Tanya Kersey, founder of the Hollywood Black Film Festival, has died. She was 61.

Kersey died Monday of cardiac arrest at a hospital in Rancho Cucamonga, California, her daughter Monique told The Hollywood Reporter. She had faced a number of health issues over the years.

Kersey launched the Hollywood Black Film Festival in 1998. The event, which celebrates Black cinema by bringing together established talents and up-and-coming indie creatives, gained traction in the entertainment industry and was dubbed the “Black Sundance” in its early years. The HBFF has screened more than 1,000 independent films from the U.S. and 25 other countries.

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The festival became a key event for Hollywood’s Black community, and notable attendees included Sidney Poitier, Forest Whitaker, John Singleton, Tim Story, Malcolm Lee, Bill Duke, Devon Franklin, George Tillman, Ice-T, Blair Underwood, Sanaa Lathan, Loretta Devine, Debra Martin Chase and Antwone Fisher.

Born in New York City on March 22, 1961, Kersey attended Douglass College at Rutgers University in the early 1980s, graduating with a degree in sociology and political science. She had modeled from an early age and continued to do so after school as she transitioned to a career in acting.

Moving to Hollywood, Kersey landed bit parts on the soap operas All My Children, Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light, then published the 1991 book Black State of the Arts: A Guide to Developing a Successful Career as a Black Performing Artist. The book, which offered guidance to Black creatives on how to break into the entertainment industry, proved popular and saw Kersey move into editorial work.

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In 1994, she established the entertainment trade publication Black Talent News, which became a vital source of information for entertainers. It ended its run around 2008.

Monique said she and her sister, Brittany, are hoping to revive the Hollywood Black Film Festival next year. It has not been held since 2018.

Survivors also include her grandsons, Dewayne and Datari, and her sister, Lisa. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her family with expenses.

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