When Spike Lee has strong feelings on anything Brooklyn-related, the public is bound to hear about them. This is, after all, the man behind some of his home borough’s most iconic films, like Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn and She’s Gotta Have It.
During a Black History Month lecture at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute earlier this week, Lee lashed out on the rapid gentrification of New York City’s boroughs and its consequential effects on the local Black populations. Anyone familiar with Lee’s work could assume the acclaimed filmmaker’s stance on the topic, but one audience member surely did not predict the explosive response he received after asking Lee if “he’s ever looked at gentrification from the other side.”
“Let me just kill you right now,” Lee told Smith.
Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park… The police weren’t around… When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.”
Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.”
I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here?
The audience member who sparked Lee’s frank criticisms later revealed himself on CNN, seemingly unscathed and appreciative.
“What I wanted to do was expand the dialogue,” D.K. Smith told OutFront‘s Erin Burnett.
Not only is Smith a Brooklyn homeowner, he–like many of Brooklyn and Harlem’s architects of change–is an African American. While Smith bought his parent’s brownstone in 1989, some might consider him to be, what is ambiguously known as, a Black gentrifier.
No discussion on gentrification would be complete without the consideration of Black gentrifiers and their contributions to (and corresponding exploitation of) the original communities with which they reside.
While conducting research for her book, Gentrification in Black Face? The Return of the Black Middle Class to Urban Neighborhoods, author Kesha Moore found that “gentrification led by Black middle income residents has a social justice motivation based on the residents’ experiences of racial exclusion and an explicit desire for racial solidarity.”
Smith might have unexpectedly kickstarted a widespread, yet redundant discussion on the pros and cons of gentrification. However, more often than not, those discussions are hot flashes in the media.
Perhaps the conversation should pivot to gentrifiers of color and how they might best exercise their class and socioeconomic privilege by brainstorming and executing new ways to collaborate with long-time residents to invest better resources and energy into their communities.
Also On HelloBeautiful:
Celebs Tweet Their Thoughts About #JusticeForSandraBland
1. Jesse Williams
#SandraBland's treatment while attempting to travel freely on HER public roadways has been acknowledged as unlawful. She is already dead.
2. Taraji P. Henson
"SAY HER NAME #SandraBland"
3. Ava DuVernay
"'Why are you arresting me?' Because you know your rights. Because I can. Because no one'll believe you. #SandraBland"
4. Kim Kardashian
#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!
5. Jussie Smollet
"A loss 4 words. #SandraBlandMatters #BlackLivesMatter 👈🏿tell me this should change once the nation shows that we do. "
6. Snoop Dogg
🙏🌹. Sandra. Rip. 🌹🌹
7. K. Michelle
R.I.P to this queen. This could've been any of us. My prayers go out to her family. #sandrabland https://instagram.com/p/5fvlO_AhCf/
8. Gabrielle Union
SAY HER NAME!!! #SandraBland #SandraBland #SandraBland #SayHerName
"We must get to the cause of #sandrabland death because this CANNOT happen again #deathorfreedom"
10. David Banner
"When will we fight back. A man's duty on earth is to protect women and children. Where are the gangsters? Preachers? We need you. Please."
11. Nicki Minaj
"Rest In Peace #SandraBland"
12. Talib Kweli
"We the people ask @LorettaLynch to investigate #SandraBland #KimberleeRandleKing RETWEET "
Signs. Signs. Signs all around us. The Message is Here. #SandraBland
14. Missy Elliot
"When I look at the #SandraBland traffic video it brings so many emotions😳😢😡😡😤!"
15. Jessie J
"God bless your soul Sandra | #sandrabland | Change needs to come |Justice needs to be served | Heart… https://instagram.com/p/5fV79mQ0aw/ "
16. Jackee Harry
"It's time y'all, it's time.." #SandraBland #BlackLivesMatter
"In memory of #SandraBland these things don't make no kinda sense "
18. Holly Robinson Peete
I really don't look forward to having ANOTHER difficult conversation w my kids tonight...but here we go again😧💔 #SandraBland #SayHerName 😢
19. Jeffrey White
Sadly, doesn't matter by whose hand she died. Unjustified arrested set the outcome in motion. The state murdered her. #JusticeForSandraBland
Sandra could have been your mother, sister, aunt, friend or if she wasn't killed the community outreach advisor A&M. #SandraBland
21. Joan Smalls
"My heart is broken. Sending my deepest condolence to her family and friends. May you find Strength, Peace and Justice. When will this stop? #EqualityForAll #RIP #Why #SayHerName
22. Gladys Knight
Sandra Bland.... #SayHerName #SandraBland
23. Cara Delevigne
Things need to change NOW #SANDRABLAND #Justice #Equality
24. Meek Mill
"Rip to that young lady that lost her life about a traffic stop! 🙏 ima make sure I pray for her and her family! 🙏😄😄😄"