The Swahili word “Kujichagulia” comes to mind when describing entertainment executive Jeff Friday. Translated to English, Friday has unabashedly used self-determination to bring his visions for Black entertainment content to life. As a graduate of Howard University and New York University’s Steinhardt School of Business, the entrepreneur has been making quiet leaps and bounds throughout the often gregarious, cut-throat entertainment industry. Friday’s savvy entrepreneurial skills and fearless spirit brought him from his first position as president of UniWorld Films in 1996 to his current title as CEO of Film Life, Inc. Through his innovative company, Friday offers a variety of Black films, television series, and digital entertainment to audiences hungry for a multicultural niche that Hollywood has left void for decades. Friday creates new opportunities for women and multicultural artists “ “Because Hollywoodn’t”; as his company’s mantra says, and prefers working outside the studio system, which is notorious for its nepotism and boys club-type environment.
The Black Movie Awards, which Friday if creator and executive producer of, has given Black filmmakers and talent a reason to gather in celebration to acknowledge the gifted individuals within our community who rarely, if ever, get their dues. As for the fledgling film hopefuls, Friday has gotten them covered too through Film Life’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that the entertainment executive established to provide scholarships and other additional education resources. Most recently, Film Life, Inc. held a Strikes celebrity bowling event hosted by actress Nia Long in order to raise funds for the Film Life Foundation, as well as the general scholarship fund at the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University.
As the founder of the American Black Film Festival, which is now in its 16th year, Friday makes sure that the excellent films being created by the artists are premiered in a setting comparable to the well-known festivals that usually come off more whitewashed than not. Annually held at Miami Beach, this year’s festival will feature over sixteen short films, narrative features, and documentaries sent from USA , France, and Jamaica. The film topics range from coming of age adolescence, underground street fighting and soul food. Kicking off the screenings this year will be indie-darling “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Running from June 20-23, the American Black Film Festival is a must-see summer event for the movie lover in us all.
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Patrice Peck is a writer and journalist whose work explores the intersection of race, culture, and identity. Her work lives at www.patricepeck.com.