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November 11, 2021 by thewashingteenian

by Lidwina Eyombo-Bella

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Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is my dream role to play in a show. During the musical, she serves as an advocate for her people who are being purged out of Paris and forced to be kept in hiding. She refuses to succumb to the will of Frollo, even when threatened with death.

It was Esmeralda’s bravery that drew me to her character. I silently endured a year-long punishment in 7th grade because I refused to cut my hair, deemed “too big and too loud” by the teacher. Without a word, I accepted a punishment where I had to sit on a stool in the back of the room, sacrifice all my solos and clean the chalkboard daily all year. I felt I had to show courage to my classmates that my teacher did not have the right to dictate black hair.

Like Esmeralda, my message took time to develop, but soon I was the Youth Keynote speaker for the Sankofa Youth Education Exchange Cultural Leadership Immersion Pilot Project (SYEECLI) and created RESPECT: Liddy’s Lady and the Gentleman Youth Dinner Theatre, both to give young African-American artists the chance to perform and interact.

To me the role of Esmeralda is more than just a Parisian street dancer with big dreams. She is the manifestation of what I hope I will grow up to be. She has an endless love for her people, a passion for the arts, and the courage to sacrifice for long-term justice.

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