Tanya Kersey, Founder of Hollywood Black Film Festival, Dies at 61

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Tanya Kersey, an entrepreneur and entertainment journalist who founded the Hollywood Black Film Festival, died Monday of cardiac arrest in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Her daughters Brittany Love and Monique Love, and sister Lisa M. Kersey confirmed the news on Facebook. She was 61.

In a tribute, Lisa M. Kersey wrote that her sister had “been battling multiple health issues for many years” before she “passed away peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones.”

“She was a fighter and fought a long hard battle with dignity & grace,” she added.

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In 1998, Kersey founded and became executive director of the Hollywood Black Film Festival, an annual event that brings together established and up-and-coming Black independent filmmakers. Dubbed “The Black Sundance,” HBFF has counted Sidney Poitier, Forest Whitaker, Sanaa Lathan, Ice-T, John Singleton, Tim Story, Malcolm Lee, Bill Duke, Devon Franklin, George Tillman, Blair Underwood, Loretta Devine, Debra Martin Chase, and Antwone Fisher among its attendees. Since its inception, more than 1,000 films from 25 countries have screened at the festival.

Additionally, Kersey was the CEO and founder of the industry trade publication Black Talent News, as well as its digital arm, BlackTalentNews.com. She was also behind The Kersey Group, a boutique film consulting firm. Her other arts and business ventures included mentoring filmmakes and leading public speaking workshops.

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Previously, Kersey dabbled in modeling and acting before turning to entertainment journalism. She co-authored the book “Black State of the Arts: A Guide to Developing a Successful Career as a Black Performing Artist” in 1991.

Her daughters remembered as a “beautiful mom & the best ‘Gama’ in the world… respected by many in her field.”

“She loved to travel, was a dancing Queen, fighter, fashionista, and overall super star” who “loved her family dearly,” they wrote in their respective posts.

Kersey is also survived by her two grandchildren.

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