American Masters

How It Feels to Be Free

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Film phase:Completed


How It Feels to Be Free takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of African American women artists, politics, and entertainment and tells the story of how six trailblazing performers, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier, changed American culture through their films, fashion, their music and their politics. 

How It Feels to Be Free was supported through Yoruba Richen’s 2016 Chicken & Egg Award.




Yoruba Richen 2016 Breakthrough Award Recipient

Yoruba Richen (she/her) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on multiple outlets, including Netflix, MSNBC, FX, HBO, The Atlantic, and Field of Vision. Her most recent film The Rebellious Rosa Parks premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in June 2022 and is now streaming on Peacock. Other recent films include the Emmy®-nominated How It Feels to Be Free and the Emmy® and Peabody nominated The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show. She was a director on the award winning series Black and Missing for HBO and High on the Hog for Netflix. Yoruba is the co-director of American Reckoning which aired on PBS’s FRONTLINE and The Killing of Breonna Taylor which won an NAACP Image Award. She is also a past Guggenheim fellow and a 2016 Chicken & Egg Pictures Award Recipient. Yoruba is the founding director of the Documentary Program at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.




Elliott Halpern and Elizabeth Trojian of Yap Films. Black and white portrait.

Elliott Halpern (he/him) is an Emmy® Award-winning producer and director of documentary specials and series and the Creative Director of the Toronto-based production company, Yap Films. Elizabeth Trojian (she/her) is an executive producer at Yap Films, as well as an award-winning producer, writer and director. She has worked on, and created many television documentaries and series for North American and international broadcasters including – the Emmy® nominated How it Feels to Be Free, Unabomber: In his own Words, The Genetic Revolution, Mosquito, Made by Destruction and My Trans Journey


Lacey Schwartz Delgado looks directly at camera and smiles. Black and white portrait.

Mehret Mandefro looks directly at camera and smiles. Black and white portrait.Mehret Mandefro (she/her) and Lacey Schwartz Delgado (she/her) are award-winning producers/writers/directors. The content they create is deeply connected to an awareness and centering of people of color, women, public health, and wellness.