Meet Vincent Powell, the Houston filmmaker who is teaming up with local actors and artists to produce a video series showcasing Black history and literary art.
Powell, along with this wife Ebony Powell, are the co-founders of 7972 Films, a company that creates images for various platforms, as well as provides opportunities for Black and Brown creatives. They’ve produced content for corporate names, studios, and stars, such as BET, SXSW, Issa Rae, Kirk Franklin, T.I. and Houston’s own Tobe Nwigwe.
This month, Powell launched a project called “Black is Eternal,” which presents a diverse range of historically significant Black literary pieces performed by actors. The series will be spread out in 28 days, for each day of Black History Month.
As a Texas Southern University professor, he is partnering with several area schools to use his literary art curriculum for their Black History Month studies.
The Defender spoke with Powell to learn more about the project and his work as an educator.
Defender: If you could describe your work in three words what would they be and why?
Powell: Number one is dynamic. I love to play with ranges of emotions and expressions. I try my best to relate to the human experience. Number two is internal because my art doesn’t just come from within me but where I want it to go within you. It should take you to a place where you feel emotion. Lastly, liberating, in a sense that it should free you to know that you are not alone. Liberating my cast and crew to give them the experience and confidence to conquer their goals.
Defender: You attended TSU. How has your HBCU experience impacted your creative work?
Powell: I started my career at USC [University of Southern California]…but later transferred to TSU during my last three years of college. I was on the debate team and traveled the world competing. I actually won the 2010 World Championship for Dramatic Interpretation in debate. The pride of bringing that home to a school like TSU where you are seen and recognized made my experience worth it. I was a student at the school of communication. I participated in theater and was part of the groundwork of laying out their streaming platform. It used to be a just a channel on Comcast, now it its own full content engine.
There is a deep intrinsic love for my race…for my awareness of my race…the hope I resemble. The joy I exude. My Blackness represents something to someone. Being a student at an HBCU meant not being ashamed of my Blackness. That’s why I chose to come back and teach at TSU and sit on the communications board at Prairie View A&M. I love higher ed because I like to be able to give the students the tools to take control of their own narrative.
Defender: You’ve built a solid career as a film and TV director and producer. How did you carve your lane in Hollywood?
Powell: It’s God. When I was in Los Angeles, it was hard. There are a bunch of people competing for the same eyes and attention. Then the pandemic happened. My wife was pregnant and I decided to leave L.A. to return to Houston to be closer to family. The next month, Nickelodeon called me to produce a show. From there, through the African American Film Critic Association, I got a gig for Disney. I came on to develop some content for a platform called “Reimagine Tomorrow” on Disney.com.
I was the executive director of a series called recital remixes, and basically I took unknown artists and I made these parameters where they couldn’t have so many followers or have been signed or been on national television and gave them big budgets to recreate music videos. Outside of that, I directed my first feature at Prairie View A&M. It’s called “Freshman Year,” and it stars Denzel Whitaker and Sheryl Lee Ralph. It’s filmed right here in Houston with a mostly Texas-based crew.
Defender: You are working on a series called “Black is Eternal.” What is it about?
Powell: This is our second year doing the series. The idea was to bring actors and familiar faces together to perform a monologue written by Black authors, and then it just transformed as we entered into the pandemic in this visual living museum of theater, poetry, and music that speaks to the narrative of Black people. This is over three days of filming. We filmed a performance for everyday of the month that is released on social media and our website.
We are using classrooms around the city to build out the curriculum by my wife, Ebony Powell, and my sister, Jasmine Victor, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas in San Antonio. It’s doing exactly what we intended it to do. We aren’t trying to go viral; we want people to see it, enjoy it, and engage. I want to not feel like their Blackness is limited or quarantined. Their “Black Is Eternal.”
Defender: What do you teach? What are thoughts about politics around Black history and our educational system today?
Powell: This semester I teach photography courses. We are breathing new life into our program. We are having conversations about future endeavors around content creation, virtual production, and virtual reality that we will start offering to compete with some of our other counterpart schools, not just HBCUs. We want to provide viable options for students who want to be better storytellers.