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In honor of Black History, UNC-Chapel Hill Digital and Lifelong Learning presents:

The Ongoing Fight for Freedom: Stories of NC’s Black Veterans

A live performance by Dr. Sonny Kelly, performer, playwright, and CEO, Legacy Heirs Productions

Sunday, February 25, 2024 from 3 PM – 5 PM at The Friday Conference Center

Sonny Kelly dressed up as a civil war soldier.

“The Ongoing Fight for Freedom: Stories of NC’s Black Veterans” is a one-man presentation & performance elevating Black freedom fighters and veterans with North Carolina connections – known & unknown, on and off the traditional battlefield – who have engaged in over 400 years of a struggle for freedom, liberty, and equality. Their sacrifices, resistance, and resilience have contributed to American democracy, even as they were denied the full rights of citizens. Through listening to their stories in this production, we can gain a deeper understanding of our nation’s founding ideals, and harness the hope to continue the work, together, of making those ideals a reality for all.

The play combines storytelling, theater, and Kelly’s personal narrative in bringing to life the untold stories of Black freedom fighters and veterans, with a North Carolina focus.  Kelly will portray multiple characters throughout the play.  The performance is enhanced with multi-media – sound, video clips, images, etc., and will offer participants an immersive and impactful experience!

The show was written and is performed by Dr. Sonny Kelly, founder of Legacy Heirs Productions. The play’s development was commissioned & funded by the NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources’ America 250 initiative & produced by Carolina K-12 at Carolina Public Humanities, UNC-Chapel Hill.

The show is approximately 75-minutes long, followed by a 30-minute audience “talk-back” with Q&A and discussion.

Admission is free, open to the public, and not recommended for children under the age of 10. Register below.

The Friday Conference Center will open at 2 PM and doors to the auditorium will open at 2:30 PM.
Performance: 3 – 4:30 PM
Q&A and discussion: 4:30 – 5 PM

Content Advisory:
Archival images, sounds & video depicting and referencing scenes of battle, war, the Jim Crow era, and racism. Suicide is briefly mentioned.

About Sonny Kelly:

Sonny Kelly, PhD, is a scholar, performer, storyteller, motivator, speaker, teacher, trainer and founder of Legacy Heirs Productions, Inc.  Dr. Kelly earned his PhD in communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.  He is also a graduate of Stanford University and St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas.  Currently, his research is focused on seeking performance centered practices to name and address the issues that divide Americans.  Dr. Kelly has served as a US Air Force officer, a non-profit organization director, university admissions counselor, pharmaceutical salesman, award winning college communications instructor and a church youth pastor.  He teaches courses in Public Speaking and intercultural/interpersonal communication at Fayetteville Technical Community College. Dr. Kelly has also acted professionally on stage and on television for over 30 years.  He is currently performing his original one-man shows and performative lectures:  The Talk, the Ongoing Fight for Freedom, Indivisible and HAUNTED – that grapple with the talks that Americans must begin to have with each other in order to thrive in a divided America and transcend toward a more unified nation.  Dr. Kelly’s work mobilizes theater, storytelling, performance-centered pedagogy, ethnography, and participatory action research toward hope, unity, accountability, equity, and inclusion.  His passion for empowering others is unmistakable!

Campus Co-Sponsors

A heartfelt thank you to our co-sponsors:

The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History
University Office for Diversity and Inclusion
Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies
Center for the Study of the American South
Carolina Black Caucus
Carolina Student Union
Carolina Public HumanitiesCarolina K-12
WUNC – North Carolina Public Radio

Honoring Black History:

Each year, Digital and Lifelong Learning offers a community event in honor of Black History Month, hosted at the Friday Conference Center.

Previous events have included:
2023 – Voices for Justice: Dar He – The Lynching of Emmett Till by Mike Wiley
2022 – Voices for Truth: Blood Done Sign My Name by Mike Wiley
2021 – Voices for Justice: Dar He – The Lynching of Emmett Till by Mike Wiley (Virtual Performance)
2020 – Voices for Equality: Breach of Peace – 1961 Freedom Fighters Movement by Mike Wiley
2019 – Voices for Change: The Fire of Freedom by Mike Wiley
2018 – Voices of Freedom: Music and the Civil Rights Movement by Mary D. Williams