PITTSBURGH – WQED is proud to premiere a new documentary, Freedom House Ambulance – The FIRST Responders, exploring the rise and fall of Freedom House Ambulance, with a free public screening on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at Jeron X. Grayson Community Center, located in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District. The event runs from 7-9pm, with a community screening at 7pm, followed by a Q&A panel at 8pm.
WQED will premiere Freedom House on Thursday, January 12 at 8pm on WQED-TV, with an encore broadcast Monday, January 16 at 7:30pm. The program will be available online following the broadcast at www.wqed.org/freedomhouse. Freedom House Ambulance – The FIRST Responders is produced by WQED’s Annette Banks. Banks is the recipient of four Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Awards for her previous productions, including “A Crowning Achievement,” the story of Jean Bryant’s founding of Pittsburgh’s African American pageants, and “August Wilson Park – You Plan Right,” covering the history of the Hill District park.
In 1967, Pittsburgh’s inner city produced America’s first EMT service. Comprised solely of Black men and women recruited from the city’s Hill District neighborhood, the paramedics of Freedom House Ambulance became trailblazers in providing pre-hospital and CPR care. Freedom House was initially conceived to respond to the needs of Pittsburgh’s African American community who often times could not rely on police and fire departments during an emergency.
Their groundbreaking work became the basis for all paramedics training in the country. However, despite its success, racism and power dynamics in Pittsburgh eventually shut down Freedom House, leaving its legacy almost lost to history. With rare archival images, the documentary features the visionary story from an original founder, compelling reflections of surviving paramedics, remembrances of the world-renowned doctors who trained them, and memories of lifelong Hill District residents who were there when the Freedom House ambulances hit the streets.
As the documentary’s producer, Banks will share behind-the-scenes stories of making the film, including successes and challenges along the way. “When I first heard the story of Freedom House, I couldn’t believe more people, including me, hadn’t heard about it,” said Banks. “They were the country’s first trained team of paramedics providing life-saving assistance outside of a hospital, when and where it was needed. I feel really privileged to be able to share this important story.”
Immediately following the documentary screening, WQED’s supervising producer Minette Seate will moderate a panel discussion, featuring Banks, and key members of the Freedom House community and original team including Mitchell J. Brown, George McCary, and John Moon. The panel will also feature Phil Hallen, one of the original founders of Freedom House.
Registration for the event is available here: https://freedomhousescreening.eventbrite.com
NOTE TO ATTENDEES: Masks are required in common areas of the venue.
Complimentary light refreshments will be served. Parking is available in the building’s attached lot and also in an adjacent extended parking lot, both accessed from Enoch St.
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
6:00pm – Doors open
7:00pm – Program begins
Jeron X. Grayson Community Center
1852 Enoch Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Freedom House is made possible with the support of:
- Page, Wolfberg & Wirth LLC
- Mobile Health Resources/ EMS Survey Team
- Center for Emergency Medicine of Western Pennsylvania, Inc
WQED was an experiment in educational community-supported television that was the forerunner to PBS. Today, WQED is a multimedia powerhouse that is as much a part of Pittsburgh as the three rivers. WQED is WQED-TV (PBS); WQED World; WQED Create; WQED Showcase; WQED PBS KIDS Channel; Classical WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; Classical WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; the Pittsburgh Concert Channel at WQED-HD2 (89.3-2FM) and online; streaming and apps, and WQED Interactive.
WQED is a premier leader in broadcast and digital video production, producing socially relevant, historical, arts, entertainment and educational programming resources. WQED’s Learning Neighborhood model creates an education continuum dedicated to serving our youngest neighbors through Ready To Learn programming, while engaging high school students learning filmmaking and exploring employment opportunities through the WQED Film Academy.