Set to Run February 22-24, SJNFF Showcases Storytelling and Conversations that Challenge, Motivate and Inspire Change

Featuring Kemba – Inspired by the Life Story of Criminal Justice Reform Advocate Kemba Smith

LOS ANGELES, (February 12, 2024) – The Social Justice Now Film Festival (SJNFF), presented by the Film Life Foundation, today announced its lineup of official narrative, documentary features and short films. The festival will run February 22-24, 2024, at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s studio lot in Culver City. Sony Pictures is the event’s Founding Sponsor.

This year’s program will feature impactful spotlight screenings including the BET+ Original Film Kemba, directed by Kelley Kali and written by Christine Swanson, both ABFF Alums; documentary shorts How to Sue the Klan, by Emmy nominated director John Beder, producers Benjamin Crump, Cameron S. Mitchell, and Raji Ramanathan, Underwater Projects, directed by Dream Hampton and Liz Havstad; and the world premiere of 848: The Criminalization of America, directed by Thomas Freeman, Jr.

With the mission “to watch, to reflect and to take action,” the Social Justice Now Film Festival provides a unique platform to showcase content that confronts the social and economic issues – racism, criminal justice reform, equity, education, and immigration rights facing Black and Brown communities. Through content from established and emerging filmmakers, along with engaging post-screening talkbacks with activists, authors and academics, the festival aims to amplify critical issues and encourage social change.

“We believe in the power of film as a vehicle for social change,” said Festival Director Melanie Sharee. Thank you to SONY for believing in the mission of this festival and providing a home for filmmakers to share their perspectives, amplify marginalized voices and engage with the community.”

The schedule for the Social Justice Now Film Festival is below or visit To attend visit Eventbrite at Follow SJNFF @socialjusticenowfilmfestival

Thursday, February 22, 2024

7:00 p.m.
Narrative Feature | 87 min
Director: Kelley Kali
Writer: Christine Swanson
Produced by: MPI Original Films
Producers: Rob Pfaltzgraff, Lana Link, Stacey Parks
Executive Producers: Nick Reid, Kemba Smith, Constance Orlando, Maureen Guthman
Cast: Nesta Cooper, Siddiq Saunderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Michelle Hurd
A sheltered college student who falls in love with a man, only to learn he is a drug kingpin, finds herself in the middle of the government’s “war on drugs.”

Friday, February 23,2024

7:00 p.m.
The Fight for Black Lives

Documentary Feature | 72 min | LA Premiere
Producer/Director: Micere Keels
This film chronicles the ways that racial stress and the American healthcare system disadvantage the health of Black Americans.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

1:00 p.m.

848:The Criminalization of America
Documentary Feature | 76 min | World Premiere
Writer/Director: Thomas Freeman, Jr.
Producer: Demetrius Hill
Executive Producers: Akira Pray, Dr Ansari, Nathaniel Banks
A criminal justice documentary focusing on U.S. code 848 aka the Kingpin charge – this charge calls for “Drug Kingpins,” even non-violent ones, to spend life in prison. Even though the laws have changed, some non-violent offenders are still stuck in federal prison after serving more than 30 years. This is the story of the how, why and what we can do to help!

4:00 p.m.
Short Film Collection I

How to Sue the Klan
Documentary | 35 min
Director/Producer: John Beder
Producers: Benjamin Crump, Cameron S. Mitchell, Raji Ramanathan
How to Sue the Klan is the story of how five Black women from Chattanooga used legal ingenuity to take on the Ku Klux Klan in a historic 1982 civil case, fighting to hold the Klan accountable for their crimes and bring justice to their community. The women’s victory set a legal precedent that continues to inspire the ongoing fight against organized hate.

Bienvenidos a Los Angeles
Narrative | 17 min
Writer/Director: Lisa Cole
Producers: Vivian Johnson, Cindy Lu, Jolene Mendes, Benjamin O’Keefe, Lolia Etomi
Cast: Destiny Faith Nelson, Stacey Patino, Ethan Mendez, Rashmi Rustagi, Yvonne Huff Lee
The timely story of Imani, a Nigerian single mother living in Los Angeles, who offers to help a perfect stranger reunite with her son. In doing so, Imani learns this simple act of kindness threatens to jeopardize her own path to citizenship.

Narrative |16 min
Writer/Director: Jamie Burton-Oare
Producer: Jamie Burton-Oare
Executive Producer: Shannon E. Riggs
Cast: Stephen Hill
For Eric, it is a normal day in his life/neighborhood. For the world, it’s the day Eric faces the reality of taking his last breath.

7:00 p.m.
Short Film Collection II

Underwater Projects
Documentary | 28 min | World Premiere
Co-Directors: Dream Hampton, Liz Havstad
Norfolk, Virginia is sinking. The already insufficient sea wall ends where a public housing project, St. Paul’s, begins. St. Paul’s housing projects’ residents are Black people. Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base and there is currently no public plan to prevent it from going underwater.

Silent Partner
Narrative | 16 min | LA Premiere
Director: Aristotle Torres
Writers: Aristotle Torres, Roderick Lawrence
Producer: Roderick Lawrence
Cast: Roderick Lawrence, Kara Young, Michael Park
Silas Jones is an accomplished, Black trial attorney on the cusp of making partner at a white-shoe law firm. Upon successfully defending a white woman charged with murdering a Black teen, Silas comes to a crossroads with his wife Kosi, an equally accomplished professor, as they prepare to attend the firm’s celebration. As the night progresses, Silas questions the legitimacy of his promotion. Will he make the ultimate sacrifice?

Musical Narrative | 13 min | LA Premiere
Writer/Director: Alexander Craven
Producers: Jeff Pifher, Shane Collins
Cast: Natalie Hanna Mendoza, John Robert Hall
When Elena and Cameron are ripped apart by an act of racism, both must stand up for what they believe to keep the door of love open.

About The Social Justice Now Film Festival
The Social Justice Now Film Festival presented by the Film Life Foundation is dedicated to showcasing content that confronts racism and heightens awareness of the social and economic issues that negatively affect Black and Brown people in the United States. Sony Pictures is SJNFF’s founding sponsor.

About Film Life Foundation
The Film Life Foundation (FLF) is a nonprofit organization founded by American Black Film Festival producers Jeff and Nicole Friday. Based in Los Angeles, the organization is dedicated to spearheading diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, as well as bringing people of different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives closer together through the transformative medium of film. The foundation’s work is centered on cause-oriented programs in the areas of social justice, education, professional development and cultural exchange. For more information, visit

About Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Group Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition, and distribution; television production, acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. Sony Pictures Television operates dozens of wholly-owned or joint-venture production companies around the world. SPE’s Motion Picture Group production organizations include Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, 3000 Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Stage 6 Films, AFFIRM Films, Sony Pictures International Productions, and Sony Pictures Classics. For additional information, visit

Media Contact:
Chelsye J. Burrows
[email protected]

2024 SJNFF Images

Hosted by Tommy Davidson, ABFF Honors to Celebrate Legendary Performer Garrett Morris, Taraji P. Henson, Jeffrey Wright, and Mara Brock Akil and Announce the ABFF Fan Favorite Movie of the Year

LOS ANGELES, (January 24, 2024) – The 6th American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Honors announced today the honorees of its annual awards ceremony recognizing excellence in the motion picture and television industry. Presented by NICE CROWD, the 2024 ABFF Honors will take place on Sunday, March 3rd at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, CA hosted by actor and comedian Tommy Davidson. Guests at the intimate, non-televised dinner will include ABFF honorees and festival partners.

The ABFF Honors and recipients are:

  • Hollywood Legacy Award – actor, comedian, writer, singer, and first Black cast member of Saturday Night Live, Garrett Morris (The Jamie Foxx Show, 2 Broke Girls, Martin); Presented to a trailblazing artist whose work (four decades or more) has inspired generations and made an enduring contribution to film and television.
  • Excellence in the Arts Award (Female) – Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Hidden Figures, The Color Purple); Honoring a highly acclaimed artist in recognition of their body of work and distinguished career achievement.
  • Excellence in the Arts Award (Male) – Emmy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony Award winner Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat, Westworld, American Fiction); Honoring a highly acclaimed artist in recognition of their body of work and distinguished career achievement.
  • Industry Visionary Award – screenwriter and producer Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, The Game, Being Mary Jane); Presented to a trendsetting content creator in recognition of their outstanding work and commitment to championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the motion picture and television industry, through their work.


Presented in recognition of the year’s most outstanding narrative feature-length motion picture directed by a person of African descent. To be eligible, films must have a minimum running time of 72 minutes and a theatrical or streaming release date between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023.

The nominees and winner are determined by an online poll of the more than one hundred thousand (100,000) festival alumni. The winning film is revealed during the ABFF Honors ceremony.

2024 Nominees:

  • A Thousand and One, directed by A.V. Rockwell (Sight Unseen Pictures, Hillman Grad, Makeready) – Focus Features
  • American Fiction, directed by Cord Jefferson (Orion Pictures, MRC, T-Street, Almost Infinite, 3 Arts Entertainment) – Amazon MGM Studios
  • Origin, directed by Ava DuVernay, (ARRAY Filmworks) – Neon
  • The Color Purple, directed by Blitz Bazawule (Harpo Films, Amblin Entertainment) – Warner Bros.
  • They Cloned Tyrone, directed by Juel Taylor (Federal Films) – Netflix
  • The Equalizer 3, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Columbia Pictures) – Sony Pictures Entertainment

“For decades, these esteemed ABFF Honorees have elevated their projects, and brought joy to audiences across the world,” said NICE CROWD CEO and President Jeff and Nicole Friday. “It is our honor to recognize Garrett, Taraji, Jeffrey, and Mara for all their contributions to culture and the industry throughout their remarkable careers. We look forward to celebrating their many achievements and gathering with our fantastic ABFF partners.”

Garrett Morris is a TV legend to generations of loyal viewers. Having most recently been a series regular on CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Garrett is beloved by generations of TV watchers as one of Saturday Night Live’s original “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”. Born in New Orleans and raised by his Baptist Minister grandfather, he spent his childhood singing in the church choir and eventually trained at the Juilliard School of Music. His first professional break was performing with the Harry Belafonte Singers whom he remained with for ten years. Morris resides in Los Angeles where he owns and operates The LA Blues & Comedy Club. In 2007 Garrett was honored by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for his work and contributions to the black community.

Taraji P. Henson is an Academy Award nominated, Emmy nominated, and Golden Globe-winning actor, filmmaker, and activist who quickly rose to fame after her breakout performance in the critically acclaimed film Hustle & Flow. In 2020, Henson wrapped her iconic run as “Cookie Lyon” in Fox’s hit musical drama Empire, which has earned her three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe Award, a Critics Choice Award, and three BET Awards. Henson can most recently be seen starring in the Blitz Bazawule adaption of The Color Purple as “Shug Avery”, which was released on December 25, 2023. She stars opposite Fantasia and Danielle
Brooks, with Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Scott Sanders, and Quincy Jones producing. Henson also starred as “Miss Hannigan” in NBC’s Annie Live! in December of 2021, for which she won an NAACP award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Limited Series or Dramatic Special.

Jeffrey Wright is a Tony, Emmy, AFI, and Golden Globe Award-winning actor who has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning the worlds of theatre, film, and television. Wright was most recently seen in the critically acclaimed role of “Bernard Lowe” in HBO’s Westworld, for which he earned three Emmy nominations. He can currently be seen in the George C. Wolfe-directed Civil Rights pic, Rustin, portraying “Adam Clayton Powell”. Other recent projects include lead roles in Netflix’s All Day And A Night (May 2020), HBO’s O.G., which premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, where Wright won the award for Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film and Netflix’s Hold the Dark (September 2018). Wright can currently be seen giving one of the best performances of his career in Orion Pictures/Amazon MGM Studios’ American Fiction, written and directed by Cord Jefferson; for which Wright has received nominations from the Gotham Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Critics Choice Awards and the SAG Awards thus far for his wonderful performance as protagonist, “Thelonious Monk Ellison”.

Mara Brock Akil has written and produced over 400 episodes of television, leaving her mark on Hollywood. Her groundbreaking body of work includes the television series Girlfriends (2000), a witty and honest exploration of the multi-faceted nature of Black womanhood. During its eight seasons on-air, it was one of the highest-rated scripted shows among African-Americans ages 18 to 34. Beyond her work as a writer, producer and director, her peers have consistently recognized Brock Akil as a leader in the industry. In 2019, she was honored with the prestigious Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award by NATPE for exhibiting extraordinary passion, leadership, independence, and vision through her contributions to television. Some of her prior accolades include Essence Magazine’s Visionary Award during their annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon, being named to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter’s Showrunner Power Lists, as well as to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Women in Entertainment Power100” multiple times. In 2021, Mara expanded her passion for non-profit work and started her very own non-profit writing residency in Los Angeles, the Writers’ Colony. The Writers’ Colony is a launching pad for the next generation of Black screenwriters. It is a place for them to write, to belong, and to find their voice.

ABFF Honors is the American Black Film Festival’s annual awards season gala dedicated to recognizing excellence in the motion picture and television industry. Founded in 2016, the ceremony pays tribute to Black artists who have made significant contributions to American entertainment through their work as well as those who champion diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. In addition to the individual honors, the ceremony includes a competitive award; the “Fan Favorite Movie of the Year” as determined by popular vote of the festival’s alumni.

ABFF Honors stems from the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), founded by Jeff Friday in 1997, the leading festival of its kind showcasing Black storytelling. Since its inception, the ABFF has been dedicated to supporting Friday’s conviction that Black artists deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts. Having premiered the work and encouraged the careers of many of today’s most successful filmmakers and actors, the ABFF has become the standard-bearer of excellence for Black American creativity.

ABFF Honors is executive produced by Nicole and Jeff Friday (NICE CROWD) in association with dePasse Jones Entertainment and Rikki Hughes (Magic Lemonade). Sponsors for the event include: Cadillac (Presenting), Amazon MGM Studios (Premier), Sony Pictures Entertainment (Supporting) and Fulton Films (Supporting).

For more information about ABFF Honors visit Follow @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram and Facebook, and @ABFF on X.

NICE CROWD, formerly ABFF Ventures, is a Los Angeles-based live events company that develops and produces properties in the arts, entertainment, lifestyle and wellness industries that showcase BIPOC culture and talent. The Company’s tentpole event is the American Black Film Festival, founded in 1997.

To learn more about NICE CROWD events, visit

Media Contact:
[email protected]

For 2024 ABFF Honoree Photos please use this link: HERE