Next week Katrina and I will participate in the Council on Foundations Philanthropy Summit in Washington, D.C. We will be guests of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media. We’ll attend an all-day session on Wednesday–Philanthropy and the Media–at the just-opened Newseum. Wednesday evening, also at the Newseum, we’ll attend a screening of Traces of the Trade, followed by a panel discussion about the power of media to bring about change. Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, and PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff, will lead the discussion.

Katrina decided to make Traces of the Trade because of her belief in the power of film to impact the public dialogue. I wrote Inheriting the Trade because of my belief in the power of the written word to do the same.

Throughout my life, Mark Twain, Somerset Maugham, John Steinbeck, William Styron, and so many others have had a powerful impact on how I view the world. More recently, Khaled Hosseini, Pema Chodron, and Elizabeth Gilbert have done the same.

I have also been influenced by filmmakers. Rather than discuss films and directors here I want to encourage you to watch a couple of short films (one is less than 3 minutes in length, the other runs 7 minutes) and ponder for yourself the power of this medium of film to influence your thinking and that of the larger society.

I’m going to send you to the Media That Matters Film Festival site. You’ll find a wealth of amazing short films by perusing this website. In particular I recommend Film #1 in festival 4 (you can check out the different festival years from the drop-down link on the upper right of the page). I Promise Africa lasts 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Then in festival 6, Film #2, check out A Girl Like Me.

Powerful stuff, huh?

Our family’s hope, with Traces of the Trade and Inheriting the Trade, is to invite people into a deeper conversation about race in America. Film, books, television, the internet, all have more influence than ever. We have a choice about what kind of influence we want to have.