U.S. history is filled with influential African Americans. Discover four pioneers who changed their communities – and our country. Plus, see how five modern innovators combine strong cultural ties and Verizon technology to empower today’s society. Hear their stories below.
Recognized by Variety magazine as one of the “10 Producers to Watch” — the only African-American Producer to receive honors on the list.
Producer Will Packer took the film industry by storm with the Stomp the Yard franchise. Having produced two box office hits grossing over $100 million in one year, Will has built upon his initial success.
In addition to his role as Chief Strategy Officer & Marketing Officer for Bounce TV, the first African-American broadcast network, as Co-Founder and Chairman of the Atlanta-based production company, Rainforest Films, Will is responsible for producing and overseeing the company’s studio-financed and self-financed films and distribution projects.
After graduating magna cum laude from Florida A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1996, Packer decided to forego lucrative job offers in the field of engineering to capitalize on his entrepreneurial instincts and his passion for filmmaking. His tenacious and visionary leadership fueled the production and led to the successful independent distribution of the company’s first theatrically released motion picture “Trois.” “Trois” grossed $1.2 million dollars and became the fastest million-dollar grossing film distributed by African Americans.
Mr. Packer is a dynamic and inspiring speaker who delivers educational and motivational speeches to industry groups, as well as youth and community groups nationwide. He has been honored with the key to the city of St. Petersburg, FL, and “Will Packer Day” has been proclaimed in the cities of Chattanooga, TN and Fort Lauderdale, FL. Packer has also been honored with the Meritorious Achievement Award from his alma mater, Florida A&M University, the highest honor the University bestows.
For his achievements in film, television, entrepreneurship and his ongoing efforts to inspire youth in the community, Verizon proudly honors innovator Will Packer.
“How many people will reach their dreams? How many people will touch the brass ring? Can you do it? Yes. What will stop you? You.”
Robert Townsend is a heralded actor, comedian, writer, director, producer and cable network programming CEO.
A Hollywood pioneer well ahead of his time, he is often referred to as one of the “Godfathers of the independent film world.” With more than 30 years in the entertainment business, he has made an indelible mark in Hollywood with an extensive list of credits.
Having experienced the difficulty that black actors faced in finding good roles in the Hollywood film industry, Robert decided to step behind the camera. Without formal film education or outside funding (using his own credit cards to finance), Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in his own first film. The result was the critically acclaimed, Hollywood Shuffle, the success of which forced Hollywood to recognize Tinseltown’s newest, talented actor and filmmaker.
Following Hollywood Shuffle, Robert’s unbridled success has continued to this day—writing, acting directing and participating in humanitarian efforts around the world.
As longtime speaker for the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP, his concern for inner city youth takes him throughout the country to inspire young people to follow their dreams. In addition, Robert has created his 501(c)3 nonprofit, The Robert Townsend Foundation, as a venue to inspire, create and fund new film content and set up a new distribution model. The foundation’s mission is to open the doors to new and underrepresented artists and create a new model to showcase new filmmakers to the world.
For his ground-breaking accomplishments in entertainment and ongoing efforts in the community, Verizon proudly honors pioneer Robert Townsend.