Stanley Nelson is today’s leading documentarian of the African-American experience. His films combine compelling narratives with rich historical detail to illuminate the under-explored American past. A MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Nelson has received nearly every award in broadcasting, including five Primetime Emmy Awards, and lifetime achievement awards from the Emmys, the Peabody Awards, and the International Documentary Association. In 2016, Nelson was honored with the National Medal in the Humanities from President Barack Obama.
Nelson’s latest film is Attica, with Traci A. Curry, on the 1971 prison uprising, which premiered as the opening night documentary at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and is now streaming on Showtime. In 2020, Nelson’s film Freedom Riders was added to the National Film Registry from the Library of Congress. In the same year, Nelson’s four-hour series Vick, about the complicated life and times of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, premiered on ESPN’s 30 for 30 to rave reviews. In 2019, the film Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool became Nelson’s 10th Sundance premiere, and first Grammy nomination for Best Music Film in 2020. Nelson's other recent feature films include the Emmy-nominated Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, with Marco Williams, for the History Channel; and Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy, a harrowing look at the crack epidemic of the 1980s, for Netflix.
With his wife, Marcia A. Smith, Nelson co-founded Firelight Media, a non-profit organization that supports and develops nonfiction filmmakers of color. Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab has supported over 100 filmmakers whose films have premiered in theaters and on broadcast, cable ,and streaming platforms. Their films have won Emmy and Peabody Awards and garnered accolades from festivals and critics alike.
Marcia Smith is president and co-founder of Firelight Media, which produces documentary films, provides artistic and financial support to emerging filmmakers of color, and builds impact campaigns to connect documentaries to audiences and social justice advocates.
Rafiah Vitalis is Firelight’s Director of Finance and Operations. Rafiah has decades-long experience as a finance and nonprofit professional, deeply committed to work that creates transformative change in underserved and historically oppressed communities.
Kandace Fuller is a graduate of Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English Literature. During her studies, she developed a passion for amplifying marginalized voices and developing narratives that animate and affirm people of color.
Loira Limbal currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Programs for Firelight Media. Limbal is an Afro-Dominican filmmaker and DJ interested in the creation of art that is nuanced and revelatory for communities of color.
Chloë Walters-Wallace is the director of regional initiatives for Firelight Media.
Monika Navarro recently joined Firelight Media as the Senior Director of Artist Programs. She has more than a decade of experience producing for public media, from directing her debut film Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas) which premiered on Independent Lens, to producing for World Channel, American Documentary and the Peabody-award winning PBS series Latino Americans.
Justin Sherwood recently joined Firelight Media as Communications Director to support Firelight’s mission of “changing the story.”
Patricia Marte is an Afro-Latinx Hip-Hop Artist, writer, and community engagement specialist. She is interested in using her talents and skills to amplify the Afro-Latinx community and to advocate for and empower people from marginalized communities to reach their highest potential.
Ximena Amescua Cuenca is the Artist Programs Coordinator at Firelight Media, fellowship programs that provide mentorship, funding, and access to first and second time filmmakers from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities.
Kristine is the Finance and Operations Coordinator at Firelight Media. She is a graduate of Barnard College, where she received her B.A. in Urban Studies & Sociology.
Noel is Firelight’s Office Manager and the glue that makes everything stick at our Hamilton Heights location. He has extensive experience in financial services and facilities operations.