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NAJEE’S NOTES: Pan African Film Festival ready for 28th year

Ayuko Babu, a co-founder of the Pan African Film Festival, has announced it will be held Feb. 11-23 at the Cinemark Theaters at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

I have attended the festival since its inception. Babu is not just a long-time friend of mine, he has served as a mentor and advisor for me and the generation of activists who came after him.

So to see the growth of the festival, which has become the largest black film festival in the United States and the largest Black History Month cultural event in the nation with more than 200 black films and 100 fine artists from around the world, is inspiring.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has designated the Pan African Film Festival as an official qualifying film festival for live action and animation short films.

Now in its 28th year, the film festival has cemented its place as a hub for break-through and award-winning films and filmmakers from around the world.

The Pan African Film Festival is dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding among peoples of African descent. Its goal is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes.

The films and art shown at the festival leads to better understanding between people of diverse cultures, races and lifestyles, while at the same time serving as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times. For more information on the films being shown, visit


The tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a tragic helicopter crash Jan. 26 is still the talk of the nation. Bryant’s unexpected death has hit our community tremendously hard.

Many of us are still dealing with the loss of Nipsey Hussle and Bryant’s death along with the others is more trauma for South L.A. residents. The vast majority of South Los Angeles men my age are all Los Angeles Lakers fans.

We remember when Kobe was drafted and saw him play his rookie season. I vividly remember watching Kobe play in the playoffs his rookie year and he shot at least three straight airballs. I said to myself this kid’s a bum he can’t play at this level. I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything else in my life.

Kobe played 20 seasons with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships, was selected to play in 18 All Star games, won an MVP award and was without question one of the greatest players ever. But Kobe was more than a ball player.

He was a husband, father, businessman, author, activist, humanitarian and Oscar winner. Kobe was a champion on and off the court. He set the example on how all men should raise their children and be in their lives.

I had the honor of meeting Kobe a few times over the years. He was always friendly and respectful.

One my most memorable moments with him was joining him at a peace rally at Crenshaw High School with Nipsey Hussle, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin.

That rally was inspiring, listening to Kobe’s inspiring words and watching him and Nipsey together smiling and laughing with each other.

I never could have ever imagined we would lose them both in such a short time frame. The city of Los Angeles and myself continues to mourn. My sincerest condolences go out to the entire Bryant family and the families of all the victims.