Cai Thomas

Cai Thomas is a documentary filmmaker and dp telling verite stories at the intersection of location, self-determination and identity about Black youth and elders. She grew up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood and is deeply interested in stories rooted in place. Her film Queenie which follows a 73 year young Black Lesbian won the NY Short Grand Jury award at NewFest. Cai is a member of the NeXt Doc Collective as well as a Sisters In Cinema Fellow and an inaugural Mellon Arts Practitioner Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

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After spending the spring of 2020 inside as the pandemic raged across the world, documenting this story was the first time I picked up a camera again. As the organizing progressed over the summer it became clear that I should make a new film with this footage. Ms.Jones and I began meeting with funders in the fall as a co-directing team to make sure the project would have support to reach the finish line. This film now exists in a larger way than I ever could’ve imagined. A Tribeca Film Festival premiere as well as a BET broadcast. I hope you enjoy the film.

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Change the Name

An intimate portrayal of Black youth organizing on the west side of Chicago,  CHANGE THE NAME follows a group of 5th graders from Village Leadership Academy as they embark on a campaign to rename Stephen A. Douglas Park after freedom fighters Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass. Over the course of the three-year grassroots campaign the students tackle bureaucratic systems, underestimations of their capacity to make real change as well as a pandemic and global uprising.

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This film follows the organizing of the young folks that changed the name of Stephen Douglas Park to Anna and Frederick Douglass Park.

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The long overdue change in the name of Douglass Park came from the minds and hearts of students at the Village Leadership Academy. Check out vlacademy.org to learn more about the school. 

Read more about the name change here

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Dive deep into the force that is CHANGE THE NAME by visiting the film's official website