Oscar-nominated film director and entertainment icon Spike Lee came to MU to shift the narrative, said Marshall Allen, an original member of student movement Concerned Student 1950.
Lee has been on campus since the Saturday screening of the Concerned Student 1950 documentary, produced by journalism students Varun Bajaj, Adam Dietrich and Kellan Marvin, at the True/False Film Fest. On Monday, ESPN spokesman Jay Jay Nesheim said that Lee was at MU for a “digital short,” part of his “Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joints” series that will air May 31.
This specific short is titled “2 Fists Up” and is “an examination of how the Black Lives Matter movement sparked activism at the University of Missouri, its football team and across of the rest of the United States.”
Lee is the founder of 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. A graduate of Morehouse College, a historically black university in Atlanta, Lee has directed movies about racial issues such as “Malcolm X” and “Do the Right Thing.”
This most recent project, on which Lee declined to comment as he walked with and filmed protesters Monday, fits seamlessly with his passion for sports and race, Concerned Student 1950 member Kendrick Washington said.
“First of all, Spike is an educator,” Washington said. “This is something that he follows. He’s not new to understanding institutionalized oppression, racism, any of that. So, his questions and his approach was more a reflection from his work and our drive behind the movement, so it was a dialogue. We were discussing oppression on various settings.”
On Monday, Lee also had a sit-down interview with graduate student Jonathan Butler, who went on a hunger strike in November 2015 with the goal of removing UM System President Tim Wolfe from office.
Butler tweeted Monday morning he was no longer affiliated with Concerned Student 1950.
I am no longer affiliated or organizing with the group "Concerned Student 1950". I have not organized with them since November of 2015.— كبير الخدم (@_JonathanButler) March 7, 2016
Hours later, Lee and members of his production team followed a Concerned Student 1950 protest from the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center to Traditions Plaza.
When Allen was asked about this and if Lee was involved in planning the protest, he said: “It just so happened that (Lee) was here.”
Many have reported on this group, but Allen said the way Lee has done it has been different — “a good different.”
“One of the first things he does it that he captures what it takes behind the scenes,” Allen said. “Everybody only sees us when we’re doing demonstrations and when we’re angry, but the first question that Spike Lee started asking was, ‘What does it take to do this?’ We appreciate the fact that we have people that want to come and know the truth.
“He’s someone who wants to come and actually shift the narrative of the monstrous, the vilifying, the demonizing of black students on campus speaking out, so we really do appreciate people who come to actually find out the truth.”
Washington concurred and spoke with a similar appreciation.
“I think I can speak on the behalf of Concerned Student, but we are extremely appreciative of Spike’s presence — him wanting to hear our narrative is a great feeling and it’s an accomplishment,” Washington said. “We know people care about our movement on a national level and our dedication inspired him to come to know more about us.”
Edited by Taylor Blatchford | firstname.lastname@example.org