This is a part of Shadow and Act’s Women’s History Month series featuring Black women tributing Black women

Ava DuVernay is an icon and one of my biggest inspirations. I was first introduced to her work through the documentary 13th. I remember finishing the film being infuriated but also invigorated as an abolitionist. I genuinely think 13th. is one of the most important documentaries ever made. The film shed light on the despicable industrial prison complex within the United States. It discussed systemic oppression, institutional racism and the modern forms of slavery within America. I remember having a multitude of discussions surrounding the documentary; so many peers of mine expressed to me how they had never been introduced to certain themes explored within the film. The film was educational in an innovative manner but also deeply personal.

I then saw A Wrinkle in Time, Selma and When They See Us and fell more in love with her work. When They See Us specifically moved me in ways that I can’t even properly articulate. Ava DuVernay never ceases to amaze me. Her work leaves me in awe as a result of being so sincere and intentional.

She is not only one of the best directors of our generation, but also a woman who is continuously using her voice to empower our community. Ava’s unwavering dedication and commitment to her community is extremely impactful. Her work celebrates us and explores the nuances of the Black experience with such truth. Ava’s projects allow us to be seen and respected. Her works have strengthened me as a Black woman and artist. She encourages me to unapologetically live in my truth and tell stories that I care about. 

I love that through her production company, ARRAY, she not only develops her own projects, but also champions the work of other artists. She uses her own platform to amplify the voices of others, and that is something I can appreciate. Ava has truly created a collective rooted in educating and empowering others. She is leading the way for so many artists. She even has the Array Database, which is a database of crew members of color. Her organization created the database in order to combat the lack of diversity on set, behind the camera. Ava is truly making history and making strides to radically change the industry. 

I am grateful to watch her work and journey. Ava is a queen. I aspire to create stories and uplift narratives in the way in which she has. I am so thankful for her voice. She is a light. 

Alycia Pascual-Peña is one of the stars of Peacock’s Saved by the Bell revival series. She can currently be seen in the Netflix film, Moxie.