The Real Spike Lee Story

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Photo via Agência Brasil, Wikimedia Commons

Contrary to what was covered in the media, Spike Lee didn’t just address the issue of Brooklyn gentrification last Tuesday at the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill. The famed film director critiqued Black youth culture’s relation to education, discussed the politics of accurate depictions of people of color in film and talked about his come-up in the film industry. However, instead of contextualizing the discussion, the media sensationalized Lee’s remarks. Then, three days after his frank observations about racial, economic, and cultural transformations of Brooklyn neighborhoods were published on all major news networks and blogs, from CNN to Gawker, Lee’s father’s home in Fort Greene was vandalized. “Do the Right Thing” and the anarchy symbol was spraypainted on the street level of their brownstone.

“Why does it take an influx of White New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?,” was the quote that lassoed the crux of his passionate remarks on gentrification. The question seemed relevant as Lee was addressing an audience at one of the premiere art and design schools in the nation that has facilitated much of the gentrification in Clinton Hill and its surrounding areas. Most news outlets described it as an emotional “rant,” another outburst from an angry minority and left it at that. But those remarks were couched in a hotbed of information about Lee’s background growing up in Brooklyn when there weren’t cake-pop stores or fancy vegan, gluten-free bakeries. In the Fort Greene of Spike Lee’s adolescence, Myrtle Avenue was called Murder Avenue. [Read more…]