Pierce Freelon is a professor, director, musician, Emmy-Award winning producer, and a millennial politician who is running for North Carolina State Senate.
He is the founder of Blackspace, a digital maker space in Durham where young people learn about music, film and coding. He is the writer, composer and co-director of an animated series called History of White People in America, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival back-to-back in 2018 and 2019. He is a co-founder of Beat Making Lab, a PBS web-series, which won Best Video Essay for its episode Heartbeats of Fiji at the 2015 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Born and raised in Durham, Pierce ran for Mayor in 2017 on a platform of Community, Growth, Youth and Love. He is currently a candidate for North Carolina State Senate.
Pierce earned a BA in African and African American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and an MA in Pan African Studies at Syracuse University. He has taught music, political science, and African American studies at both UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University.
Pierce lives in Durham with his wife of 11 years and their two children.
Deanna Van Buren is the design director and co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), an architecture and real estate development non-profit working to end mass incarceration by building infrastructure that attacks its root causes: poverty, racism, unequal access to resources, and the criminal justice system itself.
Unlike the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture of justice—courthouses, prisons and jails—the Oakland-based DJDS creates spaces and buildings for restorative justice, rehabilitation and community building.
Van Buren’s most notable projects include: Restore Oakland, a multi-use hub for restorative justice and workforce development in East Oakland, created in collaboration with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United); the Near Westside Peacemaking Center in Syracuse, New York; Pop-Up Village, a mobile event that brings a constellation of resources to under-resourced communities; and The Women’s Mobile Refuge Center, a mobile overnight space for women who have recently been released from incarceration.
A pioneering activist, Van Buren has been recognized internationally for her leadership in using architecture, design, and real estate innovations to address the social inequities behind the mass incarceration crisis. Her 2017 TEDWomen talk on what a world without prisons could look like has been viewed more than one million times, and she is the only architect to have been awarded the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist fellowship.
Van Buren is also the recipient of UC Berkeley’s prestigious 2018 Berkeley-Rupp Architecture Prize and Professorship, which awards $100,000 biannually to a design practitioner who has made a significant contribution to advancing gender equity in architecture, and whose work emphasizes a commitment to sustainability and community.
Van Buren received her BS in architecture from the University of Virginia and her MA from Columbia University. She is an alumnus of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.