The 7th Annual West African Film Festival Celebrates African Diaspora

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The West African Film Festival brings a more complete and accurate picture of West Africa to Houston through visual media while celebrating the connection between West Africa and African Americans for Black History Month. Another aim of the festival is to partner with other professional organisations and corporations in diverse industries to promote a dialogue that is centred on the sharing of best practices between West Africa and the US.

The West African Film Festival is the brainchild of Linda Wuest, former Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Houston. In 2015, Linda approached Natashia Clarke about joining the organising committee after Natashia conducted her graduate thesis research at the World Affairs Council of Houston. Because of her entertainment background from Los Angeles, Natashia became passionate about the festival and worked to recruit other committee members. Natashia works in PR in the education industry and has worked as an adjunct professor at local universities and colleges. Natashia is a doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University.

In 2017, the organising committee recruited Imanuel Way, a501(c) (3) status non-profit organisation that is currently the official fiscal sponsor of the festival. Andy and Crystal Ikeakor are the founders of Imanuel Way and are committed to expanding the festival each year. Andy Ikeakor is a Performance, Basketball, and Soccer Coach at International Leadership Academy, and Crystal is a Furniture Account Executive for Staples Workplace Studios. They also joined their family in the sno-cone business, which has expanded into three locations here in Houston: SnoDreamz Fondren at 11320 Fondren Rd., SnoDreamz Scott at 3402 Scott St. Unit 100A, and SnoDreamz S. Post Oak at 15917 S. Post Oak.

Also, joining Natashia and Imanuel Way on the organising committee are Kevin Johnson, Jane Udoewa, Lucy Mends, Anita Long, Mazda Denon and Doyin Oluntona. Kevin Johnson is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University and retired Mechanical Engineer with 30 years of experience as a Project Manager in the Petrochemical Industry. He is also a Social Scientist with Masters degrees in Sociology and Cross-Cultural Studies and an active member of several community organisations and associations, such as Nigerian American Multicultural Council, Native American Chamber of Commerce, Ewe Association of Houston, and Dominica Houston Association. Jane Udoewa founded Culturally Naija in 2016 and is also the co-host of this year’s 3rd annual Nigeria Cultural Parade & Festival taking place in downtown Houston on September 28th. She also earned her MSc in Information systems and currently works as a Sr. Analyst at the largest Healthcare system in Houston., TX. Anita Long is the President of Long Films Studio, Managing Editor of IF International Focus Magazine and Immediate Past President of Women in Film and Television Houston. Lucy Mends-Brobbey is a bestselling novelist, Mazda Denon is the Administrative Affairs and Events Manager at the Mayor’s Office of Trade and International Affairs, and Doyin Oluntona is the Co-Founder of U-Turn Africa.

Past venue sponsors of the festival were Rice University, Ismaili Jamatkhana Center, University of Houston-Downtown, University of Houston, Clear Lake, Texas Southern University, Houston Community College and Harmony Public Schools. The 2022 West African Film Festival is held at Rice University, Menil Collection, University of Houston, Clear Lake, Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, Shrine of the Black Madonna, and Houston Community College. The festival has an amazing lineup of family dramedies and documentaries on balancing identities and the cultural transfusion of Afro-Cuban music and culture in Central America and West Africa. The festival is free and open to the public.

 

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