to Hamilton and later, In the Heights.   I’m a sucker for a good story and good characterization, don’t you know, and they are done beautifully in both works.  In the past year, I have been more active on my personal online blog than ever before, been reading an average of three books a month, have penned two short stories, and scribbled seemingly endless notes here and there for a potential novel.  I am a woman in her early 30’s, and I have dedicated most of my adult life to caring for others.   I honestly don’t remember a time as a post undergraduate where in I was not responsible for someone else’s well-being.  I thought this was it for me; that to reach for something bigger… to find my passion and to pursue what lights my soul on fire was just not in the cards for me. When would I have the opportunity?  When would I have the time?  Was I too old?  Would my responsibilities as a mother negate my ability have a career in literacy?  Was it just too late?  Thanks to extraordinarily revolutionary works like Hamilton, and its predecessor Rent by the incomparable Jonathan Larson, I have been encouraged to just do it, trust the process, and enjoy the ride.

 

20180515_130018_HDR
I’m a busy lady so sometimes the writing gets done at work.           (shhh… don’t tell my boss…)

 

So Lin, while it’s true that you have just written two plays, and that you just act and write music, I promise that you have done more to inspire our generation, a more diverse generation, to extend an overdue appreciation for the arts, especially in populations where it may seem “uncool” to do so.  And so, I thank you.  Thank you for not being afraid to take a chance on something that most people probably thought was crazy. Thank you for being a continual voice for those struggling for acceptance.  Thank you for telling your story while lifting up those around you.  Thank you for writing those two little plays that have helped me find my true passion.  This has saved me.

And contrary to what you might think, Sir, you are kind of a big deal!

Sincerely and humbly yours,

Robin V. Davis

 

PS:  When the opportunity permits, I owe my daughter a trip to the Richard Rodgers Theatre.  I’m finally coming home!

1 thought on “A Letter…”

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