Why are African American Middle-Aged Adults Not Feeling the Hip-Hop Opera "Hamilton"?
By Karen Brittingham-Edmond July 10, 2020
"Hamilton" is a hip-hop opera that appeared on the off-Broadway stage on Feb 17, 2015. Lin -Miranda Manuel is the producer, rapper, and playwright of the musical. The play was a hit on Broadway. Several years after being invited to the White House to perform segments of the musical for President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Miranda obtained an opportunity to have the play filmed in London 2016.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPrAKuOBWzw
Miranda shared "that filming took place over three days in June 2016," according to his Broadway.com interview with Lindsey Sullivan Jun 22, 2020. The movie "Hamilton" is airing on Disney with a compliment discussion with Robin Roberts, Co-anchor of Channel 7 ABC News Goodmorning America plus Miranda and the original cast members of play. Cast names are Leslie Odom Jr, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldberry, Phillipa Soo, Jonathan Groff, & Christopher Jackson. In addition to the discussion, panel was Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard Historian of American Legal History.
Discussion with the panel delved into current affairs regarding the reaction that play and film were receiving from a portion of their viewership that happened to be people of color. Correlationally panel also acknowledged contemporary issues involving racism and over-policing that resulted in the death of Community Leader George Floyd; Athlete Ahmaud Arbery; EMT Breonna Taylor; Airman Dreasjon Reed; child Tamir Rice; and Professor Sandra Bland, just to name a few.
On a personal note, I watched the movie plus discussion panel segment, and as a middle-aged Black woman, I also experienced seriously mixed emotions towards Hamilton Film. First, let's be clear: the performers and play is nothing less than genius. Odom Jr, Jones, Miranda, Diggs, Goldberry, Soo, Groff, plus Jackson are outstanding. The dynamic of these people of color eminence was extraordinary. Their talent, vision, and purpose-driven goal to make this play a masterful, one of a kind, experience for the audience was accomplished. Unfortunately for me, I experienced disapproval compulsion simultaneously while admiring performance. I could not help but feel a strong reaction of repulsion set in because a significant portion (if not all) of America's founding fathers were deeply flawed people. For example, many of the founding fathers condone the enslavement of African and 1st Nation people. These founding fathers ruined every treaty with 1st Nation Tribes, which led to wars and the repeated allocation of British soldiers to fight battles that colonists would start. Not to mention that it was never a good idea to leave children of any color with early settlers. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/5/130501-jamestown-cannibalism-archeology-science/
Miranda shared a side note during a discussion panel segment on Disney that for him as a person of hispanic descent, "Hamilton" was an immigrant success story. And he has a point. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton grew up as an orphan in the Caribbean and immigrated to America to find his purpose in life like most immigrants.
It is easy to see why Miranda would lean more to the acceptance of blockbuster play. For immigrants America is a place where you can come to and be something different. The truth is that when Hispanic immigrate to America, they seek to assimilate. Per a Pew Report titled "Hispanic Identity Fades Across Generations As Immigrant Connections Fall Away," along with an additional report from March 2014 titled "Why are Hispanics identifying as White? Suggest that assimilation plays a substantial role in a portion of Hispanic populations belief systems. https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2017/12/20/hispanic-identity-fades-across-generations-as-immigrant-connections-fall-away/
The Hispanic perception differs from the Black experience here in America because Black folks are the direct descendants of people who survived chattel slavery and 1st nation genocide here in North America. This occurrence happened because of broken treaties and other deceptive practices of colonists. Many 1st nation tribes were forced into indentured servitude on plantations during the 1600s-1800s. Soon to join them on plantations would be kidnapped people from Africa. Hence Africans and 1st nation tribe people built relationships while in bondage during this country's formation and had children. Black people in North America are the offspring of said unions that initiated between 1600 to 1820. President Andrew Jackson Administration enforced a policy called the Indian Removal Act that forced most east coast tribes to resettled on the west coast. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Indian-Removal-Act
Hence the reaction to play from an informed African American differs from the typical Hispanic perspective in response to the perception of American history. In short, for some people, the American story is a lovely immigrant tale full of hopes, dreams, and possibilities. For other people, who know the sordid details of this colonist pilfering of 1st nation lands by these unfriendly individuals including Black folks, light-skinned cousin from the caribbean named Alexander Hamilton provides evidence as to why Afro American Baby Boomers/Generation Xes are just not feeling the play and why said populations grandchildren love musical! Hamilton for Generation Z's is what "Rocky Horror" film was for Baby Boomers. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/
My granddaughter's three favorite Hamilton songs are "History is happening in Manhattan," https://repository.si.edu/bitstream/handle/10088/16790/anth_Manhattan.pdf "I'm not throwing away my shot," and "You'll be back." And depending on what type of mood she's in, she'll sing the appropriate song! Thank you for reading, and hey, what did you think about the play "Hamilton"? How do your kids feel about the play Hamilton? Please leave your responses below. And remember you'll be back! "Dada-da-da-da!"