Tanya Kersey, founder of the Hollywood Black Film Festival, died Monday of cardiac arrest in in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She was 61.

Her death was announced by her daughters Monique Love and Brittany Love and sister Lisa M. Kersey on Facebook

According to her family,Kersey had been battling multiple health issues for many years and “passed away peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones.”

Prior to founding the film festival in 1998 and serving as its executive director, Kersey was the founder and CEO of the entertainment industry trade publication Black Talent News and its website BlackTalentNews.com. 

Kersey also founded The Kersey Group, a boutique film consulting firm.

The Hollywood Black Film Festival was an annual celebration of Black cinema designed to draw together established and rising filmmakers, popular film and television stars, writers, industry executives, emerging artists and diverse audiences from Southern California and around the world. 

The event drew more than 40,000 people over the years – the last festival was in 2018 – and screened more than 1,000 films.

Sidney Poitier, Forest Whitaker, John Singleton, Ice-T, Blair Underwood, Loretta Devine and Antwone Fisher were among its guests over the years.

Born and raised in New York City, Kersey worked as a model and actress – she later termed that portion of her career “uneventful” – before turning to writing.