About The Film
When night riders and lynching terrorized black people and black-face minstrels ridiculed them across the land, Anna & Emma Hyers, popular late 19th century, African-American touring-opera artists, left opera to stand up for the dignity of their people as “voices for freedom,” changing minds and hearts with works that revolutionized American Music Theater. Yet their story has been unsung.
In her series of 3 short films, which award-winning producer-director Susheel Bibbs has called Voices for Freedom, the first film is on PBS; the next has toured internationally and won 9 awards, and this one, called The Hyers Sisters’ Dream & Legacy-- incorporates and surpasses them all. Winner of the American Filmatic Arts Award, the top short-documentary award in Hollywood's Olympus Film Festival, and international festival screenings in its first year, this film continues to garner laurels.
The Hyers Sisters were the first African-American women to become successful, national touring-opera artists. But in 1876 they left opera and stood up to oppose the touring minstrels’ negative imaging of their people, and for the next 20 years they popularized lovable, musical stories that featured black leading players and integrated casting for the first time. These influenced all music theater that followed, depicted black dignity and life from slavery to freedom, and became known as The First American Musicals!
Metropolitan Opera superstar Denyce Graves hosts; PBS host Akiba Howard narrates, and acclaimed rapper WolfHawkJaguar serves as a poet for our lives today. Starring Shawnette Sulker as Anna Hyers, Hope Briggs as Emma Hyers, Susheel Bibbs as famed historian-reporter Delilah Beasley, Tichina Vaughn as Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield & A Seer, Robert Sims as the Preacher & Ole Uncle Eph, and Omari Tau in cameos as John Luca, Sam, and Prince. Esteemed commentators are Rick Moss, Ph.D, Susan Anderson, Thomas Riis Ph.D, Halifu Osumare Ph.D, and the starring artists.