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Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Urgency of Now: The world premiere of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America

The world premiere of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America will be released on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, on PBS and on February 24, 2022, on the WORLD Channel America ReFramed series. 

The film explores and celebrates the lesser-known life of a Mississippi human-rights-activist and one of the Civil Rights Movement’s greatest leaders. It follows Hamer’s life from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the halls of Congress. It airs at a time when Black women are being acknowledged for their work at the forefront of the fight for voting rights amidst unprecedented voter suppression efforts targeting citizens of color. The film is an offering to a new generation of audiences called upon to take up the mantle of preserving American democracy.

Acclaimed actress Aunjanue Ellis (Sunflower: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story, King Richard) joined Hamer’s great-niece, Monica Land (Co-producer of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America), in a virtual panel discussion with Joy Davenport (Director of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America), and author Dr. Keisha N. Blain (Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America) ahead of the film’s world premiere.  America Reframed Executive Producer Erika Dilday moderated the discussion on Tuesday, February 15, 2022.   

The virtual panel discussed Hamer’s legacy of civil rights and human rights activism and its relevance to today’s challenges and lessons for black youth. The panelists also acknowledged the misogyny in the civil rights movement and discussed the critical importance of centering the voices of black female leaders.  

Panelist and author Dr. Blaine spoke explicitly about the progress made under Hamer’s leadership and the recent efforts to suppress voting access across the nation. Last year more than 400 bills were introduced to suppress voting rights, she cited.  She said, “We are at a moment where we are watching all of the legal and political gains of the 60s slowly roll back, and now we have to fight. Fannie Lou Hamer’s story and her voice give us a blueprint to ensure that we continue to build an inclusive democracy.”

Actress Aunjanue Ellis saw the documentary as an act of resistance and spoke to the marginalization of women’s voices and the importance of educating young people about the Fannie Lou Hamers of our time. 

“What excites me about this documentary is that we have this new opportunity for students and young people to know Mrs. Hamer and other women like Ella Baker, Annie Devine, and Virginia Gray Adams,” Ellis said. “These were women who put their bodies as a target for the venom and the bullets. Imagine getting shot at sixteen times because you wanted to vote.” 

She goes on to summon the viewers to educate the youth. 

  “If you have some young people in your life, then tell them about Mrs. Hamer’s genius and her reach and how it affects their lives. Tell your young kids about watching this documentary next Tuesday.”

  Monica Land, Fannie Lou Hamer’s great-niece, shared that the documentary has been 15 years in the making. As she closed out the panel discussion, she underscored that she wanted her aunt to be recognized and remembered.

  “It is hurtful to know that she made such tremendous strides for black people, and most young people don’t know who she is. The film is an effort to preserve her memory and to remind them that we have these freedoms because of people like Fannie Lou Hamer and others,” Land said. “To the young people, listen to your history and learn from it.”

  Fannie Lou Hamer’s America: An America ReFramed Special broadcasts on PBS on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET and on WORLD Channel on Thursday, February 24, 2022, at 8 p.m. ET during Black History Month. 

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