Spike Lee seized his moment on the Academy Awards stage Sunday night (Feb. 24) to mobilize viewers to vote in 2020. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate,” he said after winning the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for BlacKkKlansman..
Without naming U.S. president Donald Trump, to whom Lee is a constant critic, the Hollywood director got political as he urged Americans to do their part at the voting booth next year to turn the tide against racism and oppression today.
"It will be a powerful moment. The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there," Lee said.
Even though Trump was never named in Lee's acceptance speech, his partisan political call for Americans to mobilize ahead of the 2020 presidential election did earn a Twitter rebuke from the U.S. president.
"Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!" Trump said on the social media platform in his only response, so far, to the Academy Awards.
BlacKkKlansman, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and is set in early 1970s America, is seen as Lee's first response to the Trump era after earlier movie efforts like Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X.
BlacKkKlansman, which stars John David Washington as a KKK infiltrator, includes a coda with real riot footage from Charlottesville, Virginia where in 2017 white supremacists and neo-Nazis protested the taking down of Confederate monuments across the South, and clashed with left wing opponents.
President Trump made headlines when, during a news conference, he blamed both sides for the violence in Charlottesville, which included the death of a 32 year-old protester, Heather Heyer.
That juxtaposition of footage in BlacKkKlansman, and in his Oscar acceptance speech on Sunday night, allowed Lee as a director to equate events of racism and bigotry during the 1970s to Trump's election.
With fellow award winners Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott at his side, Lee first paid tribute to his African American ancestry for helping get him to the Oscars stage.
"The word today is irony,. The date, the 24th. The month,
February, which also happens to be the shortest month of the year, which also happens to be Black History month. The year, 2019. The year, 1619. History. Her story. 1619. 2019. 400 years," Lee said, before getting personal about his own family experience.
"Four hundred years. Our ancestors were stolen from Mother Africa and bought to Jamestown, Virginia, enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night," he continued.
Then Lee recounted the strides made by one of his grandmothers, who graduated from college, despite being the daughter of a slave.
"My grandmother, (inaudible) Aretha, who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandmother who saved 50 years of social security checks to put her first grandchild — she called me Spikie-poo — she put me through Morehouse College and N.Y.U. grad film. N.Y.U.!" Lee added, to a round of applause.
The acceptance speech for BlacKkKlansman, which is based on Ron Stallworth's 2014 memoir of the same name about infiltrating and exposing the Ku Klux Klan during the early 1970s, then had Lee giving thanks to his ancestors who had helped build America, despite overwhelming odds.
"Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people. We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love and wisdom regained, we will regain our humanity," Lee said
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