The Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University and Congregation Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia are co-sponsoring an evening of story, song, and historical reflection regarding Free to Be’s creation and legacy ON Wed. Nov. 5, 2014. I am participating along with Free to Be’s original producer Carole Hart, historian Lila Corwin Berman, and folksinger Chana Rothman–who is about to release a new album of songs about gender freedom and equality updated for children today. The Philadelphia Inquirer published an interesting piece here.
Ever since I learned that the talented choreographer Trey McIntyre was commissioned to create a modern dance piece to the original “Free to Be” music, I knew our book wouldn’t be complete without a contribution from him. Now he’s announced that he’s embarking on a new phase of his artistic career to incorporate photography, film, writing, and other media as well as dance. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for him and his collaborators in 2014 and beyond!
On a very hot Sunday afternoon in July, I spoke at the Westport Public Library with Barbara Sprung, a contributor to When We Were Free to Be and a pioneering educator in the field of early childhood education for the past fifty years. It was an honor and a pleasure to participate with with Barbara in her own hometown! Westport’s large, state-of-the-art library is a real gem. Click here to listen to a podcast of our presentation.
I had a great time visiting old friends in Seattle this week! I was delighted to appear on the show “New Day Northwest,” where I was interviewed by Margaret Larson about the enduring legacy of “Free to Be” for kids and families today. (I came on after a segment featuring a unicyclist juggling a flame torch, but thankfully, all the pyrotechnics had ended by the time I appeared!) Thanks also to Elliott Bay Books for hosting a book event with me and collaborator Cheryl Kilodavis–lifelong Seattle resident and bestselling author of the children’s book My Princess Boy. The kids in the audience made for a lively and poignant Q and A session about “William’s Doll,” “When We Grow Up,” and “Parents are People.”
Journalist Jamie Gumbrecht ran a piece about “Free to Be’s” impact in the classroom for CNN.com’s “Schools of Thought” education blog. During our interview, Laura Lovett and I covered everything from non-sexist toys and curriculum innovations to the popularity of “Glad to Have a Friend Like You” among music teachers during the 1970s. With quotes from contributors Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Barbara Sprung, and Miriam Peskowitz–as well as a photograph of Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack and a video clip of “William’s Doll”–the piece generated dozens of positive comments from readers.
Writer Sarah Buttenwieser wrote about the 40th anniversaries of “Roe v. Wade” and “Free to Be…You and Me” for The Broad Side blog this week.
I enjoyed talking with Holly Rosen Fink about the history and legacy of “Free to Be,” which was posted on Melissa Silverstein’s blog Women and Hollywood. We still have a long way to go when it comes to fighting gender stereotypes on screens both large and small. You can read our interview here.
We are honored that When We Were Free to Be was selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club this month. Click here for the link to their catalog and for other selections.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen wrote a piece about When We Were Free to Be, featuring an interview with Letty Cottin Pogrebin, for the “Sisterhood” blog at the Jewish Daily Forward. To read it, click here.
Many thanks to Janet Coleman and David Dozer at WBAI radio in New York City for producing a retrospective interview on “Free to Be…You and Me” for their show “Cat Radio Cafe” on December 17, 2012. Producer Carole Hart, composer Stephen Lawrence, editor Francine Klagsbrun, and I went downtown to their studio–recently back in operation after Hurricane Sandy–for a lively conversation about the album’s history and legacy. You can listen to the show by scrolling through their archive here.
On Monday, Dec. 10th, the JCC Manhattan hosted a special 40th Anniversary Celebration of “Free to Be…You and Me.” Abigail Pogrebin moderated a panel with Alan Alda, Carole Hart, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Carol Hall, and the surprise guest of the evening: Marlo Thomas. All of the panelists contributed to the original “Free to Be” project, and shared their stories in our anthology as well. The amazing PS 22 Chorus, a youth choir from Staten Island, started off the evening with a beautiful rendition of “Sisters and Brothers.” The evening ended with a concert by Broadway performers Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, soon to star in the up-and-coming Broadway show “Cinderella,” who sang duets of “When We Grow Up,” “William’s Doll, “Parents Are People,” and the album’s title track. It was an incredible night of reflection, humor, inspiration, and music.
Indiewire’s “Women and Hollywood” published a piece on the 40th anniversary of “Free to Be…You and Me” and mentioned When We Were Free to Be. Click here to read more:
Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed my co-editor Laura Lovett and me about the history and legacy of “Free to Be…You and Me.” Here’s how they introduced it on their website:
“The animated infants who opened a prime time television special in the U.S. 40 years ago were borne of one women’s desperation to find something other than the usual princess stuff to read to her young niece. Free to Be You and Me began as the first record in children’s entertainment to contain no sex or race stereotypes. It had children across North America singing the praises of the women’s movement, diversity and respect. Forty Years on… Free To Be is considered a turning point and we are tracking it’s influence today with a new book about the movement.”
Pamela Paul, an editor at the New York Times Book Review, interviewed Marlo Thomas for “Free to Be…You and Me’s” 40th anniversary (and revealed that she one played the role of the obnoxious girl Pamela Purse, who incessantly cried “Ladies First,” in a school play.) Click here for the story and video of Marlo’s interview.
Soundcheck host John Schaefer broadcast a wonderful three-part program on the music, history, and legacy of Free to Be…You and Me. Along with Carole Hart, who produced the original Free to Be album and television special, I was interviewed for the first segment. Later segments featured songwriter Carol Hall, psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, composer Stephen Lawrence, cultural critic Faith Salie, and the legendary Rosie Grier (whose singular performance of “It’s All Right to Cry” has made it a classic.)
After the show aired, Soundcheck producer Katie Bishop wrote a thoughtful blog post with reflections after hearing Free to Be as an adult for the very first time.
We’re so grateful to the 92Y Tribeca for hosting our book launch event! We screened video clips of “Parents are People,” “William’s Doll,” and “When We Grow Up” and discussed them with six of our book’s contributors: Stephen Lawrence, Carole Hart, Robin Pogrebin, Deesha Philyaw, Karl Bryant, and Cheryl Kilodavis.
Our audience included many friends, supporters, and contributors, including Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Barbara Sprung, Abigail Pogrebin, David Pogrebin, Becky Friedman, Francine Klagsbrun, Emily Kingsley, members of the Children’s Media Association, and “Free to Be” fans from NYC and the surrounding suburbs. Tie-dyed mini cupcakes topped off the evening.
One member of the audience, Michael Richardson, wrote a detailed post about the event, including the Q & A, for the Children’s Media Association blog here.