BROWN: Lin-Manuel Miranda spotlights Puerto Rican relief efforts

SHARE BROWN: Lin-Manuel Miranda spotlights Puerto Rican relief efforts

Lin-Manuel Miranda, photographed in Chicago recently at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, where he and others gathered to spotlight relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was completely “transparent,” a word he likes to use, about what brought him to Humboldt Park on Wednesday.

“I wanted to get Puerto Rico in the news, and haha, I got you. Here you are,” Miranda said, gesturing at a large assemblage of television cameras.

Miranda’s mission was more specific than that. He was using his celebrity status to draw attention to ongoing relief efforts in support of the hurricane-ravaged island.

But he was correct: his presence had the desired effect of chumming the waters for the media sharks.

Well, I’ve got news for Miranda. I also was looking for a way to keep the Puerto Rico story alive after my recent visit to view the damage there, and if that requires a rare swim into the world of celebrity news to get everyone’s attention, I’m okay with that, too.

Lin-Manuel Miranda was at The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture Wednesday to spotlight relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.| James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Lin-Manuel Miranda was at The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture Wednesday to spotlight relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.| James Foster/For the Sun-Times

“We’re far from done here,” Miranda said of Puerto’s Rico recovery, noting that his own family members are among the 75 percent of the island’s population still without electricity and the 25 percent without running water.

“I’d much rather be telling you about some new musical I’m working on, but this is sort of the new full-time gig for now,” added Miranda, who also was promoting sales of the new charity single, “Almost Like Praying.”

Miranda wrote and recorded the song with other top Puerto Rican musical stars. Proceeds go to the Hispanic Federation UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund.

Miranda praised the Hispanic Federation’s fundraising practices as very “transparent,” based on a previous charity project he did with Jennifer Lopez after the Orlando nightclub massacre.

The room where it happened Wednesday was inside The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture on Division Street. Former 26th Ward alderman Billy Ocasio is now the museum’s executive director.

Those who are familiar with Chicago’s Puerto Rican politics know that it can be extremely fractious with constantly shifting alliances.

But everyone assures me our local Puerto Rican officials have all been pulling in the same direction to do what they can to get help to the hurricane victims.

Among those attending the press conference were members of a doctor-nurse team from Norwegian American Hospital in Humboldt Park who will be arriving in Puerto Rico on Nov. 8 on a medical mission. They said they have already sent medicines and other supplies in advance of their visit.

In addition, the Chicago-based Puerto Rican Agenda is planning to fly another shipment of supplies to the island in the coming days. The group previously raised funds to purchase supplies distributed by Congressman Luis Gutierrez on his last trip to Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rican Agenda is seeking volunteers on Saturday to help pack and wrap donated items that have been stored at a warehouse. Those interested should check the group’s Facebook page or website for details.

Ocasio said members of Chicago’s New Life Covenant Church have visited 71 of Puerto Rico’s 78 towns to lend assistance.

Bobbi-Toads, an Elk Grove Village company that makes children’s shoes, donated 1,000 pairs.

There are so many efforts I can’t keep track of everyone. I salute you all.

Miranda stressed he has no interest in politics, even though the primary purpose of his Chicago visit was an afternoon date with former President Barack Obama to participate in the Obama Foundation’s first summit.

Miranda said he thinks there’s been something positive to emerge from Hurricane Maria. He’s seen it in the outpouring of support from across the U.S., from corporate matching donations to a child’s lemonade stand, by those with family on the island and those with no direct connection at all.

“That’s been the silver lining in all this, the reminder that we are your fellow citizens. And that Americans are incredibly generous and considerate,” he said.

Not all Americans perhaps, but enough to make up for the rest.

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