Lorna C. Hill, thespian extraordinaire, transitioned this life as she lived it: with courage, grit and grace .
She was a star in more ways than one.
A prolific actress on stage, and a talented director /teacher, she gave birth to a living legacy – Ujima Theatre – making real her vision of creating an institution “dedicated to artists, and administrators; the preservation of African American art and artistic practices; and using theatre as a tool for building the beloved community.”
Lorna was a multi-talented powerhouse. A history maker. A trailblazer. An activist. A “Sista” who never forgot her roots.
The mother of two beautiful and amazingly talented children – Amilcar Cabral and Zoë Viola.- she navigated her vision quest with fierce dedication. Even In the face of setbacks, and personal challenges, she never lost sight of her vision or her purpose .
For Lorna, the show ALWAYS went on.
Those of us who loved her, find solace between our tears and aching hearts in knowing her transition was not her final act, rather her opening act; a new glorious beginning . She has now made her grandest entrance on the stage of life eternal. And we will forever carry her in our innermost hearts.
As she enters the realm of eternity, familiar faces greet her. Baba Emile plays the djembe drum like he’s never played before, accompanied by her “son” Thapelo, as her beloved grandson Asa runs into her arms. Her beloved mother Ruby beams proudly. Lorna is overjoyed. Lonnie Harrell offers a poem of welcome and a song of praise. Agnes Bain, actors Willie Judson and Tim White are all smiles. Baba Simba, greets her with the words “peace and Love,” Gail Lucas adorns her with a colorful mud cloth wrap, as Zora Neal Hurston, August Wilson and a host of legendary ancestor writers, playwrights and greats of stage and screen …too many to mention – applaud her on “a job well done.”
Having lived her truth, our beloved Lorna is at peace. ASHE!
Lorna C. Hill, founder and Artistic Director of Ujima Company, Inc. for 41 years, departed this life peacefully at home on June 30, 2020 exactly as she lived it — surrounded by her beloved community.
Lorna was the dearest daughter of Ruby Byars and Curtis Mills, sister of Donna Mills, devoted mother of Amilcar Hill, Zoe Scruggs, and Rahwa Ghirmatzion, grandmother to Asa and Solace Hill, and aunt of Rikkia Mills. Dearest beloved friend of Bob Ball, and all of the Ujima Company Members. Lorna founded Ujima Theatre Company, a multicultural professional theatre company dedicated to the preservation of African American art and artistic practices, in 1978. Ujima is a Swahili word meaning “collective work and responsibility.” That core tenet became the dedication of her life work.
Lorna Hill believed in achieving excellence, but more importantly that excellence could only be achieved by working together and putting Love and Justice in front of all that we do. A multi-talented performer, director, teacher and community leader — she understood that valuing Black art was first and foremost a means of fighting for Black communities and for the communities of Buffalo. And so, she taught us how to fight.
Lorna was notably the first woman ever accepted to Dartmouth College, where she received her B.A. in American Intellectual History in 1973. She also received an M.A. in Theatre in 1978 at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2014, she retired from the Buffalo Public Schools, where she taught theatre at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts. A recipient of countless local and national recognitions, above all Lorna Hill served as a community resource — providing services for organizations that prioritized women’s empowerment, arts and culture, children’s rights, and building the beloved community.
Of all her innumerable accomplishments, her most cherished was being a single head of household, raising her beautiful, shining children Amilcar Cabral and Zoë Viola and being an adoring grandmother of Asa Binam and Solace Cabral. She now leaves Amilcar, Zoë, and Solace in the loving strength of the community she built.
Buffalo will mourn Lorna C. Hill, because her imprint cannot possibly be untangled from the best of the city itself. So rare is it that a bright light chooses to shine not upon herself, but instead to use her gifts to encourage each of us to be better — to work harder, to take care of each other genuinely, to give everything that we have as an offering and to feel satisfied in our good work. We know that Lorna Hill doesn’t leave us, even as her body leaves this earth for another. She forever altered our spirit. May our lives well lived in the spirit of Ujima and dedicated to one another, be her memory and her blessing.
To offer sympathies during this difficult time, you can send cards and gifts to Ujima Company, Inc. 429 Plymouth Avenue, Suite 2, Buffalo, NY 14213.
Please share your condolences online to the facebook page www.facebook.com/LornaCHillLove/.
In lieu of flowers donations will be graciously accepted at bit.ly/lornachill.