‘Love Jones’ will the be first film screened during Black Film Fridays.

A Baltimore children’s book publisher and writer is preparing for a new Black film festival in Baltimore.

James Merritt, of northwest Baltimore, is the founder of Black Film Friday, a new film screening series that begins this weekend.

The event is free to the public and will be on the last Fridays of the summer months – June 24, July 29 and August 26 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m at The Stone House Lawn of the Parks and People Foundation.

“We just found that all throughout the summer, there’s a lot of outdoor film series but there was never any that showed the movies that we liked,” Merritt said. “So we just decided that we wanted to put something on that feature Black movies – Black movies we loved and that we knew other Blacks in Baltimore loved.”

Merritt added that he started the film series because it’s a good alternative for summer activities in the city and will “add to the overall climate of entertainment in the city for Blacks.”

“I think the main impact it will have is just a positive entertainment outlet in the summer. It’s something for young professionals to do something for the everyday Black man to do,” he said.

The first movie will be Love Jones (1997), which will be followed by House Party (1990) and will conclude with The Five Heartbeats (1991) – all of which Merritt regards as “classic” Black movies.  

“There’s too many to list,” said Merritt of his all-time favorite Black movies, but he said Love Jones is a film he cherishes highly.

Merritt wanted a mix of films for his first festival.

“We wanted to do a drama, a love story and also a comedy,” Merritt said.

“The first one we considered that we decided not to do is The Color Purple. That is a movie that everybody in the Black community has some type of relationship with… But I wanted to put movies in that I liked, and I’m not a personal fan of The Color Purple,” Merritt said. “Another movie that came to mind immediately for me as one of my favorite movies was Do the Right Thing… But, I decided not to Do The Right Thing because I didn’t want to do anything that would add to a rough climate in the city.”

Furthermore, he gave his estimation of what makes a movie ‘classic’: “You know, there’s a lot of movies that are classics that may not be on my list of favorite movies, but I think the people determine what makes the movie a classic. Movies that are classics for me are movies that tell timeless Black stories, movies that have a variety of Black characters that I can relate to and movies that entertain at the same time.”

In a­­ddition, there will be a variety of food, drinks, live music and roughly eight vendors. The opening night’s music will be provided by a DJ and will consist of Neo-Soul and R&B classics from the mid-90’s and will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. And from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., the film will play.

Black Film Friday will take place at The Stone House Lawn of the Parks and People Foundation, 2100 Liberty Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21217 on June 24, July 29 and Aug. 26 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.