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Inspiration: A Film Festival Tribute

AJ "Jay" Cooper III was a man whose words empowered, whose actions emboldened, and whose genuine loving-kindness effortlessly extended to nearly everyone he met. His spirit of unbridled passion, optimism, and love left an indelible mark on the hearts of so many. 

Simply put: he inspired a generation.​

Join us as we celebrate Jay's birthday--and his legacy--through his own words and images.

All videos produced and directed by AJ Cooper III, except where noted otherwise.

Bonus Audio: J. Coop on the mic!

At his core, Cooper was an artist. There was hardly a moment when a painting, a sketch, or a lyric wasn't forming itself in his mind. Below, enjoy tracks from Coop's 2003 album, Freedom Ain't Free.

Join the Festival

We'd love to share your video of AJ Cooper, any one of his many projects, or the 2015 tribute BBQ! Just email us a link. You can also scroll down to see others' memories or leave a comment below.

His Birthday

His Birthday

In 2013, AJ Cooper III decided to do something different for his birthday. Along with a few friends, he set up a grill on Georgia Ave. and handed out free food to anyone who walked by. And in lieu of presents, his only wish was that everyone do something nice for someone else.​ Smiles and good times ensued, and the result was a new tradition: AJ Cooper's Annual "Feed the Needy" B-day BBQ.​


1st Annual B-day BBQ


2nd Annual B-day BBQ

Urban Ag Sustainability ec dev

Urban Agriculture, Sustainability, and Economic Development

Cooper believed that no issue existed in a bubble and where others saw problems, he saw solutions. His desire to bring healthy food access to food deserts--the same areas that were experiencing with high unemployment rates and generational poverty--led to his founding of Freedom Farms, a commercial aquaponics company with the goal of transforming communities through access to healthy food, economic opportunity and sustainable workforce development.

Freedom Farms Intro

60-second spot for Freedom Farms, the commercial aquaponics company founded by AJ Cooper.


Interview with Dean Sabine O'Hara on urban agriculture and sustainability, 2014.

Courtesy UDC-TV

Planting Day at Excel Academy

Planting kale seedlings with the scholars at Excel Academy PCS, 2013. Garden built by Freedom Farms, Inc.

The Campaign Trail

The Campaign Trail

In 2014, AJ Cooper ran for D.C. City Councilmember At-Large. As a first-time candidate in a crowded field, Cooper's 5-month, grassroots campaign earned him more than 25,000 votes and galvanized a base of DC residents who knew that they deserved better. Cooper launched his Ward 4 campaign on November 8, 2014, just weeks before his passing. 

"I am AJ Cooper"

Campaign launch ad, July 2012.

Ward 7 Tour

Cooper rides along as Ward 7 youth lead a tour of their neighborhood, July 2012.

Press Conference at 441

AJ Cooper and the Cooper Troopers turn in 6,000 signatures to place AJ Cooper's name on the ballot for DC City Councilmember At-Large, August 2012.

"Full Time Jobs"

Campaign spot, August 2012.

Courtesy Taylor Creative LLC

"Teen Pregnancy"

Campaign spot, August 2012.

Courtesy Taylor Creative LLC

"Join the Movement"

Campaign ad, September 2012.

"People over Politics"

Campaign ad, September 2012.

"Let Him Speak"

Protest outside of candidate forum from which AJ Cooper was excluded, October 2012.

Courtesy GRP Official

"People over Politics, Pt. 2"

Campaign Ad, October 2012.

"People over Politics, Pt. 3"

Campaign Ad, October 2012.

Candidate Forum

Sponsored by DC Environmental Network, October 2012.

Courtesy DC Environmental Network

Kojo Nnamdi, part 1 of 3 

Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood talked with candidates for DC Council At-Large, October 2012.

Courtesy Kojo Nnamdi

Kojo Nnamdi, part 2 of 3 

Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood talked with candidates for DC Council At-Large, October 2012.

Courtesy Kojo Nnamdi

Kojo Nnamdi, part 3 of 3 

Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood talked with candidates for DC Council At-Large, October 2012.

Courtesy Kojo Nnamdi

Ward 4 Campaign Kick-off

November 8, 2014

Courtesy Anika Edmunds

Ward 4 Campaign Ad

November, 2014.

Teen Preg Youth Comm Empower

Teen Pregnancy, Youth, and Community Empowerment

As Policy Director for DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Cooper led advocacy efforts to cut the District's teen pregnancy rate in hallf. His belief that solutions begin with community empowerment were the foundation of his work at DC Campaign and beyond. To learn more about teen pregnancy prevention in DC and support DC Campaign's work, visit their website.

4th Annual "Take a Step" to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Walk and Rally

June, 2013.

Youth Leadership Task Force

Cooper coaches young leaders, encouraging their development to their fullest potential. Summer, 2010.

DCPNI Digital Media Academy

Summer program in Kenilworth-Parkside where Cooper led teen pregnancy education efforts in support of a multi-media PSA campaign created by youth. August, 2013. 

Fairlawn Community Cleanup

April, 2013.

iVote Concept Video

Cooper's idea for an app that would change the face of democracy. May, 2013.

The state of the distict

The State of the District

Cooper was not afraid to expose what he saw as a growing divide in his hometown. In his A Tale of Two Cities series, he celebrated the strength of communities across the city, while at the same time shining a light on the disparities and challenges those communities face.

A Tale of Two Cities: Part 1

Part 1 of a multi-episode documentary focusing on Washington DC in 2013.

A Tale of Two Cities: Part 2

Episode 2 focuses on Ward 7 and a 2013 community clean up Cooper spearheaded.

A Tale of Two Cities: Part 3

In Episode 3, Cooper takes us to Ward 8 in the wake of the murder of a 16-year-old boy. Cooper takes us to Woodland Terrace as the community searches for solutions.

A Tale of Two Cities: Part 4

Cooper joins community leaders Tony Lewis Jr. and Silas Grant as they march with residents for peace and unity in DC. This episode focuses on raising awareness of the violence in DC as well as necessary steps to begin building bridges within and between communities.

Memories from Friends and Family

Thank you so much for sharing your memories. Jay will live forever in our hearts.

Others' memories

Tribute video for AJ Cooper's Community Memorial Service, December 8, 2014.

Created by David McDuffie and Ralston Smith.

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