According to its own website, The California Hall of Fame was launched in 2006 to celebrate the Golden State’s legends and trailblazers whose achievements made history and changed the state, the nation and the world.

Induction into the California Hall of Fame (for Arts and/or Entertainment (and for the other fields) requires candidates to meet the following criteria:

  • Have lived in California for five years;
  • Have transcended the boundaries of their field to make lasting contributions to the state, nation and world;
  • Achieved accomplishments that inspire people to pursue their own dreams.

Visionary storytellers from the film/tv world like Spielberg, Lucas, Eastwood, Nicholson, Streisand, Cameron, Beatty, Warner Bros, Coppola, Redford, Fisher (Carrie) have been nominated and inducted over the years. All talented and transcendent artists. But, also predominantly white and male. Not exactly California’s proudest achievement.

For the 2024 class, the Hall of Fame recognized its shortcomings and admirably selected someone who was nominated outside the Hall of Fame’s exclusionary past–Ava Duvernay. Unfortunately, while the intention was good, the choice was less so.  Yes, Ava Duvernay is a lifelong Californian (check box #1). Yes, she has made lasting contributions to the state/nation/world with arguably her best film SELMA (which was nominated for Best Picture and several Golden Globes (including one for Ava Duverney for Best Director) as well as 13TH, WHEN THEY SEE US, and ORIGIN (check box #2). Yes, she has achieved accomplishments that inspire people to pursue their own dreams (her unequivocable support for minority hiring in all of her projects as well as charitable contributions checks box #3).

HOWEVER, there are other visionary storytellers more worthy of nomination and induction–one of whom Ava herself referred to in a tweet (after his death) as “a giant among us…his films broke ground…his films mattered”.  John Singleton, too, was a lifelong Californian. He also transcended the boundaries of his field as the first African American nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director—and at age 24, he was also the youngest person recognized for that award, The Oscar nod for directing (and writing) came for his feature film debut, Boyz n the Hood (1991) (which had a 95% African American crew). After that, Singleton wrote and directed other films such as the romantic drama Poetic Justice (1993), the socially conscious drama Higher Learning (1995), the historical drama Rosewood (1997), and the coming-of-age drama Baby Boy (2001) amongst others. In fact, his legacy survives in the form of the scholarships in his name given by FX Network to deserving minority writers each year to inspire them to pursue their dreams. Furthermore, there is a full area at the Academy Museum devoted to Boyz n the Hood.  Bottom line: It is John Singleton’s groundbreaking work that opened the door for Ava to walk through.

The other equally compelling ‘visionary storyteller” who should be nominated and in the Hall of Fame ahead of Ava Duvernay is writer/director/actress Kasi Lemmons. As a filmmaker, she burst onto the scene with a film entitled Eve’s Bayou in 1997 (which was later inducted into the National Film Registry), followed by other noteworthy films like TALK TO ME (about a culturally significant radio station DJ in Washington D.C. in the 70s) and HARRIET, the true story about an African American slave (Harriet Tubman) whose courage in a time of slavery made her arguably the most admired and influential person in American history. A more exhaustive and excellent summary of the history and indelible mark that Kasi Lemmons has left as a ‘visionary storyteller’ can be found at this link: Profiles in Black History: Kasi Lemmons — Oceanside Sanctuary

Not Deadline hopes that someone, ideally Ava, nominates John and Kasi for California Hall of Fame consideration in the name of ‘paying it backwards’.

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