Free Spirit Freedom Past Events in 2015

"Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten"

Free Spirit Freedom invites the general public to a free screening of the much acclaimed feature-length film, Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten, produced by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and CashWorks HD Productions. This one-time event will take place Saturday, July 18, 2015 at the Central Orange Senior Center, in Hillsborough, NC. Doors open at 5:30pm, the screening begins at 6:00pm, and at 7:30pm, Cash Michaels, who wrote, directed and helped produce the film, will answer questions from the audience. 


Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten recounts the turbulent history surrounding the troubled desegregation of New Hanover County Public School System in NC during the late 1960s through 1971, and the violent incidents that led to the false prosecution of eight black male students, a white female community organizer, and civil rights activist, Benjamin Chavis, for protesting racial injustice. The case of the Wilmington Ten eventually made national and international headlines, resulting in the federal government—specifically the Congressional Black Caucus—speaking out for justice.


In this 119-minute film, Cash Michaels also traces how the Black Press—initially led by Wilmington Journal publisher Thomas C. Jervay, Sr., and subsequently, over 40 years later, by his daughter, publisher-editor Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, through the NNPA—played a vital role in achieving the official exoneration of the Wilmington Ten in 2012 by then Governor Beverly Perdue.


Exclusive interviews featured in the film include: former Gov. Perdue telling how powerful people across North Carolina tried to stop her from granting pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten; Joseph McNeil, Wilmington native and member of the legendary Greensboro Four, explaining why black students had to stand up for freedom and against racism during the 1960s and ‘70s; Dr. Benjamin Chavis, NNPA president and leader of the Wilmington Ten, reliving events that led to that racially violent week in Wilmington in February 1971; Rev. Jeremiah Wright, of Chicago, recalling how clergy from the United Church of Christ came to Raleigh in 1977 and met with then Gov. James Hunt to implore him to pardon the Wilmington Ten, only to be rejected.


The documentary made its national debut during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in September 2014 in Washington, DC, and made its North Carolina debut April 5, 2014 during a special preview at UNC–Wilmington in Wilmington, NC. It also was featured during the 2015 Hayti Heritage Film Festival in Durham in February, and was screened during the 2015 NC Black Film Festival in Wilmington in March 2015. 


Cash Michaels is the award-winning editor, chief reporter/photographer and columnist for The Carolinian Newspaper, the twice-weekly African-American publication that has been covering Raleigh and North Carolina for over 70 years. He also serves as staff writer and columnist for the Wilmington Journal, and has been a contributing writer to The Amsterdam News in New York. Many of his stories are carried across the nation via the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association. In addition, Michaels produces a wide range of video and documentary projects through his CashWorks HD Productions, based in Cary, NC.


For further information, please contact Thomas Watson at 919-451-1844 or, or Renee Price at 919-593-1904 or

"150 Year Commemoration of Juneteenth"

Hillsborough, N.C. – The year was 1865. On June 19, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas with the long-awaited news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were now free.


Free Spirit Freedom [FSF] invites one and all to the 150 year anniversary commemoration of Juneteenth, the day when all the enslaved sons and daughters of Africa realized freedom. The event will take place on Friday, June 19, 2015, from 5 to 7pm, at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion in Hillsborough. A short program will begin at 5:30pm, followed by an outdoor reception.


The program will offer reflections of the occasion of Juneteenth, a brief contextual history of 1865, musical selections, stories from the descendants of Jesse Ruffin—coachman for the Camerons of Hillsborough during the mid-1800’s—and poetry readings, including a new piece by Jaki Shelton Green. Program participants will be James E. Williams, Jr., Brenda McLeod, Doris H. Brunson, James E. Davis, Jr., Wanda Crisp, Rev. Sharon Freeland, Delores Bailey and Renee Price. Special guests include the descendants of Mr. Ruffin, will be Maggie “Midge” Bryant, Emma Snelling and Queen Norwood Thompson.


"We’re planning this event as a community celebration, so it’s free and open to the public" remarks Thomas Watson, co-founder of Free Spirit Freedom. Refreshments will be provided, in part through a donation from the Hillsborough-Orange County Historical Museum, under the direction of Candace Midgett. In addition, Holly Reid will lead a tour to the coachman’s quarters to see an historic brick in which is carved, "DEC 5, 1865." The site is a short walk from the Pavilion.


On January 1, 1863, two and one-half years prior to Juneteenth, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation—yet that document freed only women, men and children held as slaves in the states in rebellion. "The Proclamation, primarily a war measure, intentionally excluded people in the slave-holding border-states and the areas of the Confederacy that already had come under Union control," explains Renee Price, co-founder of Free Spirit Freedom. Its immediate impact, nevertheless, was to place the United States, for the first time, officially against the institution of slavery.


Then, on April 9, 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House, in Virginia, and on April 26, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Major-General W. T. Sherman finalized the terms of surrender at the Bennett Farm House in Orange County [now Durham]. On June 10, Gen. Granger was given command of the Department of Texas and upon his arrival in Galveston read General Order Number 3, which began:


"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."


Free Spirit Freedom—a project of the Hillsborough Arts Council, a 501[c]3 nonprofit organization—is a cultural arts initiative that combines history and the arts to link our past to the future, show our unique identities, and acknowledge a broader spectrum of values. For further information, contact: Renee Price at 919-593-1904 or, or Thomas Watson at 919-451-1844 or


Free Spirit Freedom will present two events under the banner of Rural Schools for Colored Children--Path to Freedom on as part of Black History Month celebrations in Orange County.  A Photography Exhibition Opening & Reception will take place on Saturday, January 31, 2015, from 3 to 5pm, followed by An Afternoon of Storytelling & Reception on Sunday, February 1, from 3 to 5pm.  Both events will be held at the Central Orange Senior Center in Meadowlands, and are free and open to the general public. 


The exhibition will feature new photographic images, by Jacquelin Liggins, of remnants of old rural schools built for children of color during the days of segregation, plus historic photographs that have been reprinted.  Statler Gilfillen will provide commentary on architectural details seen in the photographs.  The opening reception will include a brief program explaining the exhibition—which will remain in the center throughout the month.


On Sunday, elders from the Orange County community will be in the spotlight for a storytelling dialogue with one another and the audience, reminiscing about their feelings, experiences and adventures in the County’s segregated school system.  Invited guest speakers include: Hattie Vanhook, Melvin Beasley, Etta Johnson, and Caleb Moore.  In addition, Rev. Kaye Crawford, Dr. Freddie Parker and Peter Sandbeck have been invited to offer remarks. 


Free Spirit Freedom is a cultural arts initiative that combines history and the arts to link our past to the future, show our unique identities, and acknowledge a broader spectrum of values. “We want to discover and document the missing chapters of our local history before that knowledge is lost, and that way, chronicle events that have made Orange County what it is today, “ says FSF co-founder Thomas Watson.


According to FSF co-founder Renee Price: “’Rural Schools for Colored Children—Path to Freedom’ was conceived as an effort to gather images and narratives of days-gone-by from the people that attended schools for students of color.   What challenges did they face?  How did these schools help in advancing the cause of freedom and justice?”


This two-day event is made possible by grants from the North Carolina Humanities Council and the Orange County Arts Commission, through individual donations, and with the assistance of the Central Orange Senior Center and the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors BureauFree Spirit Freedom is a project of the Hillsborough Arts Council, a 501[c]3 nonprofit organization with a gallery in Hillsborough. The photography exhibit will remain in the Central Orange Senior Center throughout February.


For further information, contact FSF co-founders: Thomas Watson at 919-451-1844, or Renee Price at 919-619-1139 or   Young people are encouraged to attend.