In The News

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF)

Three Questions: Q&A with Adam L. McMath, executive director and board president, Black Alphabet, NFP

9 members of BAFF posing in black BAFF t-shirts with Black Alphabet written in white letters
Adam McMath, executive director of Black Alphabet (rear, center), with festival volunteers and participants. Photo by Justin King.

The Project…

2021 Black Alphabet Film Festival, “Rebuilding Our Chicago”

Location: Chicago, Illinois

What began as a conversation among Chicago Black LGBTQ+/SGL artists about the lack of exposure of films that explore Black LGBTQ+/SGL experiences birthed Black Alphabet, a name inspired by the many letters necessary to represent sexual and gender identity inclusivity. Since its establishment in 2013, Black Alphabet has presented the Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF). BAFF features films, shorts, web series, and documentaries, accompanied by interactive sessions with filmmakers, directors, producers, actors, and community leaders, which speak to pervasive social conditions that impact the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community. BAFF 2021 will feature screenings of Black LGBTQ+/SGL-produced and directed films focused on the inequities faced by the Black Alphabet community during the COVID-19 pandemic. These screenings will be followed by Q/A sessions where audience members have the opportunity to interact with the filmmakers and artists. These screenings and Q/A sessions will take place for one week in November, the same time as Transgender Awareness Week, to honor Black trans people.

The Organization…

Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF)
Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) is Chicago’s premier film festival for the Black LGBTQ community. BAFF’s mission is to promote social equity awareness and education in all aspects of life for the Black LGBT+ community through the use of media and the creative arts.

Follow BAFF: Website | Follow BA: Website

The Q&A…

Q1: How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?

Adam McMath: I look at arts/culture/humanities holistically, they give us knowledge of our past and a glimpse at where we are going as a culture and society. Much of our history, particularly as African Americans is passed down through storytelling and interpreted through other art forms, i.e. paintings etc.

Q2: What is the most important thing people should know about your work?

Adam McMath: We are a Black LGBTQ arts org focused on not only educating other black LGBTQ people but our allies. It is important for us to tell our stories so that others understand our experiences.

Q3: Who makes your work possible?

Adam McMath: You make our work possible. Illinois humanities has been a great support system over the years. We also get a lot of great support from the Chicago Department of Public Health and we would not be able to do this work without the support of our individual donors and our regular customers.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Adam McMath: We are the only annual black LGBTQ film festival in the country which is in and of itself historic.

Recommended Reading: James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Giovanni’s Room

About The Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Spotlight

Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Community Grants program partners through our “Grantee Spotlight.” It shines the light on our grantee partner’s work, offering details about the organization and the funded project, as well as a Q&A with a team member at the organization. More:

About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

Learn more at and on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.