Public Relations, Community Engagement, Partnership Development, Talent Acquisition
To commemorate the 240th anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, founded by slaves in 1776, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation restored its historic bell to ring in time for Black History Month 2016. Silenced since the days of segregation and Jim Crow, the bell had remained inoperable…unheard throughout the tumult and progress of the civil rights movement and in the presence of famed worshipers including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Let Freedom Ring, a campaign honoring the perseverance of the church, launched on February 1st, after a year of racial turmoil in America. The campaign, shepherded by MARC Global, challenged Americans of all faiths, creed and color, to take a turn at ringing the bell rope, in person or virtually as a symbolic call for hope, peace, freedom and racial healing – all day, every day – during Black History Month.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Congressman Bobby Scott, Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, Dr. Timothy Boddie, General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Johnny C. Clark, President of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Civil Rights Leader Dr. Bernard Lafayette as well as the descendants of Rosa Parks, President Jefferson and Sally Hemings, joined First Baptist Church Pastor Reverend Reginald Davis for a morning ceremony to herald the historic ringing of the bell. The uplifting event included a performance by Grammy-Award winning artist Valerie Simpson, and the Hampton University Choir.
The Let Freedom Ring gala, hosted by Danny Glover, honored the First Baptist Church and Civil Rights Leader Dr. Bernard Lafayette later that evening. Performances included Esperanza Spalding, Valerie Simpson and the legendary Nona Hendryx.
A “Why I Will Ring” PSA campaign, airing on TV, radio and digitally, featured entertainers, artists and influencers including Malcolm Jamal Warner, LisaRaye McCoy, Rabbi Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, National Urban League President Marc Morial and many others.
Over 7 million Americans rang the bell virtually, while more than 4,000 people rang the bell at the First Baptist Church during the month. The campaign generated international, national and local media coverage from outlets including USA Today, New York Times, BET.com, NBC News, TV One, Aspire TV, International Business Times, Tom Joyner Radio, Black America Web, Café Mocha/Madame Noir, American Urban Radio Networks, SiriusXM Radio, and numerous others.
Participating celebrities included Danny Glover, Malcolm Jamal Warner, LisaRaye McCoy, Miguel Nunez, Nona Hendryx, Keith Perrin, Jay Alexander Martin, Bre’ly Evans, Rabbi Schneier, Yoko Ono, Hussam Ayoush, Leonard Marshall, Tommie Ingram and Greg Reeves. Online PSAs were also provided by Kym Whitley, Tyler Perry, Yolanda Adams, Guy Torry, the Dontre Hamilton Family, Bebe Winans, Neyo, Bryshere Gray, Ruben Stoddard, Erica Campbell, David Alan Grier, Darrin Henson, Kelly Price, Niecy Nash, Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, and Johnny C. Taylor, President of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Community Partnerships included ASALH, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the National Network of Arab American Communities, and the Coalition for Justice.