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Spike Lee talks black community, crack, education

Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor

Students pursue higher education in hopes of obtaining their dreams. The pursuit of these dreams starts with the individual, a message that director Spike Lee stressed the importance of on Thursday.

The director conducted a free lecture followed by a question-and-answer session for a sold-out crowd of 800 attendees in the Ohio Union’s Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom.

Lee, wearing a blue New York Giants vest, opened the audience’s eyes to some figures that he said he finds particularly important.

“Half of the young black males in this country don’t graduate high school,” Lee said. “There are more young black males incarcerated in jails and prisons than enrolled in colleges and universities. And it’s not because these cats aren’t intelligent, they just don’t understand the importance of education.”

Lee said he thinks some black males only see a few paths their lives can take.

“A lot of these young brothers only see three options,” Lee said. “No. 1: Play pro ball. That’s not going to happen. No. 2: Be a rapper. Well, the music industry is going down and they’re not giving out them record deals like they used to. Third option: Get on the corner and sling.”

He said things have changed drastically since he was growing up.

“We never, ever, ever made fun of someone who got As,” Lee said. “We never ever, ever made fun of someone who spoke correct English. You got as much love … for your academia and your intelligence as other brothers got for their athletic prowess or they knew how to rack the girls. That’s changed.”

He attributed this change to, in his terms, “B.C.,” which means not before Christ, but before crack. He said many generations were wiped out when crack was introduced and many kids were left alone, forced to raise themselves, not learning the proper values or morals associated with life.

Comedy was mixed intermittently throughout the lecture, but the undertones of his advice were serious. Lee’s first topics were the ideas surrounding student-athletes and money. In Lee’s mind, student-athletes at “big time, D1, money-generating programs” need to be monetarily rewarded.

“These athletes need to be paid,” Lee said. “Now, I don’t have the formula, whether they put in an escrow or something, but these guys need to be paid. Forget about class … practice, you got to watch film, the weight room, some other stuff I’m forgetting, then you gotta go to class. That’s a job in itself.”

Lee said a lot of student-athletes fail to realize that sports aren’t the only things of value in their lives. He said he wants coaches to push their students to perform academically as well.

“I propose that, when they have these coaches’ win-loss records, there should be another column: graduation rate,” Lee said. “You can make a formula that includes the cats that leave early, but graduation rates, how many are graduating, how many are getting an education. Like, Duke is not one of my favorite teams, I put them in the same pile with the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots and Notre Dame. But I got mad respect for Coach K because his players graduate.”     

Student-athletes weren’t the only concern Lee had. He spoke about students in general, saying that not enough of them are getting the education they need. This education, he said, allows students to do whatever they want to do with their life, but they have to make that choice.

“It is key, for the students here, I say this to everyone when I speak at college universities, it is key for you to choose a major based upon what you love, not how much money I think I can make,” Lee said.

Lee said if students can find something they love to do, then it won’t even feel like a job.

“When you can make a living doing what you love, you are blessed,” Lee said. “I don’t wish anyone in this room the eternal hell of having to go to a job every day that you hate. Most of the people on this earth go to the grave with that situation, where they hate going to their job. Every morning (they) have to wake up (and) drag their tired ass to their job. They don’t want to be there. People don’t want them there neither. But because they’re responsible adults, they’re going do what they got to do to pay the bills.”

He told the audience that parents are sometimes the biggest killer of their children’s dreams. He said it is important for people to follow their own hearts, regardless of what others might want them to do.

Ending his segment, Lee again encouraged all students to seek out the proper education, the proper life lessons, in order to make something of themselves and to have the ability to do with life what they choose.

Ciera Brooks, a third-year in mechanical engineering, said she was excited about getting to see the director.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wanted to see what he was all about,” Brooks said.

Tyleia Wallace, a first-year graduate student in agricultural economics, had slightly different reasons for attending the show.

“Honestly, I came to see other black students because I don’t see a lot of them on campus,” Wallace said.

The Ohio Union Activities Board and Multicultural Center co-sponsored the event to celebrate United Black World Month.

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