Pamela D. Marshall-Koons

“I question America. Is it really the land of the free and the homeland of the brave?”

It’s the voice of Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi tenant farmer and civil rights activist.

Hamer was imprisoned and two black prisoners were forced to beat her with blackjack

because she stood up and demanded that she be given her constitutional right to vote.

In a one woman show, I will awaken the powerful voice that the history books did not see fit to include. Hamer’s story is central to America’s struggle to be a democracy for some of its citizens while failing to demonstrate that all men are created equal.

The late civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer will be the subject of a solo play starring Pamela D. Marshall-Koons which will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center in Gainesville.

I was three years old when Hamer gave his iconic “We’re on our way” speech at a mass meeting in Indianola, Mississippi. She spared no effort in her critique of white oppressive class hypocrisy, while unabashedly condemning the lack of leadership of black preachers. Her voice of truth has inspired thousands of black women and men in Mississippi and the segregated South to stand up for their rights and demand to be treated as human beings.

Living with my parents in a small rural community in West Tennessee, our family worked in the cotton fields and we were only a row away from being sharecroppers as well. My mother cleaned for white people for 50 cents a day. My heart breaks thinking of how white men would talk to my dad like he was a boy in front of his wife and kids. Then Dad would get back in our ragged car, clear his throat, and say, “White people run everything.” You all need to be educated to be able to make your own decisions. »

As I rehearse for this show on Fannie Lou Hamer, I think of my parents trying to survive in an economic and political structure of inequality and the intimidation of Jim Crow domestic terrorism.

My maternal grandmother lived in Mississippi. When we visited Big Mama, I didn’t understand my mother’s fear and discomfort just in the state of Mississippi. I couldn’t understand why she was letting out a big sigh of relief and saying, “Thank you, Jesus,” as my dad walked past the “Welcome to Tennessee” sign.

I remember hearing my parents talk about Hamer, but I was too young to fully understand his contributions and importance. His name has been systematically and intentionally omitted from the pages of American history. Hamer questioned America in 1964 and as we examine the fate of many black communities in 2022, America has yet to respond.

My one woman Fannie Lou Hamer Show will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday online on the A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Arts Center Facebook page and in person at the museum, 1017 NW Seventh Ave.

Pamela D. Marshall-Koons, of Gainesville, is an author, talk show host, actress and executive director of The WELLnesss Network.

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