“Cinema Was My Rite Of Passage”: Remembering John Singleton’s Life, Work And An Everlasting Legacy

Television and film won’t be the same without John Singleton: Writer, director, producer, father, brother, son, friend and media maven.

There aren’t many people who can see through a lens like Singleton. He was a visionary, who had an infinite amount of stories to tell in innumerable ways. Watching a Singleton film was like your favorite book coming to life. He was one of the first filmmakers to bring the lives of people of color to the forefront of mainstream media, from a troubled Los Angeles youth afraid to grow up and be a man, to boys in the hood seeking higher learning; Singleton’s work was poetic, and he sought justice for his community through his craft.

Singleton was born on January 6, 1968, in Los Angeles, California, growing up in the South Central area. He attended Blair High School, Pasadena City College and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He graduated from USC in 1990 and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. It is noted that Singleton was a huge fan of Steven Spielberg and often mentioned how the fellow director inspired him to make films. His dreams came true, and then some, as he quickly broke records and boundaries while making history all at the same time.

Singleton’s film debut was “Boyz n the Hood (1991),” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr, Angela Bassett, Ice Cube, and Lawrence Fishburne. From the movie’s commercial and critical success came Singleton making history as the youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Director, and the first African-American to be nominated for the award at just age 24. He went on to stretch outside of the film world and into the music industry when he directed the VFX-driven music video “Remember the Time” for #MichaelJackson, which featured Eddie Murphy, Iman and Magic Johnson. Singleton’s career was jam-packed with one box-office hit after the other, including Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1995), Shaft (2000), Baby Boy (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), Four Brothers (2005) and several more. He also co-created the television crime drama, ”Snowfall.”

On April 17, 2019, Singleton suffered a stroke and was placed in intensive care. It was reported that he began to experience weakness in his legs after returning home from a trip to Costa Rica. Other reports followed saying the movie executive slipped into a coma, but his daughter claimed otherwise. Unfortunately, on April 29, Singleton was taken off life support and died at the age of 51. He left behind his mother, Sheila Ward, his father, Danny Singleton, and his children Justice, Maasai, Hadar, Cleopatra, Selenesol, Isis, and Seven. Several actors have paid tribute to the late genius including Angela Bassett, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Omar Epps, Don Cheadle, Taraji P. Henson and more. Singleton was a creative TV/film savant that will always be remembered, as he once said: “Cinema was my rite of passage.”

Remembering John Singleton
Michael Ochs/Getty Images

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