Reflecting on John Singleton’s timeless message after his untimely death this week.
May 1, 2019 Willie Richardson
On Monday, April 29, 2019, John Singleton, American film director, screenwriter, and producer best known for directing “Boyz n the Hood” (1991), died. Straight out of the University of Southern California, Singleton penned the script for the movie at just 21 years old. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, becoming, at age 24, the youngest person to have ever been nominated for that award. This motion picture would go on to gross $57.5 million in North America on a budget of just $6.5 million.
Through Singleton’s eyes, a story is told of an inner city boy growing up in South Central LA without the leadership of his father. Throughout the violent imagery and gang warfare, the clearest theme of the movie was that black fathers need to take the full responsibility of parenting their sons. The 12-year-old boy, Trey, was acting out at school and at home with his single mother. His mother realized she could no longer serve in the capacity as full-time parent and sent him to live with his father. That character was John Singleton as a young child.
Singleton said in a 1991 interview with Oprah Winfrey, “The story of ‘Boyz n the Hood’ is just a catalyst for me when I went to live with my father when I was 12 years old. My father whipped me into shape. He made me mow the lawn and take out the trash; things I never had to do.” He went on to say about the portrayal of his real-life father through actor Lawrence Fishburne, “He was a hardworking brother that cares for his son and cares how his son is raised. We need more brothers that if they’re going to have a child they have to look out for the well-being of their children.”
The true meaning of this film was somewhat lost in translation due to the highly dramatized street culture of the early ‘90s that still exists today. However, the overarching theme of fatherhood in “Boyz n the Hood” remains one of the most powerful and vivid descriptions ever told through screenplay. Singleton understood the dire consequences of the lack of fatherhood, especially within his own community. The first scene in the movie starts with these statistics: “One of every twenty-one Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another black male.” He tied fatherlessness to massive violence and he was right.
In the 1950s 6% of children were born to fatherless homes and there were zero school mass shootings
In the 1960s 8% of children were born to fatherless homes and there was one school mass shooting
In the 1970s 10% of children were born to fatherless homes and there were three school mass shootings
In the 1980s, 18% of children were born to fatherless homes and there were eight school mass shootings
In the 1990s, 21.6% of children were born to fatherless homes and there were 10 school mass shootings
In the 2000s, 22.4% of children were born to fatherless homes and there were 11 school mass shootings
In the 2010s, 29.4% of children were born to fatherless homes and there have been 16 school mass shootings
The AR-15 has been sold to the public for five decades; semiautomatic weapons have been sold to the public for even longer than that. In 1975, New York State had more than 80 school districts with rifle teams and it was common, once upon a time, for an American child to be sent away to school with a rifle on his back. He would return safely to his home and family. No gun violence, no mass shootings.
Boys are taking on a “tough guise” replacing the balance of being tender and tough guys as gentlemen. Strong fathers give rise to structure, lawful behavior, respect for authority, and self-respect as it relates to their sons. John Singleton’s passing was untimely, but he left a timeless memoir in the movie “Boyz n the Hood.” White and black “boyz” growing up angry, displaced, violent, and discouraged have been provoked by the lack of “hood”
— FATHERHOOD. Make America Father Again!