The influential film director, screenwriter and producer John Singleton died Monday after suffering complications from a stroke he experienced April 17.

Singleton was the first African American and youngest person ever nominated for an Oscar for best film director. He is best known for his movie “Boyz N the Hood.” Many of us also remember his brilliant artistry with the films “Baby Boy” and “Poetic Justice.”

He was a genius who gave life, humor and depth to the characters in his movies.

Those who knew him speak about his humility and his willingness to see potential in others. It was Singleton who employed and promoted Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Taraji P. Henson, Tyrese Gibson and others.

Henson, when reflecting upon Singleton’s ability to see the potential in others, stated, “He saw something in me that I did not see. His ‘seeing’ changed my life.”

Three things come to mind when I think of John Singleton. The first is how paramount it is to possess the courage to see with one’s own eyes. Hollywood was trapped in the mode of producing movies about black life that entertained but did not capture the essence of black urban life.

Singleton forced us to change our perspective about what it means to live and grow as a black person in urban America. He shattered the Hollywood stereotypes we had become accustomed to and saw black people in the urban setting as real people with hopes, dreams, fears and courage.

Second, Singleton epitomized what it means to believe in others. Too often in this self-centered society, we forget we can never be all we should be unless we are willing to invest in someone else. He knew he had a gift, but he did not allow his gift to blind him to the gifts in others.

In Ubuntu philosophy, there is a saying that fits the life of John Singleton well. It goes, “I am because we are.” The way Singleton invested in others states that he took this motto to heart. All of us should. I hope more of us will.

Third, the tragic end of Singleton’s life at age 51 from a stroke reminds us, particularly black men, that we need to take the care of our health seriously. Many men do not go to the doctor as we should.

We need to watch our diet, and we must exercise. Too often we do not care for ourselves as we should. All of us need to promote health care and make our health a priority. We owe it to those who love us to take care of ourselves.

I thank the Ultimate Reality for the life and shared gifts of John Singleton. His work will stand as a monument to his genius. His humility and willingness to invest in others grants him a place of peace in eternity.

The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.

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