PRESS RELEASE - SEPT 12: The Mann Center & NEWorks Productions to Present National Youth Social Justice Forum 

November 2015






RSVP Contact:   

The Kennedy Center welcomes 3,000 choristers from 30 regional choirs and churches to sing traditional, a cappella spirituals under the direction of some of the area’s leading choral directors. This showcase is a part of Music: A Force for Mending, a new performance series curated in collaboration with Nolan Williams Jr. and NEWorks Productions, which explores themes of racial reconciliation, social justice, and equality. Audience members are invited to join in as thousands of voices fill the Grand Foyer with spirituals songs and a sense of community. Call time for participants is 4 p.m. and hymnals will be provided onsite to follow along. The 6 p.m. Millennium Stage performance will be streamed live on the Kennedy Center website.

Participating directors include Sam Bonds (professor at George Mason University and Duke Ellington School for the Arts), Dr. J. Weldon Norris (professor emeritus, Howard University), Stanley Thurston (artistic director, WPA Men and Women of the Gospel), Dr. Joyce Garrett (minister of music, Alfred Street Baptist Church), Patrick Lundy (composer, recording artist, and director of The Ministers of Music), Dr. Ulysses Moye (adjunct professor, George Washington University and minister of music Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church), among other directors including Ramon Bryant, Dr. Frances Fonza, and Anwar Ottley. In addition, featured soloists are Myrna Summers (gospel recording artist and minister of music, Reid Temple AME Church), Kelvin Page (president, D.C.-Ben Holt Memorial Branch of National Association of Negro Musicians), and Viola Bradford (Civil Rights Era Activist), with additional soloists Leon Clark, Valeria Foster, Marty Lamar, Reverend Curtis McLean, Brittani McNeill, and Richard Odom. A list of participating choirs is also available upon request.

Sunday, November 15,
2015 at 6 p.m. (EST). Participant call-time is 4 p.m.

The Kennedy Center Grand Foyer, Opera House Lobby Stairs

Electronic media are allowed to capture up to 15 minutes of the event and broadcast no more than three minutes in news segments. All crews must be completely self-contained. Interested outlets must RSVP to the contact below by Sunday, November 15 at noon.     

Camille C. Devlin, (202) 416-8447 (office), ccdevlin@kennedy-center.orgparagraph here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For 60 minutes on a seemingly ordinary Monday morning in mid-March, the Alice Deal Middle School (ADMS) gymnasium was transformed into a concert hall. But the uniqueness of this performing arts venue was not its location but rather its performers and audience. Not only did students fill the bleachers to participate in an assembly, but they also experienced the artistry of their peers. Peers performing before an audience of their peers: the best demonstration of the power of BRIDGES.

The visionary conception of noted producer, composer, and musician, Nolan Williams, Jr., CEO of NEWorks Productions, BRIDGES is an arts-exchange concert series presented in partnership with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, along with the Office of D.C. Cable Television. As the inaugural concert in this series, the program held at ADMS featured stellar performances by various instrumental and vocal ensembles representing D.C.’s public and charter schools along with the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Used to connect that which is separated or to unite that which has been broken, the bridges motif was evident throughout the concert. Connected, united, and bound together as beautiful melodies played upon strings or voices singing together in harmony, the strength of the arts—particularly music—was the bridge not only between two great cities, but younger and older students; students of various ethnicities; varied abilities as students performed with their teachers; and students representing the broad spectrum of social and economic diversity. Although difference is a reality with which all young people must contend, for a brief moment in time, difference did not matter. Each of these students, regardless of their zip code, school enrollment, or group membership, shared the common bond of making music.

Whether the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who comprised the ADMS Middle School Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band, or the Mellow Tones of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts who presented a riveting performance of their jazz-infused a cappella arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, creativity and freedom of expression knew no bounds. From the sweet choral sounds of Woodrow Wilson High School’s Wilson Singers to the innocence of 4th and 5th grade musicians who made up the KIPP D.C. Will Academy Honors Orchestra, the excitement and engagement of these students was not only felt, but appreciated by all. And, under the baton of Maestro Joseph Young, a group of 106 highly skilled and talented adolescents, also known as the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, played with passion and expertise to rival many professional adult performers.

As Williams remarked, "the arts are a powerful took for bringing people together and building community. That is my company's in launching this new BRIDGES series—and what better place to start than with demonstrating the power of community through our youth."

BRIDGES is scheduled to air three times over the next week on the D.C. Cable TV network:

Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 4 pm; Sunday, April 19, 2015 at 12 pm; and, Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 8 pm.

Mural Student Artists
Mahalia Strickland , Audrey Jones , Kennedy Parks, Sharda Snead, Dimir Ramsey, Kamilah Gittens, Carnesha Walton, and Nasreen Hughey-Mainor

Jessica Harron, Art Teacher 

14 April, 2015

COVER STORY - Washington Informer Article on BRIDGES: An Arts Cultural Exchange Concert

The ‘Liberty Leaders’ Mural was created by 9th-through 11th-grade artists attending the KIPP Dubois Collegiate Academy, located across the street from the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, on Parkside Avenue. These students elected to participate in an after-school, art enrichment class centered on the Mann Center’s 2015 Festival, Liberty: Unplugged! As part of their creative process, students researched speeches by Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela, then worked cooperatively to paint each historical figure along with excerpts of their most renowned speeches.

Students were further challenged to reflect on the words and actions of these great men and to give serious thought to how they might impact our world today thus continuing the unending march towards liberty.

NEWS STORY - CBS-3/Philadelphia Highlights Unveiling of Liberty Leaders Mural at the Mann Center 

10 June, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                          CONTACT: Brianna Taylor
                                                                                                                                                        (215) 568-2525




Liberty: Unplugged! Town Hall Hosted by Actor/Activist

Hill Harper 

PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 13, 2015) – With its out-of-the-box approach to combining the arts with education, the Mann in partnership with NEWorks Productions will host a Town Hall on Sept. 12 encouraging youth in the Philadelphia region and around the country to share meaningful conversation and commentary about pressing social justice issues. 

The event is the culmination of the Mann’s Liberty: Unplugged! 2015 festival, which was curated by NEWorks Productions’ Nolan Williams, Jr., to celebrate the messages and movements of three iconic men – Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela – and to do it in a way that facilitates real dialogue about difficult contemporary issues.   

The Liberty: Unplugged! Town Hall will include three parts: 

Liberty: Unplugged! Twitter Town Hall

The Liberty: Unplugged! Twitter Town Hall will connect student scholars, via the social platform as well as live streaming technology, in Philadelphia, Ferguson, Mo., Charleston, S.C., Baltimore, Md., and Buffalo, N.Y. Moderated by actor and activist Hill Harper, the event is a forum for high school and college-aged scholars to freely engage in critical peer dialogue about three themes that, as in the days of Douglass, King, and Mandela, still threaten the cause of liberty nationally and globally: modern-day slavery (human trafficking, unfair wages), voting rights (including voter registration laws and voter suppression), and human rights. 

The main stage for the discussion will be in Philadelphia with Harper and presentations by six student scholars from Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney University and West Chester University.  A live web stream of the forum will engage satellite gatherings of student scholars in Charleston, Ferguson, Baltimore and Buffalo, each moderated by scholars and leaders in their respective communities. Dr. Stefan Bradley, historian and community activist, will host students scholars on the campus of St. Louis University; Dr. Mari Crabtree, historian, will host student scholars on the campus of the College of Charleston; Dr. Lisa Weah, pastor and community leader, will moderate a gathering of student scholars at the Morning Star Baptist Church—one of Baltimore’s premiere megachurches; and “Jazzy T” Williams, local radio and television personality, will convene student scholars at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. 

Poetry Slam

Hosted by Harper, the finalists of the Liberty: Unplugged! citywide poetry contest will compete live in a poetry slam, adjudicated by a blue-ribbon panel of Philadelphia community and business leaders. This contest, launched on July 5, 2015, the anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ landmark speech, “What to the Negro is the Fourth of July?”, is presented in partnership with the Philly Youth Poetry Movement.   More than 20 area young people submitted their original work to the contest, and five will perform their works at the Town Hall in September.  Winners will be awarded cash prizes and their performances featured on the Mann’s digital platforms.
United We Band

Finally, the Town Hall will culminate with a musical showcase featuring emerging young Philadelphia artists performing songs of civil rights and social justice. These artists will span multiple musical genres, presenting both original songs and cover tunes of staples from the Civil Rights Movement. The concert is presented in partnership with Artists United, S Factor Entertainment and PhilAsh Entertainment Group.
“The Mann’s tradition of combining arts and education in the community is core to our mission,” said Catherine M. Cahill, president and CEO of the Mann.  “We couldn’t be more proud of this critical programming.  By encouraging young people to explore the lessons of history, they can inform their voices for the future.”

“Our aim with this project is to make the history of Douglass, King and Mandela intimately accessible to young people—unplugging, if you will, the formalized context of textbooks and classrooms—to empower them to reinterpret this history in a way that is relevant to them, given the events of our times,” said Williams, who is CEO of NEWorks Productions and artistic director of Liberty: Unplugged!

Liberty: Unplugged! has been made possible through the generous support of the Louis N. Cassett Foundation, Syde Hurdus Foundation, Independence Blue Cross, Lomax Family Foundation and Merck.
About the Mann

As one of the most important outdoor music centers in the country, the Mann presents premiere artists in a world-class, entertainment destination in association with AEG Live.  Each summer season, renowned symphony orchestras, iconic rock stars and the latest touring artists in indie rock, hip hop, R&B and pop take the stage here, and today’s success is a nod to the venue’s storied history.  The Mann has been the summer home of The Philadelphia Orchestra since the 1930s and presented critically acclaimed performers in every decade since then.  Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the Mann hosts more than 170,000 visitors annually.  Signature concert experiences are surrounded by Philadelphia’s stunning skyline and include seats beneath the Mann’s acoustically acclaimed pavilion; picnics, blankets and music under the stars on its famous lawn; and dining in Crescendo, the venue’s spectacular tented restaurant.  For more information, visit
About NEWorks Productions

As one of the country's premiere producers of inspirational-arts programming, NEWorks Productions partners with leading humanitarian, educational, and arts institutions to present curatorial festivals, concert productions, special events, and other signature projects that leverage the power of music and the arts for community engagement and social good. Past and present partners include: the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Susan G. Komen, the American Cancer Society, the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Georgetown University, Oberlin College, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, the Embassy of India, the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra. For more information, visit

About Liberty: Unplugged!

Liberty: Unplugged! is a festival of community events and programming that grapples with the issues of freedom from slavery, voting rights, and human rights by focusing on the messages and movements of three men who have transformed our political and social landscape: Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. The focus on these three iconic men coincides with the convergence of three anniversaries of note: the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from Robben Island prison.

With Liberty: Unplugged!, the Mann is inviting audiences, artists, and scholars of all ages to ”unplug” history from its tradiional modes of instruction, creatively reinterpreting the still-timely themes of these men and their movements through a series of special concert events, community partnership initiatives, and educational programs.

Get engaged. Join the conversation. #libertyunplugged.
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14 August, 2015

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MEDIA ADVISORY - COMMUNITY-WIDE SPIRITUALS SING part of the Kennedy Center's 2015-2015 Music: A Force for Mending performance series, curated in collaboration with NEWorks Productions | 3,000 voices from regional choirs and churches unite