Filmed locally at BlaCk Coffee Lounge downtown, the new television special Liberation Story delves into what true liberation means in a time where many are still not free from oppression.
The special, a project of the social/civic engagement organization Urban Consulate Cincinnati, airs on CET on June 18 and 20 in observance of Juneteenth, the holiday which marks the day (June 19, 1865) that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, found out that the slaves in Confederate states had been freed—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The parlor talk encourages discussions on how to break free from oppression, whether it be oppressive systems, mindsets, or cultures.
“We want to invite people to imagine, ‘what could our city be if we were all truly free?’ ” says host Naimah Bilal. “In mind, body, spirit. All of it. Oppression—and freedom—are never as far away as we think.”
In a salon-style conversation, Bilal guides a discussion with four Cincinnati changemakers: fine artist Michael Coppage, artist and activist AprinasRevolutionaryLove, retired judge and attorney Fanon Rucker, and Dr. Tia Sherèe Gaynor, the founding director of the University of Cincinnati’s Center for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation. In the episode, the guests share what they’re doing to work toward liberation and give insight into what freedom means to them. While each has a different background and approach to exploring liberation through their work, whether it be art or criminal justice system reform, these unique perspectives invite viewers to reflect on how their personal talents can contribute to liberation in their communities.
Why focus on Cincinnati? The city was once a major stop on the Underground Railroad, with the Ohio River serving as the dividing line between the free and the enslaved. Liberation Story explores this unique history and the symbolism behind it.
Even though the days of the Underground Railroad may be long gone, liberation continues to be an important concern all over the country. Bilal sees this manifesting itself here in challenges to get funding, barriers to freedom of expression in art and activism, and racial discrimination.
“Over the last year and a half of community dialogues, we hear so often from amazing, talented people that there are still impediments to realizing their full dreams for themselves and their communities,” Bilal explains. “Are we making it easier or harder for everyone to flourish in our community? No city can truly thrive if its residents aren’t thriving.”
In addition to remembering history, Juneteenth—which was just elevated to federal holiday status this week—has become an important day to observe what still needs to be done to achieve freedom in the United States. Bilal sees issues like policing and mass incarceration to be reflective of the ways in which Black Americans in particular still experience oppression.
Bilal believes the history discussed in Liberation Story is an important part of its exploration of how to better achieve liberation in Cincinnati.
“We need to understand this history in order to dismantle the remnants of those systems now, and to free our minds to imagine and create the better world that can be,” she says.
Liberation Story airs on CET on June 18 at 9 p.m. and Sunday June 20 at 3:30 p.m. Watch it online here.