Mzuri Moyo Aimbaye has won multiple awards for her one-woman play, “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story,” in which she sings, tells stories and reenacts events from Hamer’s life, including a nearly fatal beating by Mississippi police.

She received accolades from the late Congressman John Lewis, a Civil Rights Movement icon, and this past October, the U.S. Congress presented her with a certificate of special recognition and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson praised the play. But her performances are increasingly receiving pushback.

Aimbaye, a singer, actress and playwright, will discuss Hamer’s legacy at 7 p.m. on March 1 in Leonard Auditorium. She’ll also perform an excerpt of her play’s opening. The college’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is sponsoring the visit to begin celebrating Women’s History Month. The event is free and open to the public.

While her work has been lauded, there have been challenges and losses associated with her dedication. She’s performed the 90-minute play for 22 years, and it’s educated people, but there isn’t as much demand as she’d like. A Black History Month event in Florida was recently cancelled as well as another event this past year in the state. She’s lost her parents, family relationships and experienced a foreclosure. Her commitment to the performance remains strong. 

She can’t imagine not telling the story, which has won a Black Tony Award.

“Someone has to do it,” Aimbaye says. “Ms. Hamer had such a powerful effect on me that I couldn’t quit if I tried.” 

Hamer was an activist for voting and women’s rights and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was shot at, threatened, harassed and assaulted while registering to vote and seeking to exercise her rights in the early 1960s.

Hamer’s fight for the right to vote inspired Aimbaye not to take voting in any election lightly. Her performances are an initiative of the Voice of the Empowered (V.O.T.E.), which aims to educate people of the importance of fair representation through voting.   

Her performances are often described as emotional.

“It’s very painful because I reenact the beating that Fannie Lou Hamer took,” says Aimbaye of the 1963 incident at the county jail in Winona, Mississippi.

She takes her audiences on an emotional rollercoaster that’s emotionally demanding for her as a performer. Aimbaye started a ritual after five years of performing the play to minimize the trauma that she could experience through her work on stage.

“I say a prayer after and before the play,” Aimbaye says. “You have to protect your mind, and when you protect your mind you protect your body. It shields me from that energy that Fannie Lou Hamer experienced. Afterwards, I send that energy that could traumatize me back.”

Aimbaye lives in Seminole County, Florida. The state has enacted a law that limits discussions focused on racism and oppression in K-12 schools, resulting in her scheduled shows’ cancellation. After visiting Wofford, Aimbaye will make stops in North Carolina and Alabama. She remains steadfast despite potential policies that could lead to more cancellations.

“All things work together for good, when one follows a path of truth and righteous action,” Aimbaye says. “So, what may appear to be against me is in reality a set-up for God to show up for me. Just give it time.”

She nevertheless remains committed to keeping Hamer’s story alive.

“You have to know where you come from to know where you’re going,” Aimbaye says. “People like me aren’t giving up. We have the ancestors in us.”

Women’s History Month events at Wofford College:

March 1
Mzuri Aimbaye, “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story.”
7 p.m., Leonard Auditorium.

  • For the past 25 years, internationally acclaimed singer, actress and playwright Mzuri Aimbaye has performed a one-woman play about the mother of African-American voting rights and civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. Aimbaye will tell the story of her production and introduce the audience to Hamer’s legacy, incorporating portions of her show into her talk. This event is open to the Spartanburg community.

March 2
Dr. Belle S. Tuten, “Finding the Invisible People in History: Text and Bones.”
6 p.m., Olin 101

  • Belle S. Tuten, Charles A. Dana Professor of History and chair of the Department of History and Art History at Juniata College, will explore how historians can rediscover the lives of average, everyday people in the distant past, particularly invisible populations like women, children and enslaved people. This talk will show how history, archaeology and osteology can help us begin to perceive these people and appreciate their lives.

March 14
Dr. Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, “Title IX: The Transformation of Sex Discrimination in Education.”
6 p.m., Olin 101

  • Elizabeth Kaufer Busch, Laura and Pete Walker Professor of American Studies, director of American Studies and co-director of the Center for American Studies, will explore the non-legislative processes by which the Title IX statute has been transformed since 1972. Busch considers the impact of Title IX on athletics, educational policy, sexual assault, sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.

March 15
Dr. Christine Stroble ’93, “Inspiring Students to Overcome Life Challenges and Lead a Purposeful Life.”
6 p.m., Leonard Auditorium

  • Wofford alum Christine Stroble, founder of Teen Moms Anonymous, a community-based support group program for teen moms who are trauma survivors, will offer a community forum on her new book, “Helping Teen Moms Graduate: Strategies for Families, Schools and Community Organizations.” Stroble’s book is described as both an intervention tool for pregnant and parenting students as well as a prevention tool for teen girls who are not pregnant. Spartanburg-area educators and students will be invited.

March 20,
Dr. Dara Horn, “People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present.”
7:30 p.m., Leonard Auditorium

  • Dara Horn will discuss her award-winning book, “People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present.” Horn challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, as emblematic of the worst evils the world has to offer, and so little respect for Jewish lives, as they continue to unfold in the present. Co-sponsored by the Office of the President and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

March 22
Chitra Ganesh, “Artist Talk with Chitra Ganesh.”
6 p.m., via Zoom

  • Chitra Ganesh has developed an expansive body of work rooted in drawing and painting, which has evolved to encompass animations, wall drawings, collages, computer generated imagery, video and sculpture. Through studies in literature, semiotics, social theory, science fiction and historical and mythic texts, Ganesh attempts to reconcile representations of femininity, sexuality and power absent from the artistic and literary canons. Ganesh’s work has been widely exhibited in the United States and internationally. Ganesh is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Printed Matter, the Art Matters Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the Creative Arts, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Painters and Sculptors, and the Hodder Fellowship from the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the Pollock Krasner Foundation. Sponsored by the Department of Art and Art History with support from the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.