The multi-award-winning actress, singer and playwright Mzuri Moyo Aimbaye performed at the Ford Center Wednesday night, welcoming everyone who could attend to her one woman show, “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story.”
With her soulful voice and incredible acting, Mzuri Myo Aimaye delivered a stunning and powerful performance highlighting racism and disparities inflicted on African Americans in Mississippi during The Civil Rights Movement. Aimbaye played Fannie Lou Hamer, a social activist living in the Mississippi Delta during the height of the movement. She was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi and was the granddaughter of slaves.
She is best known for her line “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
At 44 years of age, Hamer was presented the opportunity to challenge these systems inflicted on her community. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee at the time was seeking to register voters. Not knowing she had the right to vote, Hamer was the first to volunteer. At the time, this was extremely dangerous for African Americans. Hamer would later become the co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as a field secretary, traveling around the country registering people to vote.
The two-hour performance gave a brutal but necessary reality of Hamer’s battle, fighting for African American men and women’s right to vote in the ‘50s and ‘60s, showcasing the brutal beating of African Americans — including herself — during that time.
It was a performance that beautifully pulled in the audience with dialogue, imagery and singing through the stories she told, such as Hamer’s grandmother expressing her experience of being a slave and free labor, being beaten in jail and overcoming the obstacles placed in front of her.
The show places importance on voting rights and the privilege it is for some to hold that right. In the performance, slideshows are shown emphasizing the disparities still existing within current times that keep primarily African American and second-class citizens from being able to cast votes.
The performance became more intense with song selections from spirituals from the ’60s, followed by “This Little Light of Mine” and “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday.
The performance contained images displaying the bodies of young and old African Americans hanging from poles and trees for utilizing their freedom, pulling the crowd’s eyes in synchronization.
From her moment of silence captivating the room to her screams as she embodied not only Fannie Lou Hamer, but also acknowledging the many women who came to orchestrate such progress. The performance ended in a “Say Her Name” piece displaying iconic women leaders during the Civil Rights Movement, from women who were murdered for their liberty and some alive whose stories still live on today.