A SONEDNA WRITING FELLOW REMEMBERS THE LIFE AND SPIRIT OF E’DENA HINES,
A founding board member WHO PASSED AWAY AUGUST 16, 2015.
E’dena Hines was one of the most talented and versatile theatre artists and writers I have ever known. I count E’dena among my spiritual creative children, a young woman of brilliance and promise making her mark on the world, on this century. I have no words, except to share some of the joy she brought in knowing her.
E’dena was an exceptional writer. I had the privilege of seeing her blossom in this field. Along with the mother who raised her, Myrna Colley-Lee, she was a founding board member of the organization. As one of the youngest members of the board, she held our feet to the fire to ensure the literary needs and interests of young people were a central focus of the organization. She so believed in the organic potential of the Mississippi Delta that she spearheaded many of our youth programs with abundant zest and zeal.
In partnership with the Mississippi Museum of Art, she co-hosted a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance with renowned poet Quraysh Ali Lansana. With recitations of great writers of that era, they reprised a dramatic reading of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s A Negro Love Song before a rapt audience of teens at Charleston High School in Mississippi. “Jump back, honey! Jump back!”
The past two summers, she joined teaching artist Miranda Pampley Kincaid in developing our first intensive youth writing workshop "Snaps, Claps and Raps." With Miranda's expert lesson plans, E’dena brought her performance brilliance encouraging our young poets to "own their words" and share them in public performances.
E'dena was fearless. She delved into Voices, a SonEdna program for new work with peer review sessions. E’dena read passages from her memoir of growing up in the Delta set to the theme of Nina Simone’s Four Women. Even in its rawness, the segments were hysterically funny, unpredictable and moving. Her perspective and voice were completely unique.
Recently, she started a blog. It is apparent from only a few entries that her writer's voice would one day be as powerful as her stage presence.
And what a stage presence she had! There isn't a play I have written without a part for her. On three wonderful occasions, her wild schedule synchronized with mine. I cannot imagine anyone else doing those roles. She was my first Ruthie May, helping to bring The Ballad of Emmett Till into the world. Possessed of an electric presence and an incredible range, she was her own magnificent star! In Welcome to Wandaland, she played my nine-year-old self with such clarity and honesty, I cringed in recognition. So real was her portrayal that six months later, children who had seen the show were still vying in their made-up game to see who would get to play Wanda. In April of 2014, in the staged reading I directed of my sister Ntozake Shange’s A Photograph, E’dena stepped into the role of Claire, creating an around-the-way girl of unique depth, sensuality and vulnerability. Such was the power of her performance, the Negro Ensemble Company cast her in their next show which was slated to go into production in New York with A Photographfor the 2016 season.
Our last time together, a casual night after a rehearsal, we walked from mid-town Manhattan to Washington Heights—just talking—theatre, dreams, guys, life, family, fame, future. Neither of us noticed we’d trekked roughly five miles through the streets of New York. As always, she was laughing, loud, earnest and intense. She was one of the most alive people I have ever met.
Alas, I mourn with everyone who shared her magnificent light, and even as my heart breaks, with this altar of words, I celebrate her brilliance, her poetry, her song. And when words fail, I say her name…
To her mother, our Founder and President, Myrna…
To that mother who raised her, my heartfelt condolences and my gratitude.
You took a wild child to your bosom, nurtured her and raised a magnificent human being. You gave her the joy of life whose loss so many of us feel now. She may have called you Myrna, but you were, you are her Mother. Your broad arms staved off fierce winds and sheltered her, come what may, so that her light could shine.
- Ifa Bayeza, playwright