By Mark A. Upaa
John Singleton, suffered a stroke on April 17 and had subsequently been hospitalized until his demise at the age of 51. In death as in life, John has never been one to shy away from controversy or giving the audience a compelling storyline to chew. As it became clear that John Singleton’s long running battle with hypertension may prove fatal, differing prognosis had trickled out from sources claiming to speak on behalf of the prolific film-maker, giving varied and simply conflicting views regarding the state of his health.
John’s publicist Sharon Barr, told reporters as recently as Monday morning that he was still on life support and that any reports of his demise were ‘inacurate’ and false. There had been conflicting reports about Singleton’s health status since his stroke, with one side of his family claiming he is working towards recovery while his mother and manager, Sheila Ward, had as far back as last week filed a request with the courts, seeking to be named temporary conservator with claims that he was in a coma and incapacitated. This claim was refuted by one of Singleton’s daughters (he had 7 children), Cleopatra, who countered her grandmother’s claim in court documents, opposing Ward’s request. The college sophomore claimed Ward is “misrepresenting his condition,” writing, “My father is not in a coma,” while claiming her family met with his doctor to discuss the director’s condition. “Although they do not have a concrete diagnosis, my dad is progressing every day and after a meeting with the doctor we feel that he could be out of the ICU in as little as 5 days,” Cleopatra wrote.
She continued, “My father is breathing on his own. He is only medically sedated to keep his blood pressure low and allow the vessels in his brain to heal.” Cleopatra further suggested her grandfather, Danny Singleton, or older brother Maasai Singleton, as possible conservators, claiming Ward has “abused” her position as the director’s manager. Ward had filed an application to be named her son’s temporary conservator on Thursday, stating the Boyz n the Hood director is “is currently hospitalized in a coma and is unable to provide for his personal needs”. This would not be the first time Singleton’s family has fought publicly, in 2016, one of his sons wrote an open letter accusing Ward of being manipulative and controlling, according to news reports.
As at the time of this filing, major news media outlets including CNN and the BBC are reporting a family statement has indeed confirmed the influential filmmaker had “passed away peacefully” early Tuesday, shortly after being removed from life support in Los Angeles. Tributes have also began to flow in in from well-wishers and long time collaborators in the film industry like; Samuel L. Jackson, Regina King, Ice Cube, Spike Lee and a host of others.
Born in 1968, John Singleton grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He told reporters in 2014 his upbringing had made him “more of a fighter, and a hustler, and it made me really appreciate life in a different way as a storyteller”. Singleton was considered a trailblazer for African-American directors in the 1990s. After studying at a high school in Pasadena, Singleton went on to get a place at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where Less than a month after graduation, he directed his debut and ground-breaking movie Boyz N the Hood alongside producer Steve Nicolaides. The film, partly inspired by his childhood, explored themes of youth and friendship with the backdrop of inner-city violence in Los Angeles. The film was met with high-praise on its Cannes debut and went on to become a box-office success. It offered breakout roles for many aspiring actors of colour, including Angela Bassett, Nia Long and Cuba Gooding Jr. It also offered rapper Ice Cube his acting debut. Alongside the Shaft remake in 2000, Singleton’s other credits include Higher Learning and 1993’s Poetic Justice, starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, which he wrote as-well-as directed. Singleton also directed Micheal Jackson’s music video for Remember the Time. Singleton was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.
In recent time, he had focused on TV projects as an outlet for his creativity, directing episodes of Empire and American Crime Story, as well as acting as creator and executive producer on 2017’s Snowfall. Singleton checked himself into a hospital last week after he began experiencing weakness in his legs after a trip to Costa Rica. In their statement, the family also took the opportunity to raise awareness around hypertension, or high blood pressure, in the African-American community. They said the director had “silently struggled” with the condition for years, and urged people to familiarise themselves with it’s symptoms.