A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

Mercedes Cooper is the Director of Programming at ARRAY, an LA-based arts collective dedicated to the amplification of films by people of color and women of all kinds founded in 2010 by filmmaker Ava DuVernay. In her previous role as ARRAY's Director of Marketing, she developed branding and promotion of 19 independent film campaigns including Sundance 2012 Best Director winner MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and the re-release of 1983 Berlinale FIPRESCI Prize winner ASHES AND EMBERS. Cooper also manages ARRAY @ The Broad, an on-going film series featuring classic and contemporary films curated with an eye toward the intersection of art, history and cultural identity.

Prior to working with ARRAY, Cooper was the Marketing Coordinator at Columbia College Chicago’s Portfolio Center while completing an M.F.A. degree in Film and Video Production. Her interest in media began while working for the Radio Television Digital News Foundation’s Journalism Ethics Project in Washington, DC. As an alum of University of Maryland College Park she holds a B.A. degree in Economics and also studied at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

Cooper previously served on the Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League's Executive Board and was a Film Independent Project:Involve Fellow; which upon conclusion of the program she was named the 2011 Barbara Boyle Scholar.


What are you most proud of?

Gifting myself permission to change and to be ok with moments of uncomfortable growth spurts.

On Sunday afternoons, you can find me...

oUrban hiking around downtown Los Angeles, sprawled on a beach reading/napping/daydreaming (70 degree weather permitting) or, most likely, at Trader Joe’s.

Tell us about someone you admire.

My parents, Deborah and Kenneth Cooper, are whom I most admire. Growing up, my mom owned an art gallery centered on art of the African diaspora while also managing a non-profit center that connected youth to employment training. My dad, who plays 4 different instruments, composed music and wrote short stories as a hobby while working as a salesman for a multinational corporation. My parents taught me the importance of claiming space and time for exploration of things that fuel me personally.

What books are on your nightstand?

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Brazilian Portuguese edition of Octavia Butler's Kindred, which I will make my way through, line by line, in my lifetime.