Credit: Contributed

That former student, galvanized by a film he’d recently starred in, was actor Nate Parker. That film, “The Great Debaters,” about the creation of a winning all-Black college debating team in Depression-era Texas, inspired Parker and Favors to create an organization that developed curriculums and presentations around the movie. It led, Favors said in an interview with Amsterdam News, “To us doing a lot of work in the community.”

Ultimately the duo codified the curriculum into the Nate Parker Foundation, of which Favors is now the co-founder and program director. “We wanted to create an institution to kind of consolidate the work that we’d been doing for the previous eight years. So we based it out of Wiley college which was the school where ‘The Great Debaters’ took place.”

Each year the foundation conducts a summer film institute with roughly thirty students of African descent from across the country and from Africa, with the goal of “Using film as a vehicle for social transformation.” Expanding on their work, Parker and Favors began applying for grants, receiving one in 2017 from the Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Healing and Reconciliation Fund to create the HBCU Storytellers Project. The grant was tied to the creation of four short (approximately 25 minute) documentaries that dealt in some way with issues of race and could be used in the community to bring about reconciliation.

“We created the HBCU Storytelling project,” Favors, who also runs the non-profit Breaking The Cycle Consulting Services, explained, “with Norfolk State, Virginia State, Virginia Union and Hampton University. The application was by essay. We took fifteen aspiring filmmakers and put them through a two-year rite of passage.” Those students, collectively, created the film series.

Favors is focusing, at present, on traveling and promoting the film series, “400 Years Later…’free-ish.” Per the organization’s promotional materials, “This powerful series was created to raise awareness about the 400-year commemoration that the first Africans arrived in the United States, specifically Virginia, and bring attention to the continuing legacy of racial inequity and white supremacy that still exists today.”

Attorney and activist Bryan Stevenson, author of the book upon which the film “Just Mercy” was based, is the subject of the first film in the series. The 2017 African American History Act bill and the starting point of Black American history at Fort Comfort and Jamestown is the subject of the second. The second film also highlights the first enslaved woman to have been counted in the U.S. census. The third film explores the notorious Unite The Right Rally in Charlottesville in August of 2017, and the debate around the removal of confederate monuments. Highlights of the fourth film is the topic of the Emancipation Proclamation monument, now being built by the MLK Commission of Virginia, and a visit to the plantation in Southampton County, Virginia where Nat Turner was domiciled.

The Nate Parker Foundation has been doing screenings of the various documentaries across the country, including in Brooklyn this past December at the Inspiring Minds 1619 Youth Conference at Boys and Girls High School; it will have another screening at Medgar Evers College in February.

While the timeline for the current grant ran out at the end of 2019, the foundation is currently looking to partner with other organizations for new sources of funding. Favors explains, “The goal is just to keep these students connected to the community and engaged and using film to kind of broadcast and highlight these heroes, while also bringing attention to the issues.”