Thursday’s opening of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) proves why it is one of the most influential events of its kind. Walking the red carpet in attendance of this year’s opening night film and New York Premiere for Think Like a Man Too, ABFF’s carpet glittered with a long list of celebrities including the film’s stars Kevin Hart, Terrence J, Romany Malco, Taraji P. Henson, producer Will Packer, and director Tim Story. Drawn to the celebration of black film, supporters of ABFF strutted down the carpet including boxer Roy Jones, Jr., TI, Neicy Nash, Ashanti, Ice T, Coco, Adrienne Bailon, and long-time festival supporters including master class heads Bill Duke and Robert Townsend, this year’s ambassador, Morris Chestnut, committee chair Tonya Lewis Lee, and star of Power and ABFF’s 2013 ambassador, Omari Hardwick.

Marking its first time in NYC after years in Miami, The American Black Film Festival (originally called the Acapulco Black Film Festival) has become one of the most powerful of its kind, in the country, since its inception in 1997.  The ABFF has screened some of the most groundbreaking films by African-Americans in over a decade. But this year’s arrival in New York City brings a new location and even greater fanfare.  As flags with the ABFF logo lined the street Thursday night, the toils and struggles of festival creator Jeff Friday have manifested into proven effectiveness in creating a place that not only screens quality works by creators of African descent, but provides a nurturing space for would be actors, directors and producers to learn from the greatest names in the industry. 

This year’s seminars on acting and directing include the return of the great Bill Duke, and his “Actor’s Book Camp,” a 2-day scene study class. While ground-breaking director Robert Townsend is also back with his “Ultimate Pitch” Master Class. But this year’s newer highlights include a talk with the incomparable Spike Lee, and a mother/daughter sit-down moderated by Star Jones with acting phenomenon Phylicia Rashad and her fabulous Broadway sparkling offspring, Condola Rashad. All of these shining moments make NY’s ABFF splash full of bright colors stroked with a vibrant love of all things black.   

Continuing its goal of progressive conversation, Friday night features “The Leading Man." The panel, featuring such talented actors as Omari Hardwick, Morris Chestnut and Stephen Bishop, will discuss the image of Black men portrayed in television and film.  And for further diversity, attendees will check out the season 2 premiere of the Adult Swim hit show Black Dynamite, starring Michael Jai White. He’ll be on hand afterwards to discuss the project along with Byron Minns, Carl Jones, and Walter Newman. 

Bringing hip hop to the forefront with the unauthorized Jay Z documentary A Genius Leaves the Hood, set to be screened Saturday night, Sunday brings balanced church and memorial tributes to the great Ruby Dee with the premiere of the documentary Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee. Closing as strong as Thursday’s open, Spike Lee’s new joint, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus will end the festival Sunday night with its NY premiere. 

There would be no black film without the support of those in front of the camera, behind the scenes, and festivals like ABFF which work to bring light and reverence to those tirelessly working to diversify the Hollywood name. For more information, and to support, log on to www.abff.com.