DALLAS — For Donnie Wilson, telling Lusia “Lucy” Harris’ story was about not letting her legacy go untold. His decision resulted in an Oscar for Best Documentary Short on March 27.
“I was shocked,” said Wilson when he learned of Harris’ storied history. “The first thing I thought about was all of my little girl relatives thinking wow, ‘how amazing it would be for them to know who she is’ — a woman who did all of these amazing, great things that look like they do. So, they need to hear this story.”
The idea to spotlight Harris came from Canadian filmmaker and director Ben Proudfoot. According to Wilson, like many others, Proudfoot was also unfamiliar with the accolades of the Mississippi native.
“This is just a reoccurring thing in this situation,” Wilson said. “No one had ever heard of Lusia Harris — all of these accomplishments. It just kind of baffled everybody. How is it possible that this woman could’ve reached these heights and we don’t know about her? So, that sparked his interest.”
Wilson, along with former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Shaquille O’ Neal and current Golden State Warriors Steph Curry, joined the project as executive producers. In an interview with Spectrum News 1, Proudfoot said O’Neal and Curry’s names contributed to the documentary’s success.
“I think it just shows their character and their integrity that they would use their platform to lift up this story,” Proudfoot said.
Upon hearing the news of the win, Wilson was en route to an Oscar’s watch party. He and other producers gave their tickets to Harris’s family members, so they could partake in the Oscar experience instead.
“I don’t even know if there are adequate words to really or genuinely express exciting it is and how proud we all are just to have been able to facilitate that,” Wilson said, recalling the moment he got the text message.
Unfortunately, Lusia wasn’t able to witness the momentous occasion. She passed away on Jan. 18 at 66-years-old. Harris made history as the only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team, when the New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz selected her in the 7th round of the 1977 draft. She went on to become the first Black woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I play pretty well on the women’s level, but with the men, well, that’s something different,” she told The Associated Press at the time.
As far as what’s next for the award-winning executive producer, Wilson hopes to return to his hometown to fulfill one of his career goals.
“I want to film a movie there, but I want to coordinate it with my passion for theater,” he said. “I learned to love theater in Dallas. I’m a playwright at heart.”
Wilson, who currently lives in California, attributes his upbringing in South Dallas a key factor in he who he is today.
“South Dallas has been an important part of my molding and my environment,” he said. “I went to school there. I went to a private school there — St. Anthony.”
An area comprising many who live below the poverty line, South Dallas has historically been an area high in crime and drug use. But for Wilson, it was his village that kept him going through the adversity surrounding him.
“I lived right behind a corner store,” he said. “The store was a hangout spot for men who drank all day. But, it was a totally different world because even they are a part of crafting who I am because it was a different time then.”
“They were always asking, ‘how was school today?,’ ‘did you go to school?’ and just really concerned about my development. So, me personally, I feel like I didn’t have a choice because there were too many people who cared and were invested in my success. But I’m grateful and I do understand that that’s not the case for most.”
To view the documentary, click here.