Feb. 12, 2011
-- ACTOR LEONARD DOZIER GOT HIS START IN HIGH SCHOOL RECITING SPEECHES AND SERMONS BY DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR; however, his latest portrayal as Bishop Richard Allen is momentous. Dozier (www.LeonardDozier.com)
is the star of the first-ever documentary about the church founder and abolitionist. Dozier also narrates the film in the first person as Bishop Richard Allen. The film, entitled Bishop Richard Allen Apostle of Freedom, will premiere online on Sunday February 13 the day before what would have been Bishop Allen’s 251st birthday. “Watch Parties” are forming on five continents where as many as 3-million AME church members are expected to log on to the Mother Bethel website (www.MotherBethel.org)
and watch the 23-minute film, for free, on demand. The film will remain online indefinitely and orders for the actual DVD will also take place on the Mother Bethel website on February 13th. The film was produced by Mother Bethel AME Church, thanks to a generous grant from The Lomax Family Foundation and Dr. Walter Lomax, owner of WURD-AM radio in Philadelphia. “This is the first high quality, PBS style documentary on the life of Bishop Allen, arguably one of America’s founding fathers,” says Mother Bethel’s pastor the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, PhD., who also served as Executive Producer, historical consultant, and writer for the film. The world, online premiere of the film is made possible by New York Jets Offensive Lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a lifelong member of the AME Church, and his foundation “The D’Brickashaw Ferguson Foundation.”
The original score for the film is composed by Grammy-award winning producer Phil Davis of PHD Productions in Atlanta, Georgia. Davis has produced music with famous artists like Will Downing and Rachelle Farrell. Davis also once played piano for Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The distinguished Wilberforce University Choir, under the direction of Jeremy Winston, provides special choral arrangements for the film.
Bishop Richard Allen Apostle of Freedom was shot in Philadelphia with Philadelphia area actors, and extras who are members of both Mother Bethel AME Church (the congregation Bishop Allen started in 1794) and Historic St. George’s UMC (the church that Allen walked out of because of racial segregation)
. The short film tells some stories from Bishop Allen’s life adapted from his autobiography. The Bishop Allen character narrates the film as the voice of Bishop Allen. He also re-enacts historic moments like the infamous ‘walk-out’
from St. George’s United Methodist Church due to racial segregation. The intense scene was actually filmed in the balcony of Historic St. George’s. The film also has expert analysis from AME scholars and leaders including Bishop Richard Franklin Norris, who oversees the First Episcopal District; Dr. Dennis Dickerson, Historiographer of the AME Church; Dr. Jacqueline Grant, and Professor Richard Newman author of the most recent Allen biography.
Mother Bethel is seeking sponsors for the February 13th online premiere. Potential sponsors can view a free clip of the film at: http://www.motherbethel.org/allen/index.html
. Sponsorship can be obtained through the following levels: Diamond ($1,000), Platinum ($500) and Gold ($250). Funds raised from sponsorship will go to help translate the film into different languages so that the film can be viewed in all AME churches around the globe. The money will also help fund future projects. “We are currently in the planning stages of more documentaries that will tell the story of our church’s fore-parents,”
says Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler. “Our history is an important American story rich with accomplishments, conflict and drama.”
For more information call (215) 925-0616. Media inquiries call (609) 247-2632.
About Bishop Richard Allen
Born as a slave to Colonial Chief Justice Benjamin Chew, owner of the Cliveden Estate in Germantown, Allen later purchased his freedom from a Delaware slave owner who bought him as a child. He went on to distinguish himself as more than just a church leader. He hauled salt for the Continental Army during the American Revolution; he acted bravely in caring for the dying and burying the dead in the Yellow Fever Outbreak of 1793; he and Absalom Jones were the holders of the first copyright by African Americans when they published their rebuttal to Matthew Carey's account of the Yellow Fever Outbreak; he was a successful entrepreneur, claiming George Washington's Executive Mansion on 6th and Market Streets as a customer of his chimney sweep business; he opened his doors to those fleeing slavery on what would become known as the Underground Railroad as an Abolitionist;
he organized one of the first major protests by African Americans when 3,000 people gathered at Mother Bethel Church to denounce the American Colonization Society's plan to send free Blacks to Africa; and, he had an active correspondence with the president of Haiti to the point that he sent missionaries to that nation in the 1820s to help them organize build infrastructure.
Bishop Allen is most known for his bold act of independence against the racial and religious intolerance of his time when he walked out of the segregated pews at St. George's Methodist Church in the late 1700s. This act ultimately led to the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816, which grew out of Mother Bethel and similar congregations in the northeast. This was America's first denomination established by African Americans and Allen became the first Bishop.
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