_By: Dennis Maurice Dumpson
Earlier today, I saw the video posted below and it made me see so clearly some of the major issues we face when fighting for progress -- Divisive, Bull-Headed Folks. The video below is about Spike Lee's new film, Red Hook Summer, but he touches on Tyler Perry a little and then on the controversy George Lucas faced putting out Red Tails. See the video below and then my views are below.
Full Q&A from Sundance's Red Hook Premiere (Part in question at 15:30)
I, personally, find Spike Lee to be a great filmmaker, but extremely bitter, condescending, divisive, and self-defeating (and not just from this vignette, but from a myriad of things he has said in the past on a wide variety of topics). While I know George Lucas' issues with funding Red Tails (a film about the Tuskegee Airmen featuring a predominantly African American cast) are not new in the world film-making, this presented an opportunity for Directors like Lee, Singleton, Gray, Perry, etc to truly unite using the press that Lucas was able to acquire and expose the issues of race, exclusion, and diversity (lack thereof) in Film. Instead, we get "This isn't new..I've been saying it for years..." or "Why does it take a white man to have issues for there to be change..." Does it really matter? Capitalize off of the momentum and passion that is building today, but instead you let all that die out with your timid squeals of disapproval shared in the closet of Black America. In my opinion, the smarter suggestion is to use this opportunity to advance the mission (Shout out to President Obama's State of the Union address last night) and not complain "I've been saying this for years!" Use the opportunity to say it while it has the ears of so many folks who never listened before (from all races). The power of the voice of African-Americans is not in our complaints or theories of corruption, but our voice is most powerful when it is combined with our thought. So many others are smart enough to capitalize off of the African-American experience and dollar, but we have yet to come to grips with the fact that we are using our voice with little thought behind it. We are getting angry, showing passion, but our head and voice is not in the game. We need to focus on getting our way and being extremely intelligent in how we do it. #WeCallThatDiplomacy...
Life and death is in the power of the tongue, I feel like we've been killing ourselves, instead of breathing life into our businesses, communities, industry, and people. In reality we have to think beyond "Why?" It is now bigger than why did this happen or why did George Lucas have to say something to bring attention to the plight of Black films, instead use this as an opportunity to capitalize off of the attention & energy, just as Lucas will benefit (whether that is his intention or not) off of the ticket buying power of African Americans who went out in droves to support the film (which is AWESOME by the way!).
Now, we need to say: "Look George got some attention...let's capitalize off the moment (smells like the perfect time to create a movement to me! Now that's revolution...)" and HOLD Lucas accountable to be part of the conversations that happen moving forward concerning the appreciation of black films. We have to work Hollywood like Hollywood has worked us for damn near a century...with intelligence and diplomacy.
Granted he is probably frustrated, but now your frustration is received as being bitter and people are not trying to hear you. All that voice, all that passion, is now misinterpreted and Red Hook Summer and your next movie, too are still funded straight out of your pocket. Well today work smarter not harder, is my message to Spike... don't get lost in your emotions so much that you can't remember the mission! Your voice and the voice of African-American film makers is needed TODAY...let's make that our focus. The topic of quality African American film being widely distributed is not old hat it's happening right now, in front of our faces, therefore, use the impression that Red Tails is making to strengthen the point, galvanize communities, and alert people of color about what they truly are supporting when they give their dollars to a movie theater. I just feel like Spike can drive progress in this instance, especially because he is one of the best directors of our time, use all these variables to make a difference...and to ensure your work hasn't gone in vain.__
About the Author
Dennis Maurice is an author, publicist, fundraiser, marketer, and culture enthusiast in Philadelphia, Pa. Learn more at: http://www.dennismaurice.com