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Event Thu Feb 09 2012
Filmmaker/Director Spike Lee at Chicago State University.
Spike Lee's love for sports is as widely known as his love for filmmaking; last night, adorned in full New York Giants gear, in front of a packed Chicago audience full of Bears fans, he didn't hesitate to gloat a bit about his hometown team's recent Super Bowl win.
The playful taunting by Lee, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, director and screenwriter behind critically-acclaimed films such as Malcolm X, 4 Little Girls and Do the Right Thing, led to a more serious tone for his keynote address at Chicago State University's "Revolutions, Reels & Rhythms" lecture series, part of the university's Black History Month programming.
Held in the school's Jacoby Dickens Center, an enthusiastic crowd filled with a mix of current students, alumni, aspiring filmmakers and cinephiles, greeted Lee, who began his lecture about his early interest in filmmaking, which started by borrowing a friend's camera and shooting around New York during the summer of 1977. "Growing up in Brooklyn, I had no idea I wanted to be a filmmaker," Lee said.
His lecture, comprised of humor, seriousness, and a lot of candidness, addressed a variety of topics; however, he was the most passionate when he spoke about education. Son of a strict English teacher, Lee, a Morehouse College graduate who is currently a professor and artistic director at New York University's (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts, stressed not only the importance of education, but also encouraged students to acknowledge educators who have impacted their lives. "We've got to start taking education more seriously," he said. "For the students here at Chicago State University, if you are blessed to have a great teacher, you should let them know." Finding and pursuing one's passion, as opposed to choosing a career based on salary was also emphasized. "Do not choose a major based solely on how much money you think you're going to make; the key is to find out what it is that you love because when you get an occupation you love, it's not a job anymore." On his own passion for filmmaking, he noted, "Do what you love; I didn't find filmmaking -- filmmaking found me."
Other topics from Lee's lecture included important social issues such as the relationship between education and parental involvement, negative media images, the plight of urban youth (particularly among black males), community violence and drug abuse. "We are still dealing with the devastation of crack -- this has forced young people to raise themselves," said Lee.
Lee closed his motivational lecture by paying homage to his grandmother, who early on, supported his filmmaking aspirations. "I'm here because of a whole lot of people," he said. "If my grandmother was not open enough to help me pursue my dream, I wouldn't be here."
Photos by Darryl Hammond.