The legends of the American dream are known beyond borders and cultures. The term means something different for everyone. To some, it’s the dream lifestyle, the final level of success. To others, it might just be the Ben & Jerry’s flavor at Walmart. Whatever it might be, the term has become stronger than the dream itself.
I moved to DC with a goal, some hope, and for adventure. Nothing very “dream-like”. But like many others, I have the American dream too. The dream is to echo the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr. I found the reminder on my recent visit to the Lincoln Memorial. I stood over the tile with the famous words engraved on it: “I have a dream…” and the words started echoing in my head…
“I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream
that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”
The Diversity Index from Esri represents the likelihood that two persons, chosen at random from the same area, belong to different races or ethnic groups. Ethnic diversity, as well as racial diversity, is included in Esri’s definition of the Diversity Index. The Diversity Index based on 2022 updates stands at 71.6, and it is expected to rise to 72.9 in 2027. A Diversity Index of 72.9 translates to a probability of 72.9 percent that two people randomly chosen from the U.S. population would belong to different race or ethnic groups. Which is pretty good in terms of numbers if you think about it. But of course, there’s room for improvement.
What gives me hope are the people. Humans have this innate need to find connections beyond what typically defines them. I may not have been here long, but I already found hope in one of the most unexpected experiences I had recently. In celebration of Diwali, on a free evening, my housemate asked if I wanted to join her for a concert at the Kennedy Center. We found our way there and sat down for the performance to start.
“Tell me when you start losing interest, we can leave whenever” she said while explaining the music form to me. The brilliant artists; Aditya Prakash (lead singer), Erika Dohi (piano) and Kamalakiran Vinjamuri (violin) took the stage and started playing beautiful songs in the classical traditions of Karnatik. I didn’t quite understand the form or the words (in South Indian dialect) but there was something soothing and extremely calm about this.
Talking about his inspirations during COVID times, the artist started talking about practicing continuous notes without taking a breath for a set time, just like swimming. And when he started with 20 seconds, 30 seconds taking on to 1 minute, the task changed for him after May 2020.
“The reason I started setting it to 7:46 which is an absurdly long time,
is because it wasn’t a task for me anymore, it was an offering,
a tribute (to George Floyd)”
I think it is important to mention that originally, after the traumatic murder of George Floyd on camera in one of the most developed countries in the world, I couldn’t bring myself to engage with any related content on social media. I was horrified by what had happened and by the fact that it wasn’t the first time it had happened, nor will it be the last time. I never watched the original footage. But while the artists started talking about it, I felt something shift in me. He asked someone from the audience to time him as he improvised (in Karnatik) for 7 minutes 46 seconds.
The performance started and with every single note, and every single minute passing, I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I found myself sitting on the edge of the seat, tears flowing down my cheeks, almost scared whether he’ll be able to keep up for 7:46. I felt a connection to George Floyd that I hadn’t before, something about what he must’ve felt undergoing that trauma. And that changed everything in me about the American dream. Sitting in an arts center named after one of the most important political figures of the country, listening to a performance by artists from a different country, who speak languages I don’t understand, performing an artform completely new to me that I couldn’t understand to pay tribute to a black man who none of us (present at that performance) personally knew in celebration of Diwali. That’s what the American dream is about; coexisting in spaces where you honor everyone’s existence beyond culture, religion, race, or border. Having that experience not only moved me but also gave me hope that the dream is still alive. The national may still be finding its way but it’s on the right track. And like Martin Luther King Jr, I dream of a day when
“…every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low,
the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be
made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together”
Watch the full performance here: https://youtu.be/nZ17LfxM63E