Twenty years ago Jeff Friday took matters into his own hands and created The American Black Film Festival (commonly referred to as ABFF) with a purpose to ensure African Americans are properly represented and celebrated in the film industry. This year’s festival began yesterday [Wednesday, June 15] in Miami and will conclude on June 19.

Friday recently interviewed with CNN to discuss the history behind the event and what he intends to accomplish through it. He said he was inspired by a 1997 trip to the Sundance Film Festival and attending a screening of the movie Love Jones. Of the hit film, Friday said, “it showed Black people in a way we had never seen us before. When I went there were very few people of color. Love Jones won an audience award.” From those experiences, Friday set out to make a new standard for African American films, and he created the American Black Film Festival to help do it.

The festival brings like-minded and talented people together to celebrate and educate all of those that are involved in Black films. The event now focuses on both film and TV as well as incubating talent, and it also offers workshops on subjects ranging from screenwriting to TV hosting.

The festival generates stars from the industry and this year, rapper Common is set to be there and speak to those who attend. Additionally, Nate Parker, writer and director of the highly anticipated film Birth of a Nation, will also be in attendance during the film’s first look at the event.

Friday’s efforts are resulting in lots of progress, and he says the festival has a history of breaking people into the industry, but there’s still room for improvement as many people in the industry still feel there’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that not just Black people, but all minorities are afforded equal opportunities and recognition.