Civil Rights play makes its way to the Union

The audience quiets down as the lights dim in the Student Union theater. The speakers crackle as the old, grainy, black and white images of Fannie Lou Hamer bring the screen to life.

She sings “This Little Light of Mine” as images of Hamer’s family and plantation workers tending cotton fields splash across the screen.

As the lights come back on, a woman wearing a blue and purple dress rises from her seat and begins to sing “Glory Glory Hallelujah.” Slowly she begins to walk to the front of the theater, grasping the hands of those she passes on her way down.

When she arrives at the front of the theater she says, “My name is Fannie Lou Hamer. I was born in the delta. I laid out my heart in cotton fields where my skin blistered and cooked because the sun knew no mercy.”

mZuri plays Hamer in this one-woman show, titled “A Rugged Road to Freedom: I’m Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired.” Hamer, a civil rights activists in the 1960s, led the fight for the right to vote for African-Americans, a fight which would take her to Atlanta in 1964 to address the Democratic National Convention.

mZuri is following her dream of being an actress as she sits in her chair reenacting the beating that Hamer suffered on her way to Atlanta.

“We are going to make you wish you were dead,” the police told Hamer back then.

“And they beat me, and they beat me. I asked God to take my life! Take my life lord! Take my life,” screamed mZuri, looking to the ceiling, grasping at the air.

The play which involves a documentary about the 2000 presidential elections, and a short clip from actor Danny Glover, is meant to inspire college students to register to vote. Members of the College Democrats, Lauren Dworsky and Mark Ingles, were outside the theater last night, ready to help any one who wanted to register to vote. By the end of the night, five people had registered while six more had filled out absentee ballots.

While some people were influenced to vote, others were simply touched by the disturbing images of the lynchings.

“It’s hard to put it into words. I thought it was informative, something I wish more people came out to,” says senior Alfreda Scott. But the images of the contorted, lifeless bodies spilling across the screen while mZuri sang “Bleeding Tree” was the most memorable and disturbing part of the play for Scott as well as other members of the audience.

Lynchings were by no means the only aspect of racism in the south that mZuri touched on. She also discussed ethnic mixing asking, “How come the white man said he didn’t like race mixing yet there are so many light-skinned African Americans? A whole lot of late-night immigration was going on, Mr. Strom Thurmond! God made only one race and that is the human race!”

mZuri also talked about current hot topic issues, urging students to voice their opinions on abortion or to educate themselves about poverty or AIDS saying, “Today it’s just women of color with AIDS but tomorrow it’s you.”

Sheila Brown, associate director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said the play was a result of three months of work to get mZuri to come to the University. The play is part of a series of monthly speakers that will be taking place at the University. Future speakers include Robert Bluffington on Oct. 12 and Vince Davis on Nov. 2.

After last night’s play, mZuri urged her audience to follow their hearts and do what they wish with their lives.

“I was going to be a nurse, but that was some one else’s dream,” mZuri said. “I count my blessings. To do what you love to do and be an educator is very awesome.”