City of Detroit to partner on national HBCU Student Film Competition and Awards

  • Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit ACE joins Michigan Central, Skillman Foundation and other sponsors to announce August event


The City of Detroit and Michigan Central are joining Autumn Sun, a grassroots organization dedicated to young, Black artists, to host the inaugural, national in-person HBCU Student Film Competition and Festival to be held next month in Detroit.

The competition, founded by young filmmaker and Detroit native Bruce Clifton, is designed to honor student creators from historically Black colleges and universities that serve more than 228,000 students nationwide. He said he brought the festival to his hometown of Detroit to honor the growing work in film that is occurring in the Motor City and to expand opportunities for careers for students of color.

"Filmmakers are innovators in their own right and so it makes perfect sense to have the HBCU Film Festival in Detroit and specifically at Newlab at Michigan Central, which is our new hub for innovation," said Mayor Duggan. "We are thrilled to be able to host this film festival to showcase the incredible talent that exists at our Historically Black Colleges and Universities." 

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Mayor Duggan speaks to the importance of hosting the HBCU Student Film Competition and Festival in Detroit.


Mayor Mike Duggan joined Detroit ACE Director Rochelle Riley and representatives from the Detroit City Council, Michigan Central, and sponsors at a press conference today at Book Plaza outside New Lab.

Student creators will screen their films at Newlab at Michigan Central on August 23 and learn the competition winner of a $10,000 Jury Award on August 24, followed by a gala reception in their honor at the iconic train station that gained national attention upon its opening in June.

The event will be broadcast live on HBCU Go TV, a Byron Allen Media Group company that is partnering with Autumn Sun on the venture.

“Detroit maintains a rich history of producing pioneers in the arts and Civil Rights movement,” Clifton said. “Autumn Sun aims to be a worthy addition to the next chapter of that legacy. The goal is to host the festival in Detroit annually and expand its scope to include programming for all Black filmmakers from ages 18-30.

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Bruce Clifton, Executive Director of Autumn Sun, thanks the City and project partners.


“The reopening of Michigan Central was a beacon to the world of Detroit’s reclamation as the nation’s innovation capital,” he said.

Through initiatives like the HBCU Student Film Invitational, Autumn Sun aims to amplify the voices of emerging talent, fostering a dynamic and inclusive cultural landscape and positioning the city as the global hub for the next generation of Black artists.”

At the event on August 23rd and 24th, attendees and broadcast viewers will experience film screenings, entertainment and panel discussions that will conclude with the Autumn Sun Invitational Awards Presentation and Awards Gala.

All events will be hosted with the festival's Presenting Partner Michigan Central and Producing Partner Detroit ACE. Other sponsors include: The Skillman Foundation, Ally Financial, 313 Presents and Academic Partner Alabama A&M University College of Education, Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.

“Detroit is a creative arts hub for every genre, fine and performing arts, dance, everything - so it’s no surprise that our city is growing its opportunities for filmmakers,” said Rochelle Riley, Director of Arts and Culture for the City. “The City is so proud to partner on an effort to expand opportunities for young voices and diverse voices in the film industry.”

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Mayor Duggan joins Executive Director of Autumn Sun Bruce Clifton, Head of Michigan Central Civic Partnerships Nate Wallace, and city officials for a group photo.


Nate Wallace, Director of Civic Partnerships for Michigan Central, agreed.

“Partnerships like this that bring together leaders, thinkers, communities and creators is what Michigan Central is designed to do,” he said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to be part of this groundbreaking festival amplifying young, Black voices, but also to show the next generation of talent why Detroit continues to be a destination for innovation across industries and genres,” he said.  

This festival, several community and civic leaders said, is what Detroit is made for.

“For nearly two centuries, HBCUs have been a bastion for the cultivation of African-American leaders and provocateurs of Black and American culture,” said Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield. “The arts, especially film and cinematography, has played a critical in the fight for justice and African American film makers and actors and actresses have been at the core. It is with great pride and enthusiasm, that I welcome and look forward to the HBCU Film Invitational celebrating Black Cinema in Detroit.”

Clifton conceived the festival after a 2018 discussion with educators at North Carolina A&T State University and Alabama State University who wanted more opportunities for their students to pursue storytelling through cinema.

Autumn Sun will announce on August 1 details about the festival including hosts, special guests, and entertainment as well as how to register to attend.

Visit or follow @AutumnSunFest on social media platforms for updates.



Autumn Sun is a grassroots organization dedicated to creating platforms that spotlight the creative ingenuity of young Black artists. Through initiatives like the HBCU Film Invitational, Autumn Sun aims to empower and amplify the voices of emerging talent, fostering a dynamic and inclusive cultural landscape.


Michigan Central is a 30-acre technology and cultural hub in Detroit, where leaders, thinkers, communities, and creators come together to accelerate bold ideas and technologies that shape our collective future. By providing access to world-class infrastructure, tools, and resources, Michigan Central inspires innovators and community members to collaborate on real, groundbreaking solutions to global problems. Since opening in April 2023, Michigan Central has grown into a diverse ecosystem of more than 600 employees from over 100 companies and startups working at the intersection of mobility and society. Learn more at


The Office of Arts, Culture and Entrepreneurship oversees the City’s investments in arts, culture and history. It develops opportunities for residents to experience music and art in neighborhoods across the city and offers support for one of the nation’s greatest creative workforces. Follow @detroitcityarts on all social media platforms for updates.


A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation partners with people to transform education systems, nurturing the brilliance and power of Detroit youth. It has granted over $730-million and has served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth and community leadership, and racial equity and justice. It is in the process of developing a new strategic framework, co-designed with Detroit youth and their champions. Find more information at