By Sheri Sides
Critically acclaimed producer, director, writer and actor Spike Lee took the microphone before more than 1,700 at UNC Pembroke's Givens Performing Arts Center February 2 as the last speaker of the season in the Distinguished Speaker Series. As is his custom, Lee spoke his mind on everything from the media to race relations.
On the day after the Super Bowl, Lee opened with a word for Carolina Panther sports fans.
"Sorry you lost the game yesterday. I was rooting for you," Lee said. "Any team from Boston, I hate." Lee was born in Atlanta and grew up in Brooklyn, and he is known as a huge New York City sports fan.
From there, Lee went on to talk about the media's influence on people, both children and adults.
"You can't leave your kids unattended to watch TV; it's almost a criminal act," he said. "And now most adults are more interested in 'Survivor' and 'American Idol' than what's affecting them directly."
Lee emphasized that music videos especially have been a major influence among young African Americans, and not for the better.
"When I was growing up, we looked up to the guy who was smart or the great athlete," Lee said. "Today, across America among young African Americans, if you're smart and speak proper English, you get ridiculed and called 'white boy' or 'white girl' and that's genocide because we're equating being intelligent with being white and being uneducated with being black."
Lee's most famous films include "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X," "Got Game" and "Jungle Fever." He recalled his childhood dream of making movies.
"When I said I wanted to be a film director, I may as well have said I wanted to go to the moon," Lee said referring to the small number of black film directors at the time. "Today, things have changed. There are more blacks in films but we're still in the ghetto. We have broad comedies, hip hop or broad comedies."
Lee is a third generation Moorehouse College graduate.
"My grandmother's grandmother was a slave," Lee said. "Can you imagine being a slave and seeing your grandchild graduate from college?"
Lee stressed that while we live in the greatest country in the world, we still have not reached our best.
"Young Americans need to think about what they're being fed and start to question," Lee said. "We have more to make of this country to make it what it could be."
The Distinguished Speaker Series for 2003-04 included humorist Dave Barry, Olympic champion Billy Mills and journalist Soledad O'Brien.