Liberty Unplugged!

Nolan Williams, Jr.

Festival Artistic Director


Liberty: Unplugged! is the 2015 community festival project of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. With this festival, the Mann is proud to lead the Philadelphia community in celebrating the messages and movements of three iconic men: Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. The focus on these three icons 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 imprisonment.

The Liberty: Unplugged! festival will feature a series of special concert events, community partnership initiatives, and educational programs, beginning in May and continuing through September 2015. Throughout these five months, the Mann is inviting audiences, artists and scholars to ”unplug” history from its traditional modes of instruction, creatively reinterpreting the still-timely themes of these men and their movements: freedom from modern-day slavery, voting rights, and human rights (local and global).



Poetry Slam Contest
Sunday, July 5 through Friday, August 14

The Mann Center, in partnership with Philly Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM), is pleased to announce Liberty: Unplugged! Poetry Slam. This citywide contest invites Philadelphia youth to explore the central Liberty: Unplugged! festival topics of human trafficking, voting rights and human rights on a local and global level. Participants will be featured on the festival’s digital platforms and the finalists will be invited to perform as part of the festival finale event at the Mann Center.  The top three winners will be awarded cash prizes and ticket packages for a 2016 concert at the Mann.

Click here to particpate in the Poetry Slam contest. 

'Liberty Leaders' Mural - on display now in the Mann's Welcome Center

The ‘Liberty Leaders’ Mural was created by young 9th- through 11th-grade artists attending the KIPP Dubois Collegiate Academy. These students elected to participate in an after school art enrichment class centered on the Liberty: Unplugged! Festival. 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 freedom and liberty

The mural was unveiled at the Mann on June 5th and can be seen on display in the Mann's Welcome Center.

Feature: Mural of 3 Historical Figures Unveiled For Philadelphia's Liberty:Unplugged! Festival

Mural Student Artists: Mahalia Strickland, Audrey Jones, Kennedy Parks, Sharda Snead, Kamilah Gittens, Carnesha Walton, Nasreen Hughey-Mainor, Dimir Ramsey, Jessica Harron, Art Teacher

New Voices "Peace by Piece"
September through November, 2015

In partnership with Child’s Play, a non-profit arts-education theatre group, the Mann will implement its 2015 Connecting Arts-N-Schools (CANS) program, “Peace by Piece,” in four Philadelphia public schools beginning in September 2015. Students will be inspired to create group generated stories showing how they can make a difference in the world and bring about peaceful solutions to problems. Child’s Play will then return to the schools in November to perform the developed stories for the students.

(NOTE: The CANS series was developed by the Mann to provide multicultural programs to targeted public, charter and parochial schools in the greater Philadelphia area. CANS mission is to connect students and educators with the performing arts in deep and meaningful ways, offering performances that enhance the in-school curriculum and broaden students’ horizons.)

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts In partnership with NEWorks Productions Proudly Presents:

Liberty: Unplugged! Town Hall  
Saturday, September 12, 2015 ▪ 1:00PM
Moore College of Art and Design
19th and the Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103

As a signature event of the 2015 Liberty: Unplugged! festival, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts and NEWorks Productions are pleased to partner in presenting the Liberty: Unplugged! Twitter Town Hall, a forum in which young scholars will be engaged in critical and open dialogue about three themes that, as in the days of Douglass, King, and Mandela, still threaten the cause of liberty locally, nationally and globally: modern-day slavery, voting rights, and human rights. 

Actor and activist Hill Harper will moderate this forum, scheduled to take place live from the prestigious Moore College of Art and Design, located along the Parkway, Philadelphia's cultural Mecca of world-class museums. Through streaming/webcast and live tweeting, satellite gatherings of youth scholars in other key parts of the country will be engaged in the conversation.

The Liberty: Unplugged! Twitter Town Hall is a community forum in three parts:

Twitter Town Hall

Moderated by Hill Harper
Co-moderated by Dr. Stefan Bradley, Dr. Lisa Weah, Dr. Mari Crabtree, and Jazzy T

This forum will engage young scholars in critical dialogue about three themes that, as in the days of Douglass, King, and Mandela. Leading the discussion will be student presenters from Temple, U.Penn, Cheyney, and West Chester.

Through live web stream and Twitter, satellite gatherings of student scholars in Charleston, Ferguson, Baltimore, and Buffalo will join the conversation.

Poetry Slam

The finalists of our citywide poetry contest will compete live. Presented in partnership with the Philly Youth Poetry Movement.

United We Band

The day will culminate with a musical showcase featuring emerging young Philadelphia artists performing songs of social justice. Presented in partnership with Artists United, S Factor Entertainment and PhilAsh Entertainment Group 

About Hill Harper


Hill Harper is an award-winning actor, best-selling author and philanthropist. Harper starred on the CBS TV drama CSI: NY from 2004 to 2013. He most recently starred on USA Network’s “Covert Affairs” and will be returning to CBS this fall as Agent Boyle in the new drama “Limitless”. He can also be seen co-starring alongside Will Smith in Sony Pictures release of CONCUSSION due in theaters Christmas Day. Harper is the author of four New York Times best-sellers and has earned seven NAACP Image Awards for his writing and acting. Harper is founder of the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, dedicated to empowering underserved youth through mentorship, scholarship, and grant programs.

Harper graduated magna cum laude as valedictorian of his department with a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and cum laude with a Juris Doctorate degree from Harvard Law School. He also holds a master’s degree with honors from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and has Honorary Doctoral Degrees from Winston-Salem State University, Cheyney University, Westfield State College, Tougaloo College, Dillard University and Howard University. Harper travels frequently as a motivational speaker, addressing a wide range of audiences, including youth, adults, couples, and business leaders. In 2014, People Magazine named him one of their Sexiest Men Alive.


Liberty: Unplugged! Satellite Gatherings:

On the campus of Saint Louis University
Moderated by Dr. Stefan Bradley, historian and community activist

Born and reared in Yakima, Washington, Stefan Bradley is currently director of the African American Studies Program and an associate professor in the Department of History at Saint Louis University. Bradley received his Ph.D. in 20th Century US History with an Emphasis on the Black Experience from the University of Missouri-Columbia; an M.A. in the same from Washington State University; and, a B.A. in History from Gonzaga University. An educator at heart, Bradley’s life ambition is to personally teach/mentor/inspire young people to change the world for the better.

Some of Bradley’s recent publications include the books, Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, The Demands of Transcendence and Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s that won the Phillis Wheatley Book Prize.  His articles have been featured in the Journal of African American History, the Journal of Civil and Human Rights, and American Studies. To discuss his research, he has appeared on C-Span BookTV; the Tavis Smiley Radio Show; STL TV’s City Corner; as well as at universities and colleges throughout the nation.  Bradley’s newest book project, Blackened Ivy: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Ivy League in Postwar America will be published with New York University Press. 

In wake of the tragic events in Ferguson and St. Louis, he has engaged in discussions with representatives from the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Commission, and Department of Education.  As a voice from the community, Bradley has appeared in the New York Times and on MSNBC, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, BET, and Hot 97FM (New York City).
Bradley is married to Dr. Traice Webb-Bradley and is the father of the intelligent, beautiful, and mischievous Simone Andora Bradley.

On the campus of the College of Charleston
Moderated by Dr. Mari Crabtree, historian

Dr. Mari N. Crabtree is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies program and an affiliate with the History Department at the College of Charleston. She studies the intersections of African-American culture, racial violence, and systems of oppression.

Dr. Crabtree received her A.B. in Black Studies from Amherst College (magna cum laude), her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Cornell University.


At the Morning Star Baptist Church
Moderated by Dr. Lisa Weah, pastor and community leader

Dr. Lisa M. Weah is the Senior Pastor of the New Bethlehem Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. NBBC is a thriving ministry. Under her leadership, the church has established the NBBC Empowerment Institute, which includes: Sunday School, Small Group Studies, Discipleship training, a weekly Family Empowerment Night, and monthly Family Focus Night.

Dr. Weah is an influential community leader in the city of Baltimore whose weekly inspirational messages, The Maximize Moment with Dr. Lisa Weah, are broadcast on WEAA 88.9FM’s Gospel Grace Morning Show. In the Spring of 2015, during the heart of the Baltimore protests over the wrongful death of Freddie Gray, Dr. Weah—whose church is located at ground zero of the protest movement, in the heart of Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester Community—emerged as a spokesperson for the community, appearing on numerous local and national media outlets.

An active member of the Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Dr. Weah holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland at College Park, and Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Howard University. She is a proud mother of three, whose life's mission is to empower individuals, families and the community.

At the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
Moderated by Jazzy T, radio & television personality

Jazzy T is a radio & television personality with over 10 years of experience on air and behind the scenes working for WJLB, WQHH, WMXD, WBLK, KJLH, ESPN, BET, and Warner Bros. Currently, she hosts afternoon shows on WUFO-AM in Buffalo, NY and WDKX-FM in Rochester, NY and is a contestant on “America’s Next Weatherman” on TBS!
Jazzy T is a proud Cum Laude graduate of Michigan State University college of Communication. As the first in her family to attend college, she was determined to follow her dreams. A wife and mother of two, Jazzy T affirms that "with love & action all things are possible".

Student Scholars:


Junior, University of Pennsylvania
Digital Media and Game Design

Christian Warrick was originally born and raised in West Philadelphia, growing up in a home with his mother, Tamicia, and his little sister, Iyiana. He was a member of the 40th graduating class of University City High School, the last class to graduate before the school was closed down in 2013. He is also the first graduate of his high school to attend the University of Pennsylvania in 20 years, an accomplishment he bears with a humble amount of pride. Now entering his junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, Christian is pursuing a degree in Game Design while minoring in creative writing, enabling him to channel his creative passions. When not studying or in class, Christian enjoys writing poetry, and is currently working on publishing his first chapbook of spoken word. He is a proud member of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) and intends to use his voice to speak about his experiences growing up, both enjoyable and painful, not for himself, but for people he feels are too afraid to face their truth.

More about Christian…

Favorite Hobby: Poetry and Collecting Models

Favorite Song/Artist: It Doesn't Matter by Crush 40

Favorite Book: The Night Lords by Aaron Demski-Boden

Favorite Movie: Cloverfield or Starship Troopers

Must-see TV Shows: Naruto, Inuyasha, Cowboy Bebop, and YuYu Hakusho

Favorite Quote: "Until lambs become lions, rise and rise again" - Robin Hood


Sophomore, Temple University

Imani Rothwell is a sophomore at Temple University majoring in theater. An alumna of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement, she is currently a member of Temple’s only poetry collective, Babel. Through this forum, she uses her art as a form of protest. Imani has been at the helm of several protest movements in and around the city, and avidly writes about the social injustices blacks face in America.

More about Imani…

Favorite Hobby: Watching movies, especially films with Black characters

Favorite Song/Artist: Any tracks from Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt or The Blue Print albums

Favorite Book: Native Son by Richard Wright—the symbolism in this book is very relevant today

Favorite Movie:   Set It Off

Must-see TV Shows: Power, Scandal

Favorite Quote: Advice from my grandmother: "Just because someone gives you a good gift does not mean they're good for you."

Senior, Cheyney University

Devin Randall is a senior studying English at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Randall maintains a 3.83 GPA while preparing to pursue a career in theatre and playwriting. Throughout his college career, Randall has kept a hectic workload, which has allowed him to skip a year of undergrad. In addition, he serves as Vice President of the Keystone Honors Council, Vice President of the Theatre Honor Society, and President of Alpha Nu Rho, Cheyney University's chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. Randall has interned with Light Walker Entertainment while working as an Orientation Leader/Peer Mentor and Ambassador for his campus. Upon graduation in the spring, Randall plans to either matriculate directly to grad school, with a focus on playwriting, or to take up a yearlong internship with a major theatre company.

More about Devin

Favorite hobby: Listening to Music

Favorite song/artist: "Paradise" by Wild Nothing

Favorite book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Favorite movie: Rent

Must-see TV shows: How To Get Away with Murder, Agents of Shield, Boy Meets World

Favorite quote: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Mahatma Gandhi.

Senior, West Chester University
Criminal Justice

Jocelyn Butler is a graduate of Central High School and Community College of Philadelphia. She is currently attending West Chester University in pursuit of her Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice. She aspires to be a legal advocate for juveniles who have been introduced to the criminal justice system. Jocelyn is an avid reader and a committed student. She believes that there's always something more to learn and there's always room for growth. If she's not in a college classroom then she's in the classroom of someone else's mind, life and experiences.

More about Jocelyn…

Favorite hobby: Reading in absolute silence and playing Xbox because what is life without a little fantasy and Halo

Favorite song/artist: Pyramids by Frank Ocean. Ocean is also my favorite artist because he's absolutely amazing.

Favorite books: Being There by Jerzy Kosinski and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

Favorite movie: also One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest because Jack Nicholson was absolutely, hands down, unarguably amazing in that film.

Must-see TV shows: Doctor Who, NCIS, Once Upon A Time, Criminal Minds

Favorite quote: "It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive" -James Baldwin

Senior, Drexel University
Finance and Business Analytics

Lamont Williams, originally from New York City, is a fourth-year student attending Drexel University studying Finance and Business Analytics at the LeBow College of Business.  In addition to working as a part-time Forensic Accountant, Lamont is heavily involved on campus.  Lamont is the President of the Drexel Minority Achievement Program, a student organization that intends to create a positive collegiate experience for minority students so that they may achieve excellence.  Lamont is also the Treasurer of the Drexel African American Cultural Alliance as well as the President of his Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.

More about Lamont

Favorite hobby: Photography

Favorite artist: A$AP Rocky

Favorite book: Think   and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Favorite movie: The Warriors

Must-see TV show: The Office

Favorite quote: "Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: the potential for greatness lives within each of us." -Wilma Rudolph




Three Kings Concert
Monday, August 10 at 11:00 AM

This free concert, held on the Mann's Main Stage, will showcase works that explore festival themes, including spirituals performed by student musicians from Play On Philly! and the Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project; a newly choreographed dance piece by Danse4Nia Repertory Ensemble for the Oscar Award-winning song “Glory” (performed by Common and John Legend as the theme song for the movie Selma); a new theatrical piece about Martin Luther King, Jr. by Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble; a tribute to Nelson Mandela performed by Sharon Katz & The Peace Train; and finalists from the festival’s citywide poetry competition.

Review: Events Add Urgency To Civil Rights Concert


Three Men, Three Movements

Saturday, May 2

Three Men, Three Movements was the inaugural concert event for Liberty: Unplugged!. This free community event was produced in partnership with Play On, Philly! (POP), the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) and ODUNDE365. The concert was held at Mother Bethel AME Church and featured works commissioned and created specifically for the project, including musical repertoire created by POP as well as spoken word pieces created by the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement.


Congratulations to Samantha Siermine, a junior Graphic Design student at the Moore College of Art & Design who was presented with a scholarship from The Mann for her work with the #LibertyUnplugged festival branding. Samantha is one of 15 students who worked on a year-long design project centering on the 2015 festival icons Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Frederick Douglas. Samantha’s work will be incorporated into all online and print branding throughout the festival.



Get Engaged, Stay Connected

Check back soon for information on upcoming Liberty: Unplugged! concerts and events!


Sponsored By:



Louis N. Cassett Foundation

Syde Hurdus Foundation



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