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Mar 262014
 
Philip Lima, left, as Perry "Pap" Hamer and Andrea Chinedu Nwoke as Fannie Lou Hamer rehearsing for the upcoming production of  the opera Dark River, The Fannie Lou Hamer Story Photo:Michael S. Gordon/The Republican

Philip Lima, left, as Perry “Pap” Hamer and Andrea Chinedu Nwoke as Fannie Lou Hamer rehearsing for the upcoming production of “Dark River, The Fannie Lou Hamer Story.” Photo: Michael S. Gordon/The Republican

By Debra Cash

The daughter of sharecroppers, Fannie Lou Hamer was a leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, enduring death threats, violence and imprisonment in her fight for African American voting rights. In her 1964 testimony to the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention, she challenged the seating of the all-white Mississippi delegation saying:

Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?

Hamer’s life and the political struggle that gave us the Voting Rights Act — a commitment that continues to be challenged — is the basis of Mary Watkins’ two-act opera, Dark River, The Fannie Lou Hamer Story. The work has its East Coast premiere at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, April 4-5.

Listen to Watkins’ setting of that speech here

The cast includes soprano Andrea Chinedu Nwoke as Fannie Lou Hamer and baritone Philip Lima as Pap Hamer with the 60-piece Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ng Tian Hui.

Original cast video trailer.


Debra Cash has reported, taught and lectured on dance, performing arts, design and cultural policy for print, broadcast and internet media. She regularly presents pre-concert talks, writes program notes and moderates events sponsored by World Music/CRASHarts and cultural venues throughout New England. A former Boston Globe and WBUR dance critic, she is a two-time winner of the Creative Arts Award for poetry from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and will return to the 2014 Bates Dance Festival as Scholar in Residence.

c 2014 Debra Cash

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