Listening to the Universe

By Lea Gilmore

I never planned for it to be this way.  I was a little round black girl from Baltimore who had dreams and hopes that flew way beyond the stars.  For me, that is all they were, dreams and hopes.  As an only child, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom with my records (yes, LPs and 45s!), singing the entire soundtracks to A Chorus Line, Cabaret, The Wiz and Jesus Christ Superstar in my room, never thinking that singing professionally was something I could actually do, because I didn’t see any little round black girls on album covers or on TV.

My mom took me to see “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” an all-African American musical that starred none other than the amazing Nell Carter.  OH….there I was!  Seeing that show at the Morris A Mechanic Theatre at eight years old changed my life!  I needed to see what I could be.   In my 20s, I performed in 45 musicals and plays, because I had seen what I could be!  In me, I hope other young women saw that they could redefine the boundaries, or at least try like heck to do so.    I was ‘telling him I wasn’t going’ in “Dreamgirls,” I was the voice of the plant, Audrey II, in Little Shop of Horrors (we call it the lesbian version), and in another production of Little Shop of Horrors, I switched it up and I was a member of the Greek chorus (aka ‘The Supremes’), singing about a man eating plant, and on and on.

Today, I have traveled all over the world, singing and lecturing about social justice, peace and nonviolence, but I am still that eight year-old little girl who felt empowered because she saw someone like herself doing what she wanted to do more than anything in the world.  Oh sure, I was a policy analyst, directed a few organizations, talked economics… but I wanted to sing!  I wanted to act!  I wanted to be a damn spectacle sometimes!  And when I didn’t, I felt little pieces of my soul die.  So, since I am kinda fond of my soul, I do what the universe has called me to do.  As should you.

Will you be that person that small child looks at and says, “Yes, I see me!”?

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