One of the fondest memories of my first years leading the Learning Resources Division was my participation in the many activities presented by the Black Film Institute created and directed by Tony Gittens.

Although just thirty years have elapsed since the first screening and lecture commenced the trajectory of the Black Film Institute, it is hard to imagine now how pioneering, unusual, and progressive its programming was. It filled the information gap that existed then in the Washington metropolitan area about the contributions that African Americans had made and were making to the Seventh Art.

The Black Film Institute did not just screen films at our Van Ness Campus and in other metropolitan locations, but also brought pivotal figures engaged in the genre in front of eager audiences, thirsty for knowledge.

Photographer Gordon Parks, director Spike Lee, actor Morgan Freeman, historian Donald Bogle, writer C.L.R. James, poet Ntozake Shange, news Anchorman Jim Vance are just but a small sample of the luminaries who shared their thoughts and experiences with the participants and, in the process, enriched their lives as well.

As important as the events of the Black Film Institute were for the fortunate individuals that were able to attend them, they were, however, ephemeral. Knowledge and memories remained with the participants but not with others.

Conversely, the pages of the Black Film Review served the same aims as the Black Film Institute but allowed for a written record of some of these experiences, it also made it possible to share them with a much broader audience and reached beyond the Washington metropolitan area. Each issue of Black Film Review provided “a forum for critical thought concerning the images of blacks in American film,” as it is stated in its pages.

The digital era now provides us with the tools that make it possible to better preserve information and allow for easier, faster, and wider dissemination. I am glad that the project of digitizing the issues of Black Film Review permits us to safeguard facsimiles of this rich cultural material for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

Albert J. Casciero
Dean, Learning Resources Division
University of the District of Columbia
December 2008
 
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