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#CareFreeBlackKids Remix the Hit Broadway Musical "Hamilton"

Yesterday, Future came to the Private Bank Theater in downtown Chicago. He was accompanied by Walnaeja Boyd and Devinae Parker, two young women, who rapped about the Boston Massacre from both the perspective of a British officer and American colonist.

To be honest, Future didn’t actually show up. However, the teens rapped over his beat of his latest single, “Mask Off”. The Camelot- Chicago Excel Academy of Southwest High School student performers knew that the best way to get to their peers and get the message across would be through music. “A lot of kids love music, so it was good we were able to use the song. It’s a popular song, its catchy” says Parker, 18. 

This opportunity was made possible through a partnership with the Hamilton Education Program by the Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History and Chicago Public Schools. Students in high schools in New York City, Chicago, and other selected cities, learned about the Founding Father’s story, and made something creative to incorporate the history. “We were able to make something creative out of this and that drove us to pay attention.” Says Boyd, 18.

Often, history, especially American history, is taught in a way that is inaccessible to youth, particularly, youth of color. But “Hamilton” on Broadway works to address that lapse by making sure that all ethnicities that make up the American population, are represented. As expressed by Male Standby, Colby Lewis, “Representation matters. Our show broke ceilings, showing complicated characters representing these characters.” At the end of the day, Boyd and Parker remark that this is still human history. As stated by Parker, “And because we’re all human, we can appreciate it and care about it.”

The entire show consisted of 12 acts from various Chicago Public School High Schools (traditional and charter). Schools represented communities from Logan Square, Englewood, West Ridge, Bronzeville, Pilsen, among others.

 The students expressed their ambition for pursuing the arts by regarding themselves as “lyrically inclined”. They noted that as they pursue their craft, they have something to prove. “Being successful is my main goal. Just to show everybody that anything is possible.” Boyd. “When Hidden Figures came out, my mom loved it because they were black women. And I want people to get the same reaction from me when they see me doing what I’m doing. ”Parker.

As the show progressed, the audience experienced some of the best that Englewood had to offer. Three young men from Urban Prep Academy for Young Men- Englewood, David Stanton (17), Devin Howard (17), and Aquas Lefridge (18) performed the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The three scholars are peer leaders that help lead the class. They came together and took some time to pick a topic and develop the skit. “Our teacher worked it [the historical content] into the curriculum.”

The gentlemen remarked that they made themselves “be apart be of the history”, stated by Mr. Stanton. “Just in Chicago, in general, as a relationship, the duel is like the violence that takes place in Chicago. It shows you the simple fact that someone could die over something like this. Except this is political reason, rather than an outside community reason. People try to compare this political violence to middle class, and other violence, [similar to what happens in Chicago], to poor people. And to me, it’s all violence.” declares Mr. Howard.


The young men exuded a high sense of self as young Black men, and believed they were more than what is taught about Blacks in America. “I wish African American history was not taught from the angle of slavery. You hear about the main players, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas. But there are plenty of people outside of those few names. There’s much more to our history.” Mr. Stanton.  “We’ll hear about the few kings that were in charge before slavery, but that’s about it”, professed by Mr. Howard.

 Although the young men attend Urban Prep-Englewood, they don’t live in the community. However, they spend a considerable amount of time in the neighborhood. “So many people want to talk down about Englewood. I come here when I have a problem over east. Things we hear in the news, it’s not always true. 62nd & Stewart, it’s not that bad over there.” Said Mr. Stanton.

 The Urban Prep scholars manage a lot of responsibilities, and still find time to dream and chart a path for their future. Mr. Stanton holds a job and plays sports, and expressed his goal of building his own political marketing firm. He’ll be attending Illinois Wesleyan. Mr. Howard holds two jobs to take care of his family, save money to pay for college, and will start out at a community college. He wants to be a pediatrician because of his love for kids. This experience was right down Mr. Lefridge, who wants to become a film director. He’ll be attending Fiske University in the fall. He doesn’t work, and spends a lot of his time watching movies, reading books, and “being a kid”. 

After their performances, the students were granted  a highly coveted ticket to see the Hamilton Musical matinee. The teens expressed their surprise of how exciting and rewarding this experience would be. When asked how they want to be seen, they said “patient, human, and accountable.”


Posted in Neighborhood News, Good In Englewood, Education, Youth Services, Arts and Culture

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