While Black people all over the world carry different cultural markers depending on who colonized them, they have their African roots and related struggles with the legacy of racism in common, according to a Black film festival founder.

The documentary ‘The Man Who Mends Women,’ shows the struggles Dr. Denis Mukwege faced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he treated rape victims. (African Diaspora International Film Festival)

The documentary ‘The Man Who Mends Women,’ shows the struggles Dr. Denis Mukwege faced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he treated rape victims. (African Diaspora International Film Festival)

The African Diaspora International Film Festival, held in Washington D.C. from Aug. 19-21, told stories from Brazil, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. The festival is scheduled to head to Paris next month.

Diraha Ndaw-Spech and her husband, Reinaldo Spech, founded the film festival in 1993 as a means to educate, destroy stereotypes and end attitudes that support racial injustice. They said they see film as an accessible and powerful means of communication that can inspire change.

She jokes that they represent the entire African diaspora. N’Daw-Spech was born in France to a French mother and a father from Mali. Her husband’s parents are Jamaican and he was born in Cuba.

“There’s a lot of miscommunication and misinformation and no information about the reality of the experience of people of African descent all over the world,” said N’Daw-Spech, who lives in New York City. “There are lots of preconceptions that the media feeds us through ignorance and stereotypes. It’s important to allow or give an opportunity for people who want to to learn more.”

The films tackled a wide range of issues that affect the diaspora, including colorism in Mexico and instability in the Democratic of the Congo that led to armed rebels raping women and children for 20 years.

“The Congo problem is not Congolese in and of itself, it’s an international problem,” said Joseph Mbangu, secretary of the Panzi Foundation, which supports sexual violence survivors. “Since the beginning of time when King Leopold came, they cut out countries, delineated our countries without ever ourselves being at the table. And we are not at the table today.”

Other movies delved into history.

For example, “Toussaint L’Ouverture” showed how the Haitian military leader led the first slave revolt, which led to the country’s independence. Meanwhile, “The Price of Memory” tailed a group of Rastafari who pushed Queen Elizabeth II for slavery reparations when she visited Jamaica.

The couple chooses entries for the festival in several ways. They pick from films that are sent to them, at film festivals and in movie theaters overseas.  They hold the traveling film festival in cities where they have a partner or a host acting as their local liaison. Other stops have included Jersey City, New Jersey, Curacao, Geneva, Switzerland and New York City, where the festival is based. The couple added Washington, D.C. 10 years ago and the films were shown at The George Washington University this year.

Dr. Patricia Newton of Baltimore has attended festival for the last three years in Washington, D.C. and says it’s always been provocative.

“They are really giving us great quality work from an artistic and film standpoint but also from a consciousness standpoint in terms of allowing us to think outside of the box to help empower our people,” she said.

Newton explains the importance of the film festival to Black culture in the following video.