The star-studded voting rights music video, “I Have a Right To Vote” features “Hamilton” original cast member Christopher Jackson, tennis great Billie Jean King, entertainer Billy Porter, chef Carla Hall, Hill Harper, Ebony Jo-Ann, Ryan Jamaal Swain (from F/X Network’s POSE) and others reciting the words of voting rights icons including John Lewis, Frederick Douglass and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during a rousing anthem of voter empowerment.
The video is produced by Nolan Williams Jr and Dale A Mott – two of only a small handful of African American national musical theater producers.Williams is an award-winning composer, director and producer. Mott is founder of Edgewood, which recently co-produced Broadway’s “Lifespan of a Fact,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale.
The original anthem – written by Nolan – is from their multimedia stage show “Stirring the Waters Across America,” which was forced to abruptly suspend all performances days after its launch due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They could have just put the show on ice. But there was just too much at stake. Filmed in more than 18 locations across the US, the nonpartisan video highlights momentous events in US history around voter rights.
Filmed on the steps of the Art Museum, one of the participants is Marsha Smith, a Ukranian immigrant who will be voting this November. She grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine, where voting was not allowed and finding stores and buildings bombed out was common. She has taken recent unrest in Philadelphia in stride because she sees it as temporary and far better than in her homeland. She is delighted to be in a place where she is able to vote, to wear a BLM shirt, and to raise children in a way that allows for their prosperity and healthy life.
This effort also highlights the scarcity and necessity of Black leadership and influence in American theater, and the role the arts play in education and healing at time of social and racial reckoning. Williams has dedicated his life to social justice content – he’s run the MLK Day tributes at the Kennedy Center for more than 15 years, performing for three living presidents among others. Will the social and racial reckoning now in the US open more doors for these stories on Broadway?
The next big production to come from Nolan and Dale is “Grace,” a musical production set in Philadelphia: https://gracethemusical.com/