The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Spike Lee to discuss recent documentary

By Annie Lewine

On Friday, Feb. 9,
filmmaker Spike Lee will come to Macalester to discuss his
documentary on Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke. The Black
Liberation Affairs Committee (BLAC) worked among resistance within
the administration to bring him here as part of their Black History
Month programming.

Lee’s visit is part
of a “kickoff week” for Black History Month, said Brittany Lewis
’09, a member of BLAC who was instrumental in bringing Lee to speak
on campus. His presentation will be prefaced by several screenings of
the documentary as well as a panel discussion with several professors
from Macalester, University of Minnesota and Carleton College as well
as a producer from Twin Cities Public Television. The administration’s
resistance came largely from the controversial issues brought up in
Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke.

“The movie is very
racialized and it brings up a lot of important issues many Macalester
students don’t often think about,” Lewis said. “The truth of
the matter is that when students of color leave here, it’s not
going to be like Macalester.”
The documentary is,
however, something all smart, angry people can identify with,
according to Professor Leola Johnson, chair of the Humanities and
Media and Cultural Studies Department.

“When the Levees
Broke invites identification on a really deep level,” Johnson said.

“It is critical but not radically critical [ƒ?Ý] it isn’t off the

Another issue that
worried the administration was the cost of bringing Lee to speak on
campus. It cost about $25,000 to have him come to Macalester, which
did not cover the cost of screening When the Levees Broke in
preparation for his visit. However, President Rosenberg agreed to
help Lewis and the BLAC make Lee’s visit happen.

“I could tell you
stories about trying to get him here. There was a level of resistance
from the college and the administration, but when I talked to
President Rosenberg he really backed me up,” Lewis said.

“I was motivated by
the extraordinary effort and initiative of the students involved,
especially Brittany,” Rosenberg said. “All credit goes to them. I
just provided some funding and some encouragement.”
While President
Rosenberg, BLAC and the Program Board paid the cost for Lee’s
visit, the Department of Multicultural Life funded the screenings and
copyright to show When the Levees Broke on campus.

The success of
bringing Lee to Macalester was important for BLAC, an organization
whose presence on campus has become less powerful in recent years.

“We’ve been around
for a while but we’ve been thrown a bit to the wayside,” Lindsey
Byrd ‘09, co-chair of BLAC, said. “This year we’re getting back
on track, and Spike Lee’s upcoming visit is an important part of
Paul Maitland-McKinley
’09, also a co-chair of BLAC, agreed saying “people always talked
about what an active and powerful group BLAC used to be. Recently it
was more like a group of friends meeting together. Because we knew
how powerful the group had been in the past, we wanted to see what
could be done with the group now.”
Refocusing Black
History Month was very important to BLAC, Lewis said. His
presentation and the multiple screenings of his documentary are the
beginning of a series of programs BLAC has planned in honor of Black
History Month.

Other events include an
art show for local artists who identify as black, a Black History
Month showcase, and a discussion of the influence of hip-hop and
popular culture on the image of Black America.

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