Long before Canada finally got around to declaring Emancipation Day a national holiday, Windsor had already set the standard decades ago. For anyone who wanted to celebrate the abolition of slavery, Windsor was the place to be. It was where you could rub shoulders with Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens, where you could compete in a talent show against the Supremes, where you could hear a young Martin Luther King Jr speak.
Mr. Emancipation is the story of the man who made this happen. With persistence and charisma, Walter L. Perry carried out his vision of an annual celebration that would transcend divisions of race and class. His Emancipation Day celebration drew tens of thousands of Blacks from across North America to Windsor.
It truly was a holiday like no other and attracted a variety of future Motown artists. Diana Ross and The Supremes gained their first public recognition in a band contest in Windsor’s Jackson Park. Group member Mary Wilson told the Windsor Star in 1982, “I knew we could easily win the Emancipation showdown. We felt we were ready for the big time, Windsor” Ester Gordy Edwards, vice president of Motown Records “It was a big thing on the Detroit side of the river those days. Everyone looked forward to it all summer long. It was our freedom festival.”
MR EMANCIPATION: The Walter Perry Story explores the rise and the fall of Windsor’s storied Emancipation Day festival with lively interviews and lots of archival footage and photos. The film was directed by Windsor native Preston Chase. The Walter Perry Story is his first film. It’s also deeply personal to him; Walter Perry was his great uncle. The film has been screened at 50 film festivals, on five continents. It has won numerous awards. And now, it’s finally coming home.
Join us for the Windsor premiere at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, July 28th. The film starts at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $25.00 each.
Tickets are available in person at the Capitol Theatre Box Office (M-Th: 10-5pm, F: 10-1pm), online at www.capitoltheatrewindsor.ca and through the North Star Cultural Community Centre, 225A Erie St E, Windsor.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the North Star Cultural Community Centre and The Walter Perry Foundation.