Dark River Singalong
The samples below are taken from the East Coast premiere of Mary D. Watkins's opera, Dark River - the Fannie Lou Hamer Story on April 4th, 2014 at Chapin Auditorium in Mount Holyoke College. Andrea Chinedu Nwoke sings the title role of Fannie Lou Hamer with the Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra under the direction of music director, Tianhui Ng.
The following excerpts are the scenes from the original opera that have been included in the singalong.
Click on any of the titles to hear a short sample of the music.
i. Freedom Now
1922 - Mississippi, a cotton field at the plantation where Fannie lived as a child Young Fannie expresses a desire to be treated equally to the whites - to attend school and have a nice house. Her mother, Lou Ella, warns her about being taken advantage of by white men, and teaches her to appreciate herself as a black woman. Moved by the effects of oppression on her daughter, Lou Ella and the other sharecroppers express their desire for freedom.
ii. Fannie Speaks
Summer, 1963 - A Voter-training workshop in Charleston, South Carolina
At a voter-training workshop in Charleston, South Carolina, Fannie urges a group of black men and women to get actively involved in the struggle for civil rights by joining the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP).
iii. Fannie is Beaten
Later that evening - A “Whites Only” rest stop in Winona, MS
While stopping at a “whites only” rest stop in Winona, Mississippi, on their way home from the meeting, Fannie and 10 others are arrested. Fannie is isolated from the others, brutally beaten, and thrown in jail. She would later be hospitalized because of the incident.
iv. Sick and Tired
1964 - Outside a church in Mississippi
As they prepare to head to the Democratic Presidential Convention in Atlantic City, to demand the Freedom Party’s legitimacy, Fannie and the delegates reflect on their past struggles and hope for change in the future.
v. Is This America?
1964 - A hearing room at the Democratic Presidential Convention
In a hearing room at the convention, Joseph Rauh calls witnesses – Aaron Henry, the president of the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP; Roy Wilkins from the national office of the NAACP; and finally Fannie to give testimony on the MFDP’s legitimacy. Fannie gives an exceptionally rousing speech, questioning America as “land of the free and home of the brave” if the freedom party should not be seated. The event draws national attention, but President Johnson interrupts the broadcast of her speech in order to avoid dividing the Democratic Party.
vi. Delegates Meet
1964 - another meeting place at the convention
Two members of the NAACP feel that Fannie & the MFDP are unqualified for the political arena and to avoid making matters worse, encourage them to accept the offer and allow the NAACP to fill the seats. Stubborn as always, Fannie reminds them that the offer was made to the Mississippi delegates, and they will not be pushed aside. Fannie gives an inspiring speech to the MFDP delegates, convincing them to refuse the offer and demand that the entire MFDP be seated as their own delegation at the convention.
vii. Fannie is Honored
Several years later, Fannie is honored for all the work she has done for civil rights. Fannie, inspiring as always, declares, “Today I am not working just for civil rights but for human rights for all people, for all humankind!”