By Annie Lewine
On Friday, Feb. 9,filmmaker Spike Lee will come to Macalester to discuss hisdocumentary on Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke. The BlackLiberation Affairs Committee (BLAC) worked among resistance withinthe administration to bring him here as part of their Black HistoryMonth programming.Lee’s visit is partof a “kickoff week” for Black History Month, said Brittany Lewis’09, a member of BLAC who was instrumental in bringing Lee to speakon campus. His presentation will be prefaced by several screenings ofthe documentary as well as a panel discussion with several professorsfrom Macalester, University of Minnesota and Carleton College as wellas a producer from Twin Cities Public Television. The administration’sresistance came largely from the controversial issues brought up inLee’s documentary When the Levees Broke. “The movie is veryracialized and it brings up a lot of important issues many Macalesterstudents don’t often think about,” Lewis said. “The truth ofthe matter is that when students of color leave here, it’s notgoing 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 andMedia and Cultural Studies Department.“When the LeveesBroke invites identification on a really deep level,” Johnson said.“It is critical but not radically critical [?Ý] it isn’t off thescale.” Another issue thatworried the administration was the cost of bringing Lee to speak oncampus. It cost about $25,000 to have him come to Macalester, whichdid not cover the cost of screening When the Levees Broke inpreparation for his visit. However, President Rosenberg agreed tohelp Lewis and the BLAC make Lee’s visit happen.“I could tell youstories about trying to get him here. There was a level of resistancefrom the college and the administration, but when I talked toPresident Rosenberg he really backed me up,” Lewis said. “I was motivated bythe extraordinary effort and initiative of the students involved,especially Brittany,” Rosenberg said. “All credit goes to them. Ijust provided some funding and some encouragement.”While PresidentRosenberg, BLAC and the Program Board paid the cost for Lee’svisit, the Department of Multicultural Life funded the screenings andcopyright to show When the Levees Broke on campus. The success ofbringing Lee to Macalester was important for BLAC, an organizationwhose presence on campus has become less powerful in recent years. “We’ve been aroundfor a while but we’ve been thrown a bit to the wayside,” LindseyByrd ‘09, co-chair of BLAC, said. “This year we’re getting backon track, and Spike Lee’s upcoming visit is an important part ofthat.” Paul Maitland-McKinley’09, also a co-chair of BLAC, agreed saying “people always talkedabout what an active and powerful group BLAC used to be. Recently itwas more like a group of friends meeting together. Because we knewhow powerful the group had been in the past, we wanted to see whatcould be done with the group now.” Refocusing BlackHistory Month was very important to BLAC, Lewis said. Hispresentation and the multiple screenings of his documentary are thebeginning of a series of programs BLAC has planned in honor of BlackHistory Month. Other events include anart show for local artists who identify as black, a Black HistoryMonth showcase, and a discussion of the influence of hip-hop andpopular culture on the image of Black America.