Preston William Chase, originally from Windsor, Ontario has partnered with Northstar Cultural Community Centre to direct a documentary about his great, great uncle, Mister Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story.
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The documentary tells the story of an epic Emancipation Day festival that thrived in Windsor, Ontario from 1936-1967. Walter L. Perry, a hard-working resident of Windsor selling newspapers at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel, who for 30+ years organized the successful festival. The event drew Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Joe Louis, Martin Luther King and others, and was a highlight for the city during its golden age, which “at its peak the event doubled the City of Windsor’s population of 100,000.”
Chase says, “I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It’s a blue collar city just south of Detroit, with a black community that dates back to the days of the Underground Railroad. Times were always tough in the community. But there was one thing that people could be proud of, the largest Emancipation Day celebration in the world.”
Chase continues, “For years now, I have wanted to share those stories. I mean, here was a guy who came from nothing, and sold newspapers to make ends meet, who somehow charmed city leaders, and sponsors and staged an event that drew top sports talent, American civil rights leaders, politicians and musicians to Windsor.”
“Over the past five years, I spent many hours with the elders in my community, recording their recollections of Uncle Walt, and the impact his festival had on them, and how it shaped their lives. I sifted through their old photos which capture so many joyous moments. I did it just in time, we’re losing that generation, and their voices are still relevant today.” Chase says.
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Chase adds, “I wanted to capture that and share it, especially now, when we seem more divided than ever, it’s possible to reach out, get along, and have fun.”