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Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

The title of this blog post comes from one of my favorite musicals of all time: Hamilton. Just recently, Marilyn and I went to London and watched the play about America’s forgotten founding father. We watched Hamilton on the last day of our trip, which was actually a good bookend for the first activity we did: a feminist walking tour of London (very Who Run the World, I know). How are those two things bookends? Read on, and you’ll find out exactly why.

If you look up the definition of “History” this is what you’ll find: the whole series of past events connected with a particular person or thing. When it comes to the history of humankind, of the world, of a particularly country, only a select number of past events and people are the ones whose narratives are shared. There are so many people and events that fall through the cracks.

We started off the walking tour at Parliament Square, which is framed by a number of statues. All the dudes were there: Gandhi, Churchill and a few more guys with top hats. However, there was only one woman: Millicent Garrett Fawcett, union leader of the suffragist movement. Our guide quickly told us that Millicent’s statue was one of the very few female statues in and around the UK. In fact, 2.7% of statues in the UK are of women, and it’s no better in other countries. In the US, only 8% of public statues are of women. I don’t even know if a statistic exists for Lebanon, or any other country in the Middle East.

Statues represent the stories nations choose to tell their civilians and visitors. It goes without saying that women are a part of a nation’s narrative, but for some reason their stories are not the ones being told.

Fast forward to the last day of our trip in London and to Hamilton. A little background on the musical: Lin Manuel Miranda read the extensive biography written by Rob Chernow of Alexander Hamilton, often dubbed the forgotten founder. Before the musical, Hamilton’s story was not really shared. He had fallen through the cracks. Today, thanks to Miranda’s popular musical, most people could talk to you about Hamilton’s story from cradle to grave. The play itself is filled with messages about the stories we choose to tell, and the ones we choose to forget. The reason why Thomas Jefferson is remembered is because history has chosen to remember him. Roads are named after him. He has a huge memorial right in the middle of DC. Hamilton was not so lucky. Until now.

Walking out of the musical, and while we looked for an open restaurant at 11 PM in London, I could not help think of all the women we learned on the tour who were forgotten, and the ones from my own country whose name I don’t even know and without whom I wouldn’t be able to live the life I am living today.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story - no words have rung more true. Sharing stories is so important. Hamilton’s story is that of an immigrant who worked hard and achieved great things. That is inspiring for anyone who has had to leave their country in search for a better life. We need to hear more stories of women past and present. Not only do we owe them that service, but these stories will pave the road for little girls to dare to dream and achieve great things.

I leave you with words from another great piece of pop culture Game of Thrones, and from a character I love Tyrion Lanister: “What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories! There is nothing in the world more powerful than a great story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.” As we share the great stories of the people that built countries, it is time we include those we left out, starting with women like Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

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