By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On the 25th anniversary of the Academy Award nominated film “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee was joined with some members of the movie's cast at Brooklyn Academy of Music's (BAM) Harvey Theater in Fort Greene on Sunday night to reflect back on the film that is as relevant today as it was back then.
"The reason why we are here today is because we told truths," Lee said in front of the sold out crowd. "That's all it was. If we did not tell the truth we would not be here.
"We predicted it," he continued. "The LA uprising, the Rodney King verdict, John Savage's character, that Larry Bird jersey and Boston Celtics sh-t, stepping on Buggin' Out's Air Jordans. We predicted gentrification."
Lee discussed the reception of the film 25 years ago, also focusing on critics that said the film would cause race riots.
"This film was going to make black people run amok and riot," said Lee of some of the accusations from critics. "To me, that's pure racism to suggest that African-Americans that go to movies do not have the intelligence to make the distinction between what's on screen and what's real life."
Lee was joined on stage at the event by Rick Aiello, Joie Lee, Bill Nunn, Danny Aiello, Rosie Perez and members of the production team as they discussed the movie and its importance today with Dr. Khalil Gibran.
"It's Howard Beach, it's Yusef Hawkins, it's Bensonhurst, it's Mayor Ed Koch, there you go, Eleanor Bumpers, Michael Stewart, all of that stuff was happening at the time in New York City," Lee said when asked where he drew inspiration for the film.
Lee discussed everything from how the film was received at the time to how it's perceived today and the problems gentrification has on society.
"It's not just Fort Greene, it's not just Harlem," Lee said referring to the problems of gentrification. "When I was growing up, D.C. used to be called Chocolate City and now it's called Vanilla Swirl. I used to go to London and hang out on Brixton and now there are no more black people in Brixton. So gentrification is not just happening in this borough, this city or this country. It's happening all over the world and the thing that everybody neglects to talk about is: Where do people go that get displaced?"
However, the event was not just one rant on gentrification. Aiello discussed how Lee let him be himself in his role, Nunn discussed the symbol that Radio Raheem represented to people and Rick Aiello, who played the officer that killed Radio Raheem, joked that he had to change his number after the movie was made to avoid harassing phone calls.
Perhaps the funniest story belonged to Perez, who recalled meeting Lee for the first time in a club.
"He was having a butt contest to see which black woman in the club had the biggest a**," she said. “So I got on the speaker to mock the whole thing and his bouncers came over to tell me to get down. He was there. We got into an argument and he kept laughing at me while I was cursing him out. He asked me where I was from. I said, 'Brooklyn' and he started laughing at me and I cursed him out again. When he finally stopped laughing, he said 'tonight is fate' and that was it."
The event at BAM was just the start of By Any Means Necessary: A Spike Lee Joints Retrospective, which will run through July 10 and play a different movie each night at the Harvey Theater. It was also just part of the celebration for the movie that included New York City renaming the Bedford-Stuyvesant block on which it was filmed "Do the Right Thing Way" and Borough President Eric Adams declared June 30 as “Do the Right Thing” day.