“Her Advocacy Was Profound”

In the early morning of December 1, the Trousdale Estates home of Jacqueline Avant and her husband, Clarence, a popular music executive known as “The Godfather of Black Music”, was breached, and The 81-year-old philanthropist and former model were shot dead. A motive for the crime is still being investigated by Beverly Hills police.

“Jacquie,” as her friends and family called her, was born Jacqueline Alberta Gray on March 6, 1940, in Jamaica Queens, New York. In the 1960s, she began her career as a hospital technician and phlebotomist in New York City, and also modeled for the Ebony Fashion Fair, an annual fashion show and event. The fundraiser, created by Eunice Johnson of the Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago, traveled to 30 cities, focusing on the black neighborhoods there. The show featured mostly African-American models wearing chic European designers like Yves St. Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Givenchy and Jean Paul Gaultier.

It was around that time that she met and met her fiancé, Clarence, who was building a reputation in the music industry as a manager, producer, executive and businessman.

“The Ebony Fashion Fair models are like the first models Blacks actually see on the runway, so for a black man in 1960-something, the Fashion Fair model. page looks like a big deal,” says music and culture historian Nelson George in the 2019 Netflix Documentary Black Godfatherchronicles the life and career of Clarence Avant and is directed by Reginald Hudlin.

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Clarence Avant and his wife Jacqueline Avant at BET’s Pre-Grammy Brunch 2017.
Earl Gibson III / Getty Images

In a statement after learning of her death, Hudlin said: “Jacquie is the epitome of grace, elegance, kindness and good taste. Like so many people in Hollywood, I am greatly indebted to the guidance and generosity of Clarence and Jacquie. This is a senseless tragedy that has left our entire industry reeling, confused and heartbroken.” On Thursday afternoon, December 2, Beverly Hills police arrested 29-year-old Aariel Maynor of Los Angeles as the sole suspect.

The couple married in 1967, and after moving West to Los Angeles, their union had a daughter and a son: the former US Ambassador to the Bahamas (and the wife of the co-CEO) Netflix Ted Sarandos) Nicole Avant, and Alexander Du Bois Avant.

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A photo of the Avant family (from left: Clarence, Alexander, Jacqueline and Nicole) featured in the 2019 documentary Black Godfather

The Avants are 55-year residents of Beverly Hills, a notable period as a Black family moved to the area in 1968, in a city where red and housing discrimination has create very isolated residential areas.

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In Black Godfather, Clarence tells the story of how the family originally wanted to move into the historic, upper-middle-class neighborhood of Baldwin Hills – “Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson lived there. Everyone lived in Baldwin Hills,” he said — especially since he couldn’t afford a home in Beverly Hills at the time. But thanks to a loan from then-boss and mentor Joe Glaser, Avants was able to move in.

Throughout her life, Jacqueline Avant was an activist for the arts and philanthropy: In 1974 she was the president of the NOW membership and in 1975 she was the president of the Neighborhood of Watts, a group support for the South Central Community Child care center. She later served on the board of directors of the Center for International Students at UCLA, and two terms as chair of the board of directors of the Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles.

More recently, she volunteered for the Japanese Art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and sat on the board of directors for The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts – a project she and her husband were involved in. support from the start. when it was just a non-profit organization, and the cultural center has yet to be built inside the Beverly Hills Post Office before.

“They are passionate about art and culture, and they recognized the potential to repurpose this post office into a thriving performing arts campus long before it became a reality. And they’ve stuck with it for over two decades and made sure – along with the rest of our board – that it really does come to fruition,” said Rachel Fine, chief executive officer and executive officer. Executive Director of the Annenberg Center, says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to Fine, the Avants are “extremely generous” sponsors and “absolute weekly fixers” at the venue. On Jacquie’s 80th birthday in March 2020, she asked all of her friends and guests to contribute to Wallis.

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“On my walk this morning, I just thought about what makes a fulfilling board member of a cultural nonprofit,” Fine continued. “She was very proud and so her defense was very poignant. She is very dedicated to our mission and vision and to delivering the two through our work on stage. She sits on the Education Committee; She is very passionate about our art programs. “

In addition, Jacqueline is very active in the Japanese community in Los Angeles, and is a well-known art collector. She has one of the largest collections of Japanese lacquer boxes and other artefacts in the United States; in 2013, her collection was viewed at the Crow Asian Art Collection in Dallas, Texas, and she has also been published in Asian Art Magazine on two occasions.

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Jacqueline Avant’s lacquer collection on display at the Crow Collection of Asian Art 2013.
Museum of Asian Art Courtesy Crow

Amy Hofland, senior director of Crow Collection, said CHEAP: “For me, this is just a loss of light in the world. In the world of museums, we call her ‘a collector of dreams’, which means to her it’s more than just a collection. It’s about this passion – in her case, for Japanese lacquerware – and about connecting with friends, with people and young students. She was very dedicated to the way we taught the collection when it was here, and so I think we found a good friendship in each other. Jacquie is just that, just an open-minded, loving human being who has taken the collection around the world and shared it generously with the world. “

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Jacqueline Avant, who started her lacquer collection in the early 1990s, has amassed an impressive array of items such as ink cartridges, incense holders, pipe holders and more. She is an art-form scholar, lectures on her collection at Spelman College, Scripps College and Federal Bank of Broadway, and is passionate about sharing Asian art with the community – an endeavor her husband has made. She enthusiastically supported, according to friends.

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A lacquer work from Jacqueline Avant .’s collection
Museum of Asian Art Courtesy Crow

“I think as the wife of a major musical figure, this is her self-expression. This is Jacqueline’s story,” Hofland said, adding, “Lacquer is an exquisite art form from Japan. It requires time and high precision. Beauty and perfection are the ideals of lacquer, and that is who Jacqueline is: refined. She is lovable in her care as someone for others. And I think that’s what makes a human being.”

Jacqueline Avant is survived by her husband, Clarence, their two children, Nicole and Alexander, her sister, Jean Morse, and a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.

Veteran music producer Quincy Jones, one of Clarence and Jacquie’s closest companions, said in a statement: “The heaviness of my heart today is unlike any other that I’ve been through in my life. The news of the tragic loss of my beautiful ‘sister-in-law’ Jacquie Avant is beyond words. She is the purest of soul in every sense, and the Rock of Gibraltar to Clarence, their children, and her friends. All of us, each one of us, are better people because Jacquie has been in our lives. Dear Jacquie, I will forever remember your gentle smile, your ‘loving glance’ and the beauty that resided in every fiber of your heart. God bless you.”

In lieu of flowers, the Avant family requested a donation to the MLK Health and Wellness Development Company (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit) to the Jacqueline Avant Memorial Fund for the new MLK Children’s Center in Watts, California. Donations can be mailed to PO Box 811473, Los Angeles, CA 90081 or at this link.

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