Posts Tagged ‘spike lee’

During a Q and A forum at the Albany, GA Black Expo, I asked actor Allen Payne to speak about the ongoing drama between Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.  Spike feels that his work is positive art that uplifts the community while Perry’s productions are modern-day buffoonery to some degree.  Tyler recently recommended a fiery place where Spike can go.

I loved Spike Lee’s work from the second I saw Tracy Camilla Johns’ Nola Darling character in “She’s Gotta Have It” and yes, Tyler Perry has some characters that I could live without.  But, intelligent people know that a few theatrical characters don’t represent all of a group and Perry used Seinfeld and the Sopranos as examples of other ethnic groups doing the same.   In the companion book for Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” I learned that film is a medium of art that–like of other art forms—provokes thought and leaves the viewers asking “was that right or wrong.”

Robert Townsend’s “Hollywood Shuffle” was based on the ethical dilemmas Black actors face: Wait for quality parts in the poor house or do negative reflections of our community while getting crazy paid.  A line from that movie stated, “There’s always work at the Post Office.”—not anymore. 

As children, we were taught to never let anyone divide the Black; we can’t sink while others float because we are all in the same big boat.  Today, I think there is room for different schools of thought: from Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Dubois to Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry.  Conflict might actually be a form of diversification and we should not put all of our eggs in one basket.

In politics and policy, the rural South takes cues from urban leaders but their agendas are different from our agendas.  Atlanta is the best Black city on earth; however, the Democrat leadership there can’t fully comprehend our rural vibe (pro-military, pro-agriculture, pro-gun.) 

Allen Payne, who works on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” answered my question by saying that guys like Perry and Payne himself didn’t grow up in the Black elite, college-educated world of Spike Lee.  They make movies and T.V. that reflects the world they know and people like it.  From his statement, I decided to ask several friends if they would make a movie with false depiction of Black America if the producers gave them $5 million walking in the door.  I was surprised (disappointed) by those who would take the money first and later consider charitable ways to sanitize their ill-gotten gains. 

I am starting to think the same concept applies to politics: get your money because that is what the next guy is doing.  Public Enemy had that pun lyric, “I know you got sold.”  We can’t discuss art imitating life vs. life imitating art with looking at the current vibe of hip hop.  For me, blues, jazz and then hip hop were some of the only American-born art forms (yes, the roots are in Africa.)  In my part of the rural South, the harder parts of hip hop are leading youth to embrace a thug life over education and achievement.  They glorify aspects of street life that could reverse our gains of the last 50 years.  Yes, we are going backwards.

Check this out: Dr. Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm X was likely a well planned effort at juxtaposition: deal with peace-loving MLK or deal with Malcolm and those who felt it was time for self-defense with rifles.  I would have supported the rifle crew.  Today, it will take brothers talking with brothers to refocus our community and if hip hop isn’t careful they will alienate large segments of our community–sometimes we need to be divided.   If they can get paid make that music, we should give the Black conservatives a break as they add range to our options.           


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In Georgia, we spend too much money on criminal justice after spending cash for 12 years to education whose who would become criminals.  New Governor and former congressman Nathan Deal was alarmed by the crime-related items in the state budget.  To me, it’s like that old Fram oil filter commercial: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later” the mechanic says.

Well, we should pay teachers who today unfortunately do more than the teachers of old.  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Spike Lee are pushing for more Black men to consider teaching.  Currently, one percent of teachers are Black men and over the next 20 years many teachers will be retiring.  In this down economy, teaching could be a cool option for those with the right temperament and the paid is not bad.

Education officials should look into a program Silver Springs, Maryland, had in the 90s called college style teaching.  The D.C. Area had many retired federal workers and military veterans who would like to work part-time because they were basically fine financially.  The school system found recruiting difficult because those who wanted to simply teach didn’t wanted the headache of hall, bus, homeroom and activities duties.  While the majority of the teachers were “full teachers with full pay,” the college style teachers, who received less money, arrived on campus 30 minutes before their first class, taught two classes, had a planning period, taught two more class and left campus—similar to college professors.

Options for other duties like coaching and clubs came with more money in a cafeteria plan like current coaches’ stipends or supplements.  We could be talking about former Wall Street executives, well-travelled war veterans, and high-paid factory worker who want a change for the last phase of their working years.  If the schedules are right, these teachers might split time between teaching and consulting in their former fields.  The real winners would be the children who would get teachers who know exactly what the workforce needs.  I love the idea of lower grades kids having more positive men in the schools as role models.

Yes, our communities were better when parents and the church primarily raised kids.  Today, music videos, the internet, 150 T.V. channels and the streets are framing young minds.  If we don’t do something innovative soon, we will continue spending more money sending youth to Georgia State Penitentiary than Georgia State University.  The rough kids disrupt the education experience for those to want to learn.  I will tell you what: get this program before my 50th birthday and I will teaching four American government/civic classes and coach tennis for 30K and be glad to have it.      

The added benefit of having clean-cut men in the schools is the character options for boys, and the experience of being around real men for girls whose fathers were elsewhere.  Oh yeah, some of those life-long daddy issues and quickness to argue with men stem from rarely being around a certain type man.  As Chuck D said in the rap rhyme back in the day, “with a man in the house…the bullsh__ stops.” I shouldn’t go there but let me rhyme, “with men in the schools…knowledge becomes more cool.”

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Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing” drove compelling discussions about cultural and race in my circle of friends. In the book Lee wrote about making this movie and in interviews, he refused pointing the finger of blame at any one character for the riot that erupted in the plot. Film-making is an art and the viewers in this medium make their conclusions ultimately.

Danny Aiello’s character Sal owned a pizzeria in a transitioning neighborhood.  While people in the community grew up on Sal’s slices, it was clear that the Sal’s family “tolerated” the area out of business necessitate. 

When I think about the Blue Dog Democrats, I see a similar situation.  I was proud of most Blue Dogs for taking the town hall meeting heat this month and slowing the rush to pass a massive health care reform bill before August recess.  The protesters deserve some credit also but they need to understand that a member of congress who easily wins elections must defer to those ballot results first.

Long servicing Blue Dogs are starting to look like “I don’t need this juggling stuff in my life.” If the Blue Dogs helped conservatives with issues during the Bush years, some of those conservatives in their districts should reciprocate on some level now.  Federal retirement could be looming for some members of congress and political observers should remember that the total number of years for retirement includes time in congress, the federal bureaucracy and military.  As the possible full retirement year approaches, members (like school teachers) might decide to ride the wave without rocking the boat or tell it like it is. 

Like retirees in barbershops, these public servants can finally speak their minds with secondary consideration for pensions.  I had to smile pleasingly when I saw a few normally tactful Blue Dog show some bite when protesters questions did not give them the same respect conservatives received while supporting Bush/Cheney debatable policies.   While voting the party line on the far-left and far-right is easy, Blue Dog Democrats and the few moderate Republicans must analysis every vote to make decisions that best serve their diverse districts or states. 

Like Sal in “Do The Right Thing,” they must also decide when enough is enough and if closing shop would be better than continued conflict and aggravation—getting out before a riot jumps off.  On the bright side, Sal could have moved his business to a suburban mall and moderates on both sides of the aisle could move to better situations in the executive branch, private sector or academia—President Obama’s White House seems to like Republicans more than Blue Dogs.  While I am not the best person on faith matters, this situation makes me think of Luke 9:25:  

For what is a man profited if he gains the whole word, and loses or forfeits himself?

Discussions about using the reconciliation process in congress to pass health care reform makes me think about those brave Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton’s Budget Reconciliation Act in the early 90s and were defeated by smirking Republicans in the mid-term elections.  History has proven that Clinton was right but many Democrats in safe districts conveniently voted against that important legislation to save their seats. 

“I am voting the wishes of my districts.”  But what should a member do when his/her district has formulated opinions based on deliberate misinformation efforts.  Like Georgia native and eulogizer of Malcolm X, Ossie Davis’s character said in the Spike Lee’s film, always try and do the right thing.

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