Commencement Speaker Pierce Freelon ’02 Seeks Change Through Politics, Activism, Arts

The speaker at Williston Northampton School’s 177th Commencement will be Pierce Freelon, an entrepreneur, activist, filmmaker, musician, professor, and community-builder. A member of the Williston Northampton School class of 2002, he will address the school community during an event on the Quadrangle on May 26, 2018.

Freelon, a native of Durham, NC, was a candidate for mayor of his hometown last year, and then sought a seat on its City Council; his platform emphasized racial equity and giving a voice to all members of the community.

  • Watch a video about his political philosophy that features the late poet Maya Angelou, a family friend.
  • In this video, Freelon addresses the citizens of Durham on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
  • Read a profile of Freelon that appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of the Bulletin.

He is the founder of Blackspace, a digital maker space in Durham, NC, where young people learn about music, film and coding, and he’s frontman of the jazz hip-hop band The Beast.

  • Watch a video of The Beast’s recent entry to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, “Power Man.”

Freelon co-founded “Beat Making Lab,” an Emmy-Award winning PBS web-series and social entrepreneurship community program. An animated short film he worked on, “The History of White People,” recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. He has taught music, political science, and African American studies at UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University.

Freelon is the youngest person to be appointed by the Governor to serve on the North Carolina Arts Council board. He has served on the boards of the Durham Library Foundation, Nasher Museum of Art, and KidZNotes.

Pierce earned a B.A. in African and African American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and an M.A. in Pan African Studies at Syracuse University.