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Is Spike Lee Right About Gentrification?

Submitted by on February 28, 2014 – 8:48 amNo Comment

In case you missed it, director Spike Lee had another characteristically epic rant this week. Lee was appearing at an event for Black History Month at the Pratt Institute, an art school in his childhood neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, when an audience member asked him about “the other [i.e. 'good'] side” of gentrification.

“Let me kill you right now,” Lee said, cutting off the man before launching into a seven-minute tirade about the changing demographics of his home borough:

Here’s the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And 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. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. 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.

Lee went on to variously criticize the area’s new, predominantly white residents for not respecting the pre-existing culture, especially by filing too many noise complaints. He mentioned that his father is a jazz musician who has owned a home in Fort Greene since 1968, but never received a noise complaint until last year. He concluded by criticizing white students crowding out black students at good schools, and real estate developers renaming neighborhoods.

According to the transcript at New York Magazine, Lee used a variation of the word “fuck” nineteen times during the extemporaneous reflection on the subject.

The man who originally tried to ask the question was D.K. Smith, whom CNN identifies as “a Brooklyn homeowner and tech start-up director.” Smith, who is black, later told media that he was glad Lee had publicized the dialogue, but also believes that the trends Lee was criticizing could enable “tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of blacks [to] participate in American wealth creation.”

What do you think? Let us know in the Comments.

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