Anthony Anderson, Photo by Group LA/ABC via Getty Images

Capital City Black Film Festival (CCBFF) is returning for its eighth annual festival with a bold new theme, “Breakthrough: Unleash Your Power,” that centers on promoting mental health and wellness in the entertainment community. “blackish” star Anthony Anderson will serve as the 2020 ambassador and will speak one-on-one with CCBFF about his career and experiences in the industry. The keynote discussion will be presented by Delta Research and Educational Foundation (DREF). The opening night event will feature a presentation of the highly anticipated Harlem Lights Award, which is being awarded to Austin native, multi-talented actor and musician Mehcad Brooks. The festival begins Dec. 4-6 and tickets are now on sale at www.capcitybff.com.

To bring in experts to address the issues impacting Black Americans, especially creatives in the film industry, CCBFF has partnered with DREF, a public charity established by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in 1967. DREF was created to support scholastic achievement, public service programs, and research initiatives focused upon African American women. In partnership with DREF will present the festival’s keynote panel discussion “Discovering Your Breakthrough” which will feature Delta Sigma Theta Sorority members in the entertainment industry. The panel will include the “Oprah Winfrey Show” therapist-in-residence Dr. Robin L. Smith, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” star Daphne Maxwell Reid and creator of Showtime’s Emmy Award nominated series “Soul Food” Felicia Henderson. Festivalgoers can expect powerful programming, special screenings and industry panels that cover mental health in the entertainment industry, overcoming racism and trauma and more industry-specific topics.

“We are excited to join Capital City Black Film Festival’s 2020 virtual event as a presenter of their keynote panel on mental health in the entertainment industry. The first step towards achieving health equity among African Americans is having these types of discussions that educate and inspire audiences to put their health first,” said Pat Lattimore, CEO, Delta Research and Educational Foundation. “As DREF works to drive awareness through “Research Matters,” having Delta Sigma Theta sisters in the entertainment industry leading this discussion is critical to our mission.”

“I’m proud to welcome DREF as a supporter of our 2020 festival. Their commitment to addressing health disparities among African Americans through their “Research Matters” campaign uniquely aligns with this year’s focus on mental health in Black communities.” CCBFF CEO Winston G. Williams said: “We look forward to presenting our keynote panel discussion “Discovering Your Breakthrough” in partnership with DREF which will feature some very amazing women who represent Delta Sigma Theta sorority.”

To open the event, CCBFF will present its annual Harlem Lights Award to actor Mehcad Brooks. This award was established in honor of the Harlem Theater which served Austin’s Black community from 1935 to 1973, before it burned down. Established in 2015, the Harlem Lights Award evokes the Theater in its heyday, along with the actors, the Austin Black community and the shared history that made Harlem so beloved. The Harlem Lights Award recognizes luminaries in all fields of endeavor, especially the creative arts. Austin’s own actor, producer and President of JuVee Productions Julius Tennon was the first recipient of the award. Other honorees include actor Louis Gossett Jr., the late major league baseball player, coach and manager Don Baylor and director, writer, producer and “Reel Divas” cofounder Deborah Riley Draper.

“Choosing Mehcad for this important distinction was personal for me. He has a true passion for the arts, brings characters to life on the big screen and a love for storytelling through music,” CCBFF Executive Director Winston G. Williams said: “Seeing Black Austinite’s succeed in the industry has inspired me to continue this festival year after year. Mehcad’s success is a success for all of Austin and to see him use his platform to educate and speak out again injustice leaves me beaming with pride.”

Brooks currently plays character James Olsen in CW’s “Supergirl,” and is best known for his roles in Tyler Perry’s “Nobody’s Fool,” and “A Fall from Grace.” He is also starring as “Jax” in the highly anticipated upcoming film “Mortal Kombat.” As racial tensions intensified across the country this year, Brooks leveraged his following on social media to speak up about injustice and educate followers – which was sometimes met with resistance. His coined phrase “just a kid from Austin” speaks to his commitment to celebrate his upbringing and elevate the city of Austin’s impact on a global scale.

As CCBFF explores the impact that unaddressed trauma and issues have on the ability for Black creatives to thrive, they looked no further than Iyanla Vanzant’s show “Iyanla Fix My Life.” Recently, Iyanla featured a family that was struggling to overcome unresolved issues which featured reality television star Shay Johnson (“Flava of Love”, “Charm Skool”, “Love and Hip Hop”) and her siblings: musician Emjay (“Love and Hip Hop”), renowned speaker Dr. Joe Johnson and sister-in-law and therapist Brandi Pritchard-Johnson. While the show turned to be a tumultuous struggle between Dr. Vanzant and Shay, the family was able to address issues that had been plaguing them for years. In the upcoming CCBFF panel discussion, “Healing Starts at Home,” the Johnson family will discuss how this experience impacted them and helped to remove roadblocks on their path to advancing in the entertainment industry.

This year’s festival is fully virtual, CCBFF is encouraging filmmakers to host their own watch party events from the comfort of their homes. Virtual passes are available via https://capcitybff.eventive.org/passes/buy.