John Singleton: Remembering a Good Brother and award-winning director

Growing up on the Eastside of Oklahoma City, OK, I knew what it was like to grow up in the hood, but not in South Central Los Angeles. I only heard what life was like in Southern California from those that have been there. With that being said, the 80s and 90s were a transformative and notorious time for South Central. Starting in 1991, one year before I was born, John Singleton released his debut feature film Boyz n the Hood. With the rest of the United States being ignorant of what was actually happening on the streets of South Central, Singleton gave a vivid example for us all through the lens of Tre, Ricky, and Doughboy.

Boyz n the Hood was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Director which made Singleton the youngest, and the first African-American to receive that nomination.

Singleton only had nine feature films in his collection, but that didn’t matter. Those nine were great, but his trilogy of Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice, and Higher Learning were so impactful for the 80s babies, trying to navigate through a changing society, that the other six were so highly anticipated that they turned out to be classics as well.

Although 80s babies were already into their life, some in their middle school years by the time Singleton was established, thus noticing the changes America was going through, the following sub-generation learned and were currently educated in real-time what was happening during their childhood.

Singleton educated many on America’s hard truths, but he followed up Spike Lee, who laid the foundation for future directors in the 80s. The 90s were a revolutionary time for black creatives to tell their stories and Singleton led the charge. Five movies that spoke to me the most (other than Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice) were Rosewood (1997), Shaft (2000), Baby Boy (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) and Four Brothers (2005). I was just old enough, being five watching Rosewood, (a brutally honest movie for a five-year-old, I know), and 13 watching Four Brothers. Three of those, Baby Boy, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Four Brothers are among my favorite movies to this day. Singleton also produced a 30 for 30 documentary episode on Marion Jones.

One of his pieces that spoke to me the most was Baby Boy. This film represented young Black men in the inner city that remain young mentally. Although there were scenes in this movie that may have been over the top, Singleton told a spectacular story around the character of Jody that was played by Tyrese but was originally written for 2 Pac. The film accurately depicted issues within the black community and the consequences that came with these violent and detrimental actions. Baby Boy was a movie that resonated through two decades of people and still, to this day impacts our society.

Lastly, Singleton was also my fraternity brother. While studying screenwriting at the University of Southern California, Singleton joined Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Acclaimed filmmaker and overall OG for hoods across America through his artistry, passed away, surrounded by family members on April 29 following complications from a massive stroke at 51. He is gone, but his life achievements and films will never be forgotten.

About Author

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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