If you’ve been to the festival within the past 15 years, you’ve probably seen longtime Portland resident and African film lover George Hendrix Ed. D. In fact, last year he may have greeted you at the door and offered you a salmon-colored Friends of CFAF flyer.
It’s no wonder that George is highly involved with the festival. He has a long history of commitment to Portland arts, education, and culture. A few of his civic and career involvements include his work on the membership drive at Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), teaching business courses at Portland Community College, and his current position as president of A-Zebra Realty, Inc., a business that focuses on “housing a multiracial, multicultural, gender neutral society.”
For 15 years, George had been a festival patron, but three years ago he decided to start volunteering for CFAF. His friend and festival committee member, Wiley G. Barnett, informed George that two of the CFAF founders were planning to scale back their festival involvement. At the time, George was focusing his time on family while he and his wife helped look after their grandson. George had a fairly flexible schedule, and concerned that the changes in the festival might lead to dramatic changes, or worse yet the discontinuation of the event altogether, he agreed to volunteer his time as a committee member.
Since that time, George has been working hard to develop Friends of CFAF, a festival fundraising and outreach effort. Because he saw the membership drive succeed at OPB, he knew he could make it work for CFAF. George’s ultimate goal is for the festival to be recognized by city leaders and be seen as a cultural icon of Portland. As George says, “Our biggest hope is that we will be able to establish connections with people. We have a certain value and we want to share that with others.”
Like many of us who love the festival, George sees it as “a wonderful tool for culturally broadening the community. . . . It represents valuable outreach for everyone, from Americans to Africans.” As he points out, “We can’t [usually] just go down to the corner and see an African film,” and the festival gives us a “peek into some artistic representation of various aspects of life on the African continent—which is more than what we get otherwise.”
George believes our festival should be on every Portland area visitor’s “must experience” list. “Portland is a special kind of place and the Cascade Festival of African Films is one of the best art events in Portland,” he says “It’s an art event, run in the winter when there is not a whole lot going on here. It has gone on for more than 20 years for five weeks each year. Approximately 20 films are shown each festival—free. These films give us a glimpse into slices of life of Africa from artists’ perspectives. We have a pearl in a bed of oysters with this festival.”
To find out how you can become a volunteer like George, or to find out more about Friends of CFAF, please go to the CFAF website: www.africanfilmfestival.org.