Richmond, VA is for lovers, but it is also home to the Afrikana Independent Film festival- an expertly curated experience put together by Enjoli Moon.
When one thinks of places rich in black arts and culture or even does a quick Google search, many cities all across the U.S. come to mind. From Harlem, NY (pre-gentrification), to Savannah, GA, Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA all of these cities and so many more provide residents and visitors a rich opportunity to explore and uncover the roots of Black heritage and the arts. A city that does not often come to mind is Richmond, VA (RVA); however, if Enjoli Moon has her way that will change. Moon is not only a resident of Richmond, but also the Founder and Creative Director of the Afrikana Independent Film Festival, based in Richmond.
Anyone who meets Moon will immediately realize that she is passionate about the project she has undertaken, showcasing the cinematic works of emerging and established filmmakers throughout the African diaspora. Moon’s passion arose when she noticed a void in RVA. She remembers planning with friends to attend African arts and cultural festivals in other nearby cities, while wondering why they didn’t have similar programs in RVA. This was the impetus of her creation. Moon remarks: “It was important to not have another group come in and tell our stories for us. As the city [RVA] evolves, I knew it was important that we create spaces that are inclusive and welcome to all”.
Despite having a great idea and the backing of a sponsor, Croaker’s Spot, a restaurant in RVA where Moon acts as branding coordinator, there were several significant challenges Moon faced. For example, she’s honest about the fact that she lacked knowledge in the area of videography, which is key for a film festival. “I didn’t know anything about videography. Also I didn’t have a Rolodex of friends or colleagues in the area or industry who I could call for help. I had to start from scratch… Even though I had a title sponsor that did not mean that there were unlimited dollars,” Moon says.
Moon, whose background is in caring about what happens in black communities, did not allow these challenges to dissuade her from pursuing her goal. She believes that “nothing beats a fail but a try,” in fact she may consider it to be one of her motivators. When faced the daunting task of reaching out to people she did not know, in a field she had no experience in, she just did what she had to do and went for it. She ignored the “Nos” and kept going. As a result the Noir Cinema Series was born. Noir Cinema is a series that highlights the genre of short indie films by or about people of color. Yet, this series is not all that Moon produces, there’s also an Evening with an Icon, Starry Night Cinema, and Movies & Mimosas.
Moon has learned quite a bit from when she first got started and has had several positive experiences along the way. Nevertheless, she, just as many other entrepreneurs, struggles with staying in overdrive during the event planning process and not practicing enough self-care in the process. However, Moon is very self-aware and is trying to do better. “After the multi-day festival, I took one month and half off, I wasn’t just recouping from festival, but from the 3-4 months of planning before. I ended up traveling and disconnecting. I learned to experience the need for rest and relaxation, not just sleep, but actual rejuvenation. As I move forward I will make space for that so moving forward I will not need 30 days to get back to center”.
And Moon recognizes that it took a lot of hard work and support to accomplish all she has done, specifically the support of the Afrikana Ambassadors who work with her. Moon says, “I have a great team who help to move the movement forward, without me doing all the leg work. Without them it would be impossible”.
The work Moon does is not only enriching, but is makes a difference. “Film holds possibility to shift how a person thinks. If you don’t like music you won’t listen, if you don’t like book you wont read, if you don’t like a painting you won’t get the nuance presented, but in film because of the humanity projected you can connect with characters instantly. That form of art has a great deal of power in making sure our voices are heard by us and by others. Knowing what Afrikana has the capability to do, outside of the cultural effects keeps me going. When you talk to people you see the difference it’s making around you. It’s been encouraging and a driving factor for the events we create.”
Even with all that Moon has accomplished, she shows no signs of stopping in the New Year. “Movies and Mimoas,” a family brunch with partner “Feast RVA,” will be held on January 15; “Dinner with an Icon,” will be held on February 24; and Afrikana is also bringing the internationally renowned brand, Dinner en Blanc to RVA in July. These are only a small sampling of the great things to come. Be sure to check Afrikana’s website and their social media outlets (listed on their website) to stay up to date.
Now when people wonder what RVA has to offer and where to go for black culture, they’ll think of Afrikana. By pursuing her dream and passion, Moon has begun to transform the city of RVA. We are excited to see what she has planned next!
Written by NATACHA LORIUS
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