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Producers discuss "Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom"

Graphic reads "Juneteenth: Faith & Freedom"

For the documentary "Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom," co-producer and writer Rasool Berry went to Texas where, in 1865, federal troops moved to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Berry's research, including interviews with descendants of those enslaved in Texas, provided a truth that "was much more dynamic, much more troubling and, I think, much more insightful about our current realities and how we think about freedom in our country."

Berry and co-producer Mary Beth Minnis screened their documentary at Villa Maria College. They spoke with WBFO in advance of the event.

Berry, who also serves as a teaching pastor at the Bridge Church in Brooklyn, says his examination of Juneteenth also found how the complexity of "how faith was both, I think, misused as a justification for injustice but also appropriated by the formerly enslaved as a vision and empowerment for liberation."

That tension is a key part of the documentary.

"That is really full when you look at the history of Juneteenth."

Minnis says the film also examines the "'slave bible', which was a bible used by white supremacists to keep slaves from understanding the historical narratives of God setting the Israelites free, setting the slaves free."

The documentary follows Berry to a former slave plantation where, for the first time, he handles the shackles and other artifacts that worked to enslave.

"I think that's why films like this are so important because we don't shy away from the racial issues of our past and the racism of our country's history," Berry said.

"It's really an invitation for all of us to learn together, collectively, about our history, as well as be inspired," Minnis added.

A local connection "Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom" can be found on the film's deluxe soundtrack. The song 'Privilege' is written and performed by A.I. The Anomaly (Buffalo Poet Laureate Aitina Fareed-Cooke). The Villa Maria screening event also featured the premier of the song's video which was developed by students of the school's Digital Media Design department.

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.