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Do or Die Bed-Stuy

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the 20th Anniversary of Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing," Kai Wright, senior writer for The Root, talks about the impact of the movie and the piece "Still Do or Die in Bed Stuy." Then, Dayo Olopade, political reporter for The Root, talks about what the film means to the Obamas.

Guests:

Dayo Olopade and Kai Wright

Comments [22]

em-brooklyn

I saw the movie in my early 20s when living in still mono-color Spain . . . and for the 1st time ever black characters were hip, intelligent and sexy, and the racial tensions so embedded in everyday life it almost seem normal , I loved the movie, now i've been living in NY for 17 years, I should definitely watch it again.

Jun. 29 2009 11:55 AM
James from brooklyn

most spike lee characters are cartoons. What's funny is that his own character in his films always appears so deep, with those puppy dog eyes.

Jun. 29 2009 11:55 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Personally, as a black woman, I am not a fan of Lee's films. To me he has a very simplistic view on race. Just about all the characters in his movies are, excuse the phrase, very black and white. There seem to be no gray areas when it comes to where these characters stand and how Lee feels about these things.

My white husband has been living in Clinton Hill for more than ten years now and he himself has been a frequent victim of being attacked by groups of black youth. Once he was attacked with a box cutter when coming home. Is it okay for my white husband to experience that just because he was living in a predominantly black neighborhood at the time? Now the two of us just get to deal with out of touch people that think it is okay to get into our business and make disparaging remarks about our relationship. I guess it would be more acceptable to some of these people if I was just a single black mother instead of being married to a white man.

Jun. 29 2009 11:53 AM
perri from Brooklyn

Just this morning I was talking to a co-worker about growing up in Bed-Stuy. Although I affectionately call it "Do-or-Die, Bed-Stuy", I never felt threatened there. Sure, I recall an occasional shooting, but I never feared for my young life.

I guess the closest I came to experiencing the chaos that ensued in "Do the Right Thing" was the 1977 blackout. Broadway in Bed-Stuy was hit pretty hard, so was Dekalb Avenue.

Jun. 29 2009 11:51 AM
Paul from Glen Cove

I enjoyed the clips of the racial slurs, how each culture programs our behavior.
And the lesson of persistence: when the reclusive fellow finally posts the photo of Jackie Robinson on the wall of the burnt out pizza parlor.
At the time I saw the movie, I was surprised at the outcome of the behavior of Sal the owner, but in retrospect, the character showed how he knew his racism was wrong but the whole time his delt with the peer pressure to be racist.

Jun. 29 2009 11:46 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

By the way, the music by Public Enemy and the hard message they put forward was even more influential to me and similarly complex and difficult, but ultimately rewarding.

Jun. 29 2009 11:44 AM
GR from Sunset Park

Race relations in the movie are subtle, but as I recall, the female characters are pretty much cartoons.

Jun. 29 2009 11:44 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

As Kai stated and as great art goes, there are a multitude of ways to see the the film. Also, the complexity of characters and interactions are genuine and feel authentic. Life is not easy and boundaries are not always set, especially when things are intimate, as the guests say.

Jun. 29 2009 11:42 AM
Bernardo Pace from Brooklyn

My students at the City College Center for Worker Education--a Black female majority--were deeply troubled by the sneaker showdown with Buggin' Out (not to mention Radio Raheem). They were fearful of the signals these characters sent to their teenage sons who their mothers worried (with reason) were in jeopardy every time they went out onto the streets. My students weren't laughing at that scene.

Jun. 29 2009 11:41 AM
Darius from Prospect Heights

In general, how many movies portray fully developed black characters.

Jun. 29 2009 11:41 AM
Chris from brooklyn

It's sad to see how little race relations have improved in 20 years. This stuff goes on in Fort Greene / Clinton Hill / Bed-Stuy all the time.

Jun. 29 2009 11:40 AM
Ed from East Village

The movie was set in Bed-Stuy of 1989 but at the time I thought it was much more reflective of Fort Greene at that time.
I thought the movie was really over-hyped in 1989 and now. Lee is a favorite of the "buppies" and the white P.C. Park Slope crowd and practically no one else.

Jun. 29 2009 11:40 AM
Ed from East Village

The movie was set in Bed-Stuy of 1989 but at the time I thought it was much more reflective of Fort Greene at that time.
I thought the movie was really over-hyped in 1989 and now. Lee is a favorite of the "buppies" and the white P.C. Park Slope crowd and practically no one else.

Jun. 29 2009 11:40 AM
Inquisigal from Bed-Stuy

Brian, I think your interpretation that DTRT is about a neighborhood gentrifying is not accurate. The white characters in the movie - Sal and his sons - have owned and worked at Sal's for something like 20 years, and don't live in Bed-Stuy - and the only other white character is the dude you just played a clip of. I saw the movie as more a slice of life of the neighborhood at a time when race reltions between the African American community and the NYPD, and perhaps NY in general - were tense and heightened.

Also, I agree with others - it's such an entertaining, well-written, alive movie where no one (except for maybe Pino) is a jerk.

Jun. 29 2009 11:40 AM
Evan from New York, NY

The guests are wrong. The Larry Bird jersey didn't represent cross-culturation. A Larry Bird jersey represented a white guy protesting that the NBA had become too black.

Jun. 29 2009 11:39 AM
Alistair from midtown

I remember seeing Do The Right Thing once as the CBS Saturday Night Movie. As with the beeping you had to do, the creativity with the language to show it on network was absolutely ridiculous- Sweet "dicky" Willie, Mickey Dicky you mickey dickey (for mother f*cker). Almost better than the original...

Jun. 29 2009 11:39 AM
bernard joseph from brooklyn

just getting ready for your upcoming gentrification conversation as i know it's going to be one-sided as always...so it's ok for me as a low income white person to be robbed/beat up at gunpoint multiple times living here in bed-stuy but if a black kid gets beat up in bensonhurst, it's pure racism/evil. i'm basically "asking for it" by living here.

Jun. 29 2009 11:37 AM
bernard joseph from brooklyn

just getting ready for your upcoming gentrification conversation as i know it's going to be one-sided as always...so it's ok for me as a low income white person to be robbed/beat up at gunpoint multiple times living here in bed-stuy but if a black kid gets beat up in bensonhurst, it's pure racism/evil. i'm basically "asking for it" by living here.

Jun. 29 2009 11:37 AM
IJQ from bklyn

The riot at the end of the film is an incredible litmus test. Watch it with your friends and see which destruction they react to more- a white man's property or a black man's life.

Jun. 29 2009 11:37 AM
corinne from Brooklyn

The L Magazine screened Do the Right Thing in McCarren Park Pool a couple of years ago as part of their Summer Screen series. Thousands of Brooklyners came out and watched it on a hot summer night. 20 years later it was as impactful, provocative and descriptive of 1980s Brooklyn. More than a few of these young hipster kids were overheard saying "Wow, that was powerful".

CP

Jun. 29 2009 11:34 AM
michael whalen from Crown Heights

While we discuss this movie's message and controversy, let's please not forgot what an exceptionally joyfull and entertaining movie it is.

Lee is a master filmmaker beyond the importance of his message.

Jun. 29 2009 11:32 AM
CT BMW from CT

I remember seeing this film at the Sunrise theater on Long Island and there was a near riot at the end, and me and my white friends had to get the heck out quick. It was a pointless exercise, the whole film

Jun. 29 2009 11:16 AM

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