Preston Holmes

2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Preston Holmes Portrait

Sumner High School – Class of 1967

Although Preston Holmes’ career led him far away from his Kansas City beginnings to the bright lights of Hollywood, his upbringing here has played an integral role in his rise to success.

Preston recalls starting with preschool, he always had a supportive group of people who pushed him to succeed. This group encompassed not only his family, but also those who lived in his community, as well as special teachers at school, such as Mr. Pitts, Preston’s eighth-grade science teacher. “He made learning so much fun, and I remember his class being interesting and fascinating,” says Preston, “I even thought I wanted to be a scientist for awhile.”

Preston’s career goals took a different path when he left home at the age of 17 bound for Yale University in Connecticut. “Even though I had never left home before, I had no anxiety about leaving Kansas City,” he says. “I looked forward to it and relished the idea.” This experience exemplifies Preston’s life philosophy. “It is important to have a willingness to take chances, or a different road, with the risks that they entail without fear of failure.”

At Yale, Preston participated in the Transitional Year Program (TYP), which targeted inner city youth and had the goal of giving them an intensive year of academic preparation before they attended college. After completing the yearlong program, Preston attended Princeton. Preston’s adventurous spirit also guided his later career choice of venturing into film in New York City by participating in the prestigious Director’s Guild East’s Assistant Director Training Program, followed by admission to the Guild as an assistant director.

Moving from commercial production to features in New York, first as an assistant director and then as production manager, Preston joined Spike Lee’s production team and helped turn out hits including Do The Right ThingMo’ Better Blues, and Jungle Fever. He has since gone on to produce or co-produce films with some of today’s outstanding African-American filmmakers: Juice with Ernest Dickerson, Malcolm X and Crooklyn with Spike Lee, and New Jack City, Posse, and Panther with Mario Van Peebles.

In 2000, Preston also produced the award-winning television movie Boycott, starring Jeffrey Wright and directed by Clark Johnson for HBO Films, with whom he is currently developing a film on the life of African-American movie pioneer, Oscar Micheaux. In addition, Preston is currently producing a feature documentary, Tupac Resurrection, on the life of Tupac Shakur, for MTV Films.

Preston’s wife of 30 years, Safiya Henderson-Holmes, passed away in 2002 after a decade-long battle with cancer. He has three children: Toure, Naimah, and Trenton and one grandson, Dal-Jeem.