San Francisco Black Film Festival mourns the loss of Director Kali O’Ray

San Francisco Black Film Festival Directors Katera Crossley and Kali O’Ray pose for a portrait, on June 2, 2015. – Photo: Lea Suzuki

Kali O’Ray, son of San Francisco Black Film Festival founder Ave Montague, succumbs to degenerative heart condition 

by Wright Enterprises 

REVISED*, San Francisco, Aug. 7, 2020 – It is with deep pain and distraught heartbreak the San Francisco Black Film Festival announces the death of its Director Kali O’Ray on Friday Aug. 7, 2020. Festival organizers ask the public’s forbearance as O’Ray’s wife and co-director, Katera Crossley, with her sons and family work out details around observances for his untimely passing.

The limited information about the cause of O’Ray’s death is that he was admitted into the hospital having suffered a stroke that was followed by a heart attack as he was being treated over the past week. 

“We are shocked and deeply saddened, as those of us who have worked closely with Kali and Katera over the years feel as though we have been robbed of a talented, bright and endearing light,” said Jackie Wright, publicist and community relations director. “Kali’s artistic acumen is seen in his graphic design work and the websites of the San Francisco Black Film Festival and the San Francisco BayView newspaper to name a few. 

“Katera has lost her love and partner for life and is understandably devastated, so we ask everyone to please give her time and space to talk about how she’d like to pursue next steps. In the meantime, family, volunteers, friends and fans of the San Francisco Black Film Festival are on standby to assist in any way we can.”

The San Francisco Black Film Festival is not for just one race.

Kali O’Ray and Katera Crossley moved to San Francisco from Atlanta after the untimely death of Ave Montague, O’Ray’s mother and founder of the San Francisco Black Film Festival. After working with KBLX Radio Station on the “President Barack Obama West Inauguration Event” in January 2009, Montague was found deceased a few days later in her apartment in the Fillmore District of San Francisco, where she had founded the festival.

As previously noted in the San Francisco Chronicle, O’Ray and Crossley worked diligently to keep the festival going with its mission to provide a multicultural platform to positively express the images and legacy of the African Diaspora worldwide: “The San Francisco Black Film Festival is not for just one race.” With its theme, “Healing the World One Film at a Time,” to that end, the San Francisco Black Film Festival had just begun collaborations with the Durban Film Mart that will be online Sept. 4-13, 2020, and Durban International Film Festival that will also be virtual, Sept. 10-2, due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

In the spirit of continuance, as the San Francisco Black Film Festival grieves its leader, it will complete today’s Live Talk @SFBFF’s “Black Lives Matter via ‘Riot! 1906 Atlanta’ by Micah Penn,” 5:00 p.m. PST, 8 p.m. EST. Click link for registration and details:

SFBFF Director Kali O’Ray embraces his principal teammates, Jackie Wright (left) and his wife, Katera Crossley. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

The San Francisco Black Film Festival sponsors to date include San Francisco Arts Commission, California Arts Commission, Bill Graham Productions, Mayor London Breed, Key to the City of San Francisco, KPOO, KPFA, San Francisco BayView, The Boom Boom Room, New Community Leadership Foundation, Inc., LaHitz Media, Film Bread and Wright Enterprises. 

The San Francisco Black Film Festival and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women San Francisco Chapter’s Doris Ward Workforce Development Training and Employment Program have joined forces for the third year. Festival training participants are given opportunities in the area of customer service, media relations, and public relations. The National Coalition of 100 Black Women San Francisco Chapter and the San Francisco Black Film Festival thank InterEthnica, a multicultural marketing and design firm for funding this year’s program participants’ stipends.

For more information about San Francisco Black Film Festival XXII, visit

About San Francisco Black Film Festival

Ave Montague (1945-2009), arts impresario, fashion industry executive and publicist, founded the San Francisco Black Film Festival in 1998. Montague created the San Francisco Black Film Festival, a nonprofit with the artistic vision to provide a platform for Black filmmakers, screenwriters and actors to present their art. As a competitive film festival, SFBFF identifies filmmakers, screenwriters and actors that are emerging as talents and established artists who are of all races and contributors to the cinematic legacy of African Americans.

SFBFF Director Kali O’Ray, visionary! – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

SFBFF conscientiously expands the notions of “Black filmmaking” to a global perspective. The organization is multicultural and inclusive of all in the expression of the African Diaspora experience. The San Francisco Black Film Festival has screened more than 10,000 films from around the world. Kali O’Ray, son of Ave Montague, and his wife Katera Crossley, both formerly of Atlanta, Georgia, have co-directed the San Francisco Black Film Festival since Montague’s death.

The mission of the San Francisco Black Film Festival is to celebrate African American cinema and the African Cultural Diaspora and to showcase a diverse collection of films from emerging and established filmmakers. This is accomplished by presenting Black films that reinforce positive images and dispel negative stereotypes and providing film artists of all races, from the Bay Area in particular and around the world in general, a forum for their work to be viewed and discussed. The San Francisco Black Film Festival believes film can lead to a better understanding of and communication between people of diverse cultures, races and lifestyles, while simultaneously serving as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

More SFBFF news 

Black Lives Matter via “Riot!” 1906 Atlanta Race Riots on San Francisco Black Film Festival’s “Live Talk @SFBFF

Saturday: SFBFF Nollywood Watch Party & Durban FilmMart’s Tiny Mungwe Joins “Art and Trade in Africa” Live Talk @SFBFF

Remembering Red Cross’ Joan Kelley Williams, Civil Rights Leaders John Lewis & CT Vivian Plus SF Black Film Festival & Durban Film Mart & Durban International Film Festival Partner

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*Editor’s note: Jackie Wright of Wright Enterprises, who has served for years as publicist and community relations director for the San Francisco Black Film Festival, apologizes for erroneously reporting the cause of the death of Festival Director Kali O’Ray as COVID-19. “It was with great grief that I wrote that Kali is no longer with us and I am deeply sorrowful that I included an inaccurate cause of death,” says Wright. “I extend my condolences once again to the family. I regret any distress to the family of Kali O’Ray and all affected by my error.”