Established in 1997, the Black Women Film Network (BWFN) was founded to prepare black women to enter the film and television industries.

The organization seeks to preserve the voice of these women through film and educational programs that empower and inform. A 501(c)3 non-profit, BWFN provides student scholarships, hosts screenings and workshops, and honors individuals who have excelled in this difficult industry.




Founded by Sheryl Riley Gripper

Sheryl Riley Gripper is Founder and executive director of the Black Women Film Network, an organization that prepares women for work in the film industry. The organization has given thousands of dollars in scholarships to women pursuing careers in film, broadcast and related areas.

A multi-Emmy Award winner, Gripper was Vice-President, Community Relations, for WXIA-TV, 11Alive and WATL-TV 36, for 29 years. She is a Community Relations Consultant for WXIA-TV, 11Alive and Atlanta Technical College. A graduate of Spelman College and Georgia State University, she holds Masters Degrees in Education and Film.

Additionally, Gripper was Founding Executive Director of the BronzeLens Film Festival, a festival that promotes diversity in film. She is also founder of Rosey Posey Pictures, LLC, a company that produces film and digital media that encourage and inspire.

The mother of three, she is the wife of Jeff Gripper, Atlanta’s First World Karate Champion. As a member of Elizabeth Baptist Church, she serves in the Intercessory Prayer and Encouragers ministries. Gripper wrote and produced the documentary, I Didn’t Make Him, God Did, the story of three media moms who lose their adult children to murder. Her most recent work is a short film, choreopoem entitled “In the Last Days.”


Sheryl Riley Gripper


Sheryl Riley Gripper is Founder of the Black Women Film Network, the oldest organization that prepares women for work in the film industry and preserves the untold stories of marginalized women in film and digital media. This 27- year-old organization has given more than $35,000 in scholarships to women pursuing careers in entertainment.

A multi-Emmy Award winner, Gripper was Vice-President of Community Relations for WXIA-TV, 11Alive and WATLTV 36 for 29 years. Additionally, Gripper was Founding Executive Director of the BronzeLens Film Festival, a festival that promotes diversity in film. She is a graduate of Spelman College and Georgia State University.

Chiquita Lockley


Chiquita Lockley is producer and director of the award winning documentary, Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility (OWN 2022). She is also the producer of the award-winning documentary Kunta Kinteh Island: Coming Home Without Shackles (PBS) . She holds a BA in English from Spelman College and an MA in Film Studies from Emory University. She has the distinction of Goodwill Ambassador for the State of Georgia, awarded by former Secretary of State Cathy Cox. She currently serves as Board Chair for Black Women Film Network.

Phylicia Fant

Board Member

Phylicia Fant is renowned throughout the entertainment industry as a trusted leader, esteemed executive, and public relations/marketing visionary. But even more importantly, she is a conduit of culture.

Fant consistently and strategically connects artists to brands, media, film/television opportunities and philanthropic causes. In her role as Head of Music Industry and Culture Collaborations at Amazon Music, she transforms global synergy into commercial opportunities while prioritizing meaningful cultural moments.

Sing Lathan

Board Member

Sing Lee Lathan is the director and creative producer of Black Lion TV. She leads operations in its effort to preserve, promote, and present the arts of the African diaspora. In her most recent work, Sing directed and produced the Emmy Award Winning WNET Group All Arts special Michael Mwenso Honors George Floyd, which premiered May 25th, 2021. The episode was the network’s launch of The First Twenty, a series exploring events from the past two decades which caused shifts in the collective American consciousness, told from the narrative point of view of various artists.

Jaunice McSwain

Board Member

Jaunice Sills McSwain is Sr. Director, DEI Production and Creative Partnerships on the NBCU LAUNCH team at NBCUniversal. She manages all external partnerships with film festivals, non-profits, coalition groups and advocacy groups who also have a shared commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

She develops and launches TV programs and initiatives designed to increase representation throughout every facet of the business, including but not limited to below-the-line, casting and production. Jaunice is a highly driven, content-obsessed, creative entertainment executive with strong and diverse industry relationships, who has been recognized as a leader in the entertainment industry.

Deanna Nowell

Board Member

Deanna Nowell, ACE began her career in Atlanta, Georgia, at Turner Studios as a television promo editor where she earned a Sports Emmy for her work on Inside the NBA, which airs on TNT. After 10 years working on many innovative promo campaigns for TBS, TNT & Cartoon Network, Deanna began adding scripted television and feature films to her resume. Some of her most notable credits include Three Can Play that Game (Sony/Rainforest Films), Grand Crew (NBC), Raising Dion (Netflix), Ambitions (OWN/Will Packer Productions) & Sistas (BET/Tyler Perry Studios). She’s currently one of the editors cutting the Marvel Studios streaming series, Iron Heart starring Dominique Thorne & Anthony Ramos.

Ronda Racha Penrice

Board Member

For over 25 years, Ronda Racha Penrice has been on the pulse of Black entertainment, lifestyle, and culture. As an editor, she’s worked with Rap Pages, Upscale, and Uptown, among others. Her bylines have also appeared in Billboard, EBONY, ESSENCE, The Hollywood Reporter, TheWrap, RollingStone, theGrio, The Root, OkayAfrica, Atlanta Magazine, Medium, and more. A noted Black cultural critic and expert, the Black American History For Dummiesauthor and Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter editor has made multiple TV appearances for TV One, CNN, and MSNBC. HBO First Look: All Eyez On Me is among her several producer credits, plus she has penned scripts for a number of award shows, including The AAFCA TV Honors and the Salute Her Awards. A lifelong advocate for diversity in film and TV, she has also worked with the Black Hollywood Education and Research Center (BHERC) and the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).

Salena Rochester

Board Member

Salena Rochester is a Peabody Award winning producer and writer. She has produced and developed some of TV’s biggest unscripted series- The Real Housewives of Atlanta & New York, Married To Medicine, Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard, Mathis Family Matters, Queen’s Court, Who Killed Robert Wone, and Peacock’s multi award-winning documentary The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, among other hit spin-offs and specials. With more than a decade of television experience as a network executive, Salena has cultivated strong relationships within the creative and selling community as a buyer for Bravo, E!, USA, Oxygen, and Peacock. She is adept at developing and producing documentaries, true crime and lifestyle programming for cable and streaming. Her previous television experience includes producing programming for Weekend Today, MSNBC’s Election Desk and CNBC’s Fast Money.

Lilliepearl Schultz

Board Member

Lilliepearl Schultz is a confident and outgoing recent Cum Laude and Departmental Honors graduate of Spelman College, where she majored in Documentary Filmmaking and minored in entrepreneurship and innovation. She possesses a powerful aesthetic eye for documentary film directing, film criticism, and business & design philosophy. Her ability to learn and apply new skills has allowed her to contribute positively to diverse projects and execute business strategies effectively.

During her time at Spelman, Lilliepearl's artistic voice developed, and she now understands visual language and filmmaking as both an art form and a rhetorical device. She creates dynamic storytelling experiences to educate, promote cultural understanding, raise awareness, and fight against inequality and injustice.

Kiera Sills

Board Member

Treasurer of BWFN since 2021, Kiera Sills is from College Park, GA and is a freelance Production and Payroll Accountant in Atlanta. She's worked on projects for networks such as Investigation Discovery, TLC, HGTV, BET, Netflix, OWN and Tubi). Kiera received her BBA from Howard University and her MBA from Shorter University. Prior to beginning her Accounting career in tv/film, Kiera served as an accounting supervisor with International Paper Company in Memphis, TN.

Later she went into partnership with her twin brother, Courtney “Bear” Sills, providing management to various Atlanta based music artists and producers. Since its inception, Sills Entertainment has impacted the culture and led many artists and writers to lengthy, successful careers in the industry.

Mercendez Springer

Board Member

Mercendez Springer has served as the BWFN Short FIlm Festival Director since 2018. With over a decade of experience as a freelance television producer/director she has worked for countless major networks to include: HULU, MTV, Paramount +, Peacock, VH1 and many more. She is a member of the African American Film Critics Association as a contributing journalist where her expertise shines in critiquing new and classic cultures films through her public platform and podcast Chic Critiques.

Tracey Tooks

Board Member

Tracey Tooks is a dynamic entrepreneur and multi-faceted marketer with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. Her unwavering faith and commitment to "producing results by leading with service" is not just her personal motto, but a guiding principle that drives her success. As she strives to curate new opportunities to elevate her expertise, Tracey approaches everything from event planning to film productions with curiosity and creativity.

Her journey began at UP Entertainment, LLC, where she honed her skills and passion for supporting new writers. In 2011, Tracey had a groundbreaking idea and brought it to life by creating and producing the UP Faith & Family Screenplay Competition, a partnership between UPtv and the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). This innovative competition was the first to introduce a script-to-screen model featuring live table reads and a one-year production cycle.


Dr. Sheril Antonio

Advisory Board Member

Dr. Antonio is Associate Arts Professor in the Department of Art and Public Policy, the Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and the recipient of a 2020 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award. Her courses include: Anatomy of Difference: The Other in Film, The World Through Art, Language of Film, and Issues in Contemporary African American Cinema. She received Curricular Development Challenge Grants for two courses: Issues in Contemporary African-American Cinema (taught 1992 – 1995) and The Summer Film & Video Program for High School Students (designed in collaboration in 1995). She is a frequent lecturer whose presentations include: a live online debate about the movie Precious with Stanley Crouch; Lincoln Center Education Forum and Future Filmmakers Workshop. She is an Emeritus Board Member of Ghetto Film School and has participated in numerous projects with Panasonic Kid Witness News and the NAACP. She has been interviewed for television, radio, print and has available lectures on line.

Angela Cannon

Advisory Board Member

Angela Cannon serves as the SVP Multicultural Networks and Strategy for UP Entertainment. In this role, Ms. Cannon is responsible for driving the growth and overall success of the linear channel aspireTV, the subscription video-on- demand (SVOD) service aspireTV+ and two FAST channels - aspireTV Life & Cine Romántico across all distribution platforms. As a member of the Executive Team, she provides guidance and develops strategies on how to best serve multicultural audiences for all UP Entertainment brands and champion a winning work environment for the company’s diverse employee base.

AspireTV is the ultimate destination for content that amplifies and celebrates Black life, style, and culture. The brand offers a fresh and modern perspective through a diverse collection of original shows, movies, series, independent films, documentaries and more; inviting viewers to “see yourself here”. Under her leadership, Angela has produced 10+ new original programs spanning food, travel, home design, fashion and the passion and pride of the HBCU experience. Breaking viewership records year-over-year.

Shaunya Chavis-Rucker

Advisory Board Member

Shaunya Chavis-Rucker is a multi-Emmy Award winning veteran television journalist and film industry professional. She is currently the Executive Director of Fulton Films; the largest County Film Office in the State of Georgia overseeing multiple block-buster movie production agreements. She is also the Station General Manager/Anchor for the Public Television Station, FGTV-Fulton Government Television (in Atlanta/Fulton County, GA). Shaunya has had a distinguished career as an Anchor/Reporter in television news in a number of network-affiliate stations around the country including WSB-TV Atlanta, WCPO TV in Cincinnati, and KTVI-TV in St. Louis, to name a few.

Wendy Credle

Advisory Board Member

Wendy Credle is a creative, entrepreneurial powerhouse. During her thirty years plus tenure in the music business as an A&R Executive and Entertainment Lawyer, Wendy has played a pivotal role in the careers of several multi-platinum, Grammy award winning artists, sogwriters, and producers. In 2007, she was awarded NABFAM’s “Legal Executive of the Year”.

In 2015 after starring in the WEtv Legal docuseries, Money Power Respect, Wendy launched WenPie Productions, Inc. where she created and executive produced the OWN docuseries, To Have & To Hold: Charlotte, and wrote and produced the Andre Harrell tribute “Mr. Champagne & Bubbles” for BET.

Kiara Ellozy

Advisory Board Member

Kiara Ellozy specializes in creating ways for companies and institutions to grow revenues, increase profitability, and set strategy. As Chief Operating Officer and Partner at the Kai Kai Group, Kiara engaged with clients such as UN Women, the NAACP and Nielsen. Kiara worked on partnership creation, strategic communications, executive visibility, interim marketing, executive search, event design and management, and more. As a consultant, she brings extensive experience, board exposure and advisory expertise from her years as an investor and advisor.

As Senior Director of Strategy and Partnerships at a fandom, entertainment, and media company in the event space (Mischief), Kiara has a key leadership role developing strategy and partnerships, identifying growth areas, coordinating the senior team, and hiring new team members.

Saptosa Foster

Advisory Board Member

Saptosa Foster is an award-winning communications strategist with nearly two decades of experience in public relations and media. She currently serves as Chief Communications Officer at Sallie B. Howard School of Arts & Science, a free, public charter school serving 1,200 K-12 students in Wilson, NC. SBHS is a 2021 recipient of the National Blue Ribbon School award for Excellence in Closing the Achievement Gap.

Saptosa was most recently managing partner of ONE/35 Agency (formerly 135th Street Agency), a strategic communications firm based in New York. For 19 years at ONE/35, Saptosa oversaw campaigns for clients such as Google, YouTube, National Geographic, Disney Channel and Bounce TV.

Shannan Herbert

Advisory Board Member

Shannan Herbert is the Executive Vice President of Inclusive Credit for Stratyfy, a woman-led mission focused fintech company that works to accelerate financial inclusion by eliminating bias in critical financial decisions. She leads strategy and program creation for Community Development Financial Institutions and large to mid-size community banks. Before joining Stratyfy, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer for City First Bank, one of the largest Black led Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions in the country. With more than 20+ years of experience, she has served in key leadership roles for most of her career, leveraging her expertise to direct enterprises in the strategic development and delivery of value-driven, user-friendly solutions in the commercial credit and financial services arena. Her work has focused on providing capital to under-resourced groups that have historically been denied access to funding. Her commitment to community development and small business lending has helped hundreds of companies owned by people of color and women thrive.

Connie Orlando

Advisory Board Member

Constance M. Orlando is an award-winning media executive recently named Executive Vice President of Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy at BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc.. A pop culture visionary, Ms. Orlando oversees all genres of original programming, including scripted offerings and specials like Black Girls Rock!. Ms. Orlando also leads the BET News department, overseeing critically acclaimed specials on Ferguson and Baltimore. She also ushered BET into the documentary space with BET Truth Series, which in its inaugural year produced award-winning projects Katrina 10 Years Later, Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ and Stay Woke. Ms. Orlando is Executive Producer of all tentpole events, including the BET Awards, the #1 program in cable television history among AA viewers and a top 10 awards show on television amongst total viewers. Her work has earned her nine NAACP Image Awards. Outside of work, Orlando is passionate about advocating for and providing support to women and children in need, so in 1998 she launched a non-profit foundation, ‘Just The Girls’. She also serves on the Advisory Board for Clark Atlanta University’s TV department as the Programming Committee Chair.

Nina Packer

Advisory Board Member

Nina Packer is an innovative nonprofit, education, and entertainment professional with a strong track record of developing charitable partnerships to create career exposure and pipeline programs in media and entertainment. She developed the pre-college program that is known today as Warner Bros. Discovery: Future Leaders Institute and was instrumental in creating music industry certificate and degree programs at Jackson State University and Florida A&M University respectively. Currently Nina’s company Nonprofit Planning & Administration (NPA) manages the Cortez Bryant Foundation and the Rob and Shaun Hardy Amazing Stories Foundation; both organizations are creating and cultivating pathways for young BIPOC professionals to enter and thrive in the music and film industries respectively. Nina has recently produced content highlighting HBCUs for YouTube Originals, Blackstream Live/Live Nation Urban, and NBCUniversal. Nina Packer has primarily worked with generation-defining figures and brands in music, film/television, media, and social justice for over 20 years. Her life and work are a summary exposition of the powerful potential of empowering creative people to bring their passions to fruition in a commercially viable and humanity-forward manner.

Adrianne C. Smith

Advisory Board Member

Adrianne is the Founder of Vision Corps Media Group (VCMG), a media incubation company developed to create new content for current and emerging media outlets. Adrianne’s career has been primarily based on making the invisible visible by creating opportunities for under-represented communities. Her career spans 20 plus years in advertising, media and professional development. She has produced both documentaries and television programs as well as participated on the launch team for a digital sub-channel network. During her tenure as the Executive Director for the Center for Excellence in Advertising at Howard University, her training and development programs were the catalyst for the success of many advertising executives. Graduates trained in her program have received many awards and accolades including Cannes Lions awards. In 2017, Adrianne created the Cannes Can: Diversity Collective to support under-represented communities gain knowledge, exposure and networking opportunities at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Kimberly Stephens

Advisory Board Member

Affectionately known in her professional circle as "The Talent Whisperer," Kimberly is a dynamic and seasoned Talent Executive and Event Marketing Specialist. She has a keen sense of nurturing partnerships and relationships across various industries and disciplines. Currently serving as the Senior Manager of Talent Relations for the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, Kimberly leads the charge of establishing and maintaining connections with talent, including Oscar winners and nominees.

Kimberly's journey in the entertainment industry began as a talent agent assistant, and she swiftly ascended the ranks to become a trusted consultant for renowned entities such as BET, TV One, Walmart, Sony Films, Oxygen, Focus Features, OWN, VH1, HBO, Spelman College, The YWCA GLA, LAUSD, The Bayou Classic, Essence Festival, and Verizon's "How Sweet the Sound."

Breanna Washington

Advisory Board Member

With over 10 years of experience in film and TV production and festival events, I am a passionate and creative storyteller who leverages public relations, marketing, social media, and digital media to promote and amplify the voices and stories of diverse and innovative entertainment clients. I have a master's degree in communication management and public relations from the University of Denver, and I am certified in Hootsuite Platform and Google Analytics.

As a senior account executive at DKC, I contribute to the new business pipeline and oversee entertainment and culture clients. I am also a founding member of MINO, a membership that provides emerging Black women leaders with professional development and a supportive network. I am driven by the mission of empowering and inspiring others through storytelling, and I am always looking for new opportunities and challenges to grow and learn in the entertainment PR industry.