"Raise a glass to freedom..."
So I know most of you have been anxiously awaiting Hamilton to hit Disney+, right? If you haven't seen it in theaters, believe me when I say it is worth paying for a month of Disney+ to have the experience of enjoying (and learning from) this incredible artistic accomplishment. I have been lucky to catch the traveling company perform it in Charlotte, and seeing it again on TV with the original Broadway cast was such a wonderful treat.
There's something that this show does to you. Maybe it's the "not throwing away my shot" energy from the first act, maybe it's the diverse cast of phenomenal performers, maybe it's the ending giving the vibe of- if we have enough time we can change the world. But each time after the show ends I feel fired up and ready for a revolution.
I filmed a brief video to share with you all, to give an update and some sneak peeks about my project. But to be honest with you, it didn't feel like enough, and then after watching Hamilton on Disney+ earlier, I realized that it truly isn't enough. And so I hope you'll allow me to share some thoughts with you today, July 4, America's "birthday".
This has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up we'd gather to celebrate my Granny's birthday, and I loved being with her and my aunts and uncles and cousins in Georgia. I also love summer, and I love cookouts, and pool parties, and I especially LOVE fireworks. On top of that I truly love my country. There's a lot of ways I expected this Independence Day to be bigger and better than usual. I was anticipating that I'd be finished with my travels, in the editing phase of my documentary, and full of pride for all the places in all 50 of our beautiful states that I was able to explore and fall in love with.
With all of my previous posts, I know that I've talked about how "the world turned upside down" (sorry Lin, I stole your line) and I won't harp on that here. We've all lived through a wild 2020 so far- and hey, we're halfway through! But beyond COVID, bearing witness to the protests against police brutality and racial inequity has made it hard for me to get excited about the (socially-distanced) festivities this year.
Emma Lazarus, whom you may know as the author of the famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty, said: "Until we are all free, we are none of us free." (Grammar has changed a bit over the years, y'all, leave it alone.) This year, we have been reminded as a country that even within the United States, after 244 years of being our own nation, not all of us are truly free. I'd be remiss here if I didn't recognize that our nation was founded not only on the backs of slavery but also the displacement and killing of countless Native Americans. This day doesn't mean independence for everyone, and whether you are an advocate for racial equity or not, those are just facts.
I expect I'm rubbing some of you the wrong way with my remarks on here or on social media. When I set out to film this project, I was practically silent about my personal beliefs online because I wanted to be sure that every single person in this country, regardless of who they were or what they believed, felt comfortable talking to me. Yes, literally everyone. I knew there'd be plenty of folks I wholeheartedly disagreed with or disliked. That's just how the world works. But that doesn't mean I felt like any person in this whole country didn't deserve to have their voice heard. And I still fully believe that. It's still very important to me.
The reason I have chosen to be more vocal lately is because I have found that in following my own path with my own beliefs and my own ethical compass, I knew I couldn't stay silent about certain things, namely essential human rights for ALL people. As the Declaration of Independence of our United States of America says: "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." It doesn't feel good when you hear an enormous portion of our population saying "my rights are not the same as yours". And as much as I believe everyone has a right to voice their feelings and opinions, I felt it was important to remember I have that right as well.
I initially put my project on the back burner so that I could wait for COVID to simmer down and I could hit the road again. As months have ticked by, I have found that financially it's not really an option for me to continue on with the project the way I'd hoped. Then when the protests really amped up, I decided to take the project off the stove just in general, to focus on what I felt was more important for me to lend my voice to at the moment, and if I'm being honest, to wait and see how it all played out before I tried to put any of it on film. We're in the midst of a revolution, just like in Hamilton, and I want to be a part of that.
That being said, I've decided to make some changes (I know, yes, AGAIN...) and I wanted to keep you all abreast of what's going on. Please continue to bear with me because I know that this project has been one continuous evolution from day one and this update is no different. That's the magic of doing something like this, it can and WILL grow and change over and over as the world reveals itself.
Going forward, I have decided to take the "deadline" of the end of 2020 off of the project. It will be more of an ongoing thing, with no limit on how long it may go. That also means that more than likely it will be more of a web-series type project as compared to a one-off documentary. It also means I'll eventually have to change the name of the project but for now it will remain until I can decide how to proceed. Naturally, the project will remain on hold until it is safe to travel again, and with COVID worsening every day, it's unlikely that will happen any time soon. The focus will stay the same because more than ever, I believe there are stories to be told and the American Dream is something I still believe exists and will help unite us in moving forward with strength and passion toward a prosperous future for all of us.
I know there are going to be some remaining questions and concerns, a few of which I'd like to address here:
-If you have donated to this project via Indiegogo or Patreon and you would like more information about the use of your funds or if you feel you'd like a refund due to the changes of the project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-If you have participated in the project by interviewing with me, please complete your release form (I can send you a new copy if you need it) so that I can use the footage from your interview to develop some trailers and early episodes. If you have any questions or concerns about me using your videos, please let me know. I'm an open book.
-If you expressed interest in being interviewed, please email me at email@example.com with your name, city/state, and email address so that I can stay in touch when I'm able to begin traveling again.
Lastly, I want to give all of you my most sincere appreciation for hanging on with me through this wild ride. This time last year I was launching my fundraising campaign and beginning the social media accounts and website, trying to get this thing off the ground. I am amazed at how much it has grown and how many of you are as invested in this as I am. I believe deeply in this project, it is my own American Dream, and I truly couldn't follow that dream without you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Now get off the internet, get outside, and enjoy the beautiful weather this summer. PLEASE wear a mask so this pandemic can be a thing of the past SOON. And go change the world with your kindness. I believe. <3