BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
The postponed world premiere of the National Newspaper Publishers Association – CashWorks HD Productions documentary, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten,” has now been officially set for Saturday, April 5th at UNC – Wilmington’s Kenan Auditorium , in Wilmington, followed by gala/banquet honoring former Gov. Beverly Perdue and NC NAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber.
The day of special events is titled, “Black Press: Joining Together for a Better World,” and is presented by The Wilmington Journal, which has served Southeastern North Carolina’s African-American community for 87 years, and the NNPA.
The two-hour film screening, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., is free and open to the public.
The documentary recounts the history surrounding the troubled desegregation of New Hanover County Public schools during the late 1960s thorough 1971, which evolved into the false prosecution of eight black male students, a white female community organizer, and a fiery civil rights activist, Rev. Benjamin Chavis, for protesting racial injustice.
The proud history of Williston Senior High School, the all-Black school in Wilmington which was unceremoniously closed in 1968, will also be honored.
Against the backdrop of the Wilmington 1898 race massacre and the forced desegregation of Southern schools in the 1960s, the documentary also traces how the Black Press, led initially by Wilmington Journal publisher Thomas C. Jervay, Sr., and over 40 years later by his daughter, publisher-editor Mary Alice Jervay Thatch through the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), ultimately pushed for, and achieved the official exoneration of the Wilmington Ten.
Special appearances in the film by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., leader of the Wilmington Ten; Joseph McNeil – Williston Senior High School alumnus and a member of the Greensboro Four who integrated a downtown Greensboro F. W. Woolworth store in 1960; Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and one of the ministers who lobbied Gov. James Hunt in 1977 to pardon the Wilmington Ten; and former Gov. Beverly Perdue, who ultimately pardoned the Wilmington Ten in Dec. 2012.
The documentary is set to be released on DVD for public schools – grades 9 through 12 (with academic guide); colleges and universities, and the general public.
The NNPA, also known as “The Black Press of America,” is a 74-year-old federation of more than 200 black community newspapers across the United States. In 2011, led by The Wilmington Journal, the NNPA, and NNPA Foundation led by Dorothy Leavell, publisher of Chicago Crusader, adopted seeking pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten as a project.
The film is written, produced and narrated by Cash Michaels, staff writer for The Wilmington Journal; and editor/chief reporter for The Carolinian Newspaper in Raleigh.
Following the documentary will be a brief question and answer session, then a blue ribbon panel discussion, “Civil Rights: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and the Role of the Black Press, Black Church and the Black Community.”
Among the confirmed panelists is the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., leader of the Wilmington Ten. George Curry, executive editor of the NNPA, will moderate.
Also to be discussed, “A Black Newspaper on Every Coffee Table.”
There will also be exhibits on display at UNC – Wilmington.
A special Black Tie Gala will be held later that evening in the Cape Fear Ballroom of the Hilton – Riverside Hotel honoring former Gov. Beverly Perdue – who granted pardons of innocence to the ten falsely convicted freedom fighters; NCNAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. William Barber – who helped to lead the public effort to pardon the Wilmington Ten, and others.
Rev. Chavis is the scheduled keynoter.
Among the scheduled performers are spiritual vocalist Lynnette Barber of Lincoln Park Holiness Church in Raleigh, who sings the film’s title song, “That Freedom” in “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten, ” renowned singer and pianist Grenaldo Frazier, spiritual vocalist Jerri Holliday, and Arts Council Director Rhonda Bellamy. WECT TV co-anchor Frances Weller will serve as mistress of ceremony.
Proceeds from ticket purchases will go to the nonprofit RS and TC Jervay Foundation Inc. a 501 c (3). Donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Funds will be used for scholarships and research related to the history of African-Americans in southeastern North Carolina. To date the Foundation has awarded four scholarships to students attending HBCUs.
Corporations and community groups are invited to support this historic fundraising event through the purchase of sponsor packages, Sponsor package benefits include hosted tables for your guests and recognition at the event, and in related advertising promotional materials.
The deadline for ads for the special souvenir program book is March 24th.
For more information contact Shawn Thatch at The Wilmington Journal firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 910-762-5502.