In a world where Black folk have to make Black Lives Matter a movement because our lives feel meaningless to America, we have to give acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay her props. 

As a director, she sees us. She saw the human story behind the “Central Park Five” scandal from the ’80s and detailed how hard it is for Black boys and men in the system so candidly that she named her series When They See Us. She saw Brother Martin and the folks who put shoes to pavement in 1965, walking from Selma to Montgomery, where Black people spoke up for the constitutional right to vote, and turned that momentous occasion into 2014’s Selma. Ava sees the struggle Colin Kaepernick has gone through since he knelt in protest of the Black lives that were taken (and continue to be taken) by police officers and a “justice” system that doesn’t feel built for us. 

Colin entrusted Ava to tell his story, a humongous honor from someone who notoriously lets his actions speak for themselves. She also took the prison system to task with 13th, a documentary that highlights just how much the system of slavery is alive in our prison institutions. Ava even saw herself become the first Black woman to direct a film that earned $100 million at the box office with 2018’s A Wrinkle in Time, an ambitious Disney update to a timeless novel that put Storm Reid in the box office conversation.

With America being divided, and history ignoring the contributions of Black people, except for when it can benefit the ruling class, creatives like Ava DuVernay express our pain and our joy. Our stories matter just as much as our lives, and with Ava’s vision, we always look amazing. 

Thank you, Ava DuVernay, for putting our people in front of the lens and telling the stories that need to be told now. We need to see them today, and our children’s children need to see them tomorrow. —Khal