Revolution Club Member Asks Spike Lee at Chi-Raq Q+A...

"Do you think the problem is human nature or the nature of the system?"

December 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a Revolution Club, New York member:

Through contacts I found out that Spike Lee was doing a Q+A after the screening of Chi-Raq in Brooklyn.  Immediately, I tried to contact everybody I could think of to attend and intervene as I was planning to go to Columbia University. One other member of the Revolution Club was down to attend. I debated going and 20 minutes prior to it starting I made the decision to go because (1) nobody else was going and (2) I had just read an article on that day that said revolutionaries should go and interact with audiences of Chi-Raq; and given Spike Lee was doing the Q+A—it seemed irresponsible to not attend).  So with very little preparation (materials, etc.) I rushed to meet my fellow club member.

The film artistically is well made but ideologically it is sharply contradictory. I had read the New York Times review and was somewhat familiar with the Greek play.  So on my way to the theater I thought about a question to pose.  It’s a two-hour film and I was getting lost in the process.  As soon as it ended we passed around all the BA quote cards we had.  Spike Lee entered the theater and I knew I had to insist on getting heard—so I raised and waved my hand very high (and I was the second person to get called on).  I introduced myself and as soon as I said communist; Spike Lee replied “Oh oh here we go”.  I asked “Do you think the problem is human nature or the nature of the system?”  I said “I follow a leader Bob Avakian” and Spike Lee said “Who?”  I said “Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolution Communist Party who is convinced that characters like Chi-Raq (the main character who is the leader of the Spartans gang) can go from ‘irredeemable monsters’ to emancipators of humanity but not through the church (because the parallels in the film for Black people was the gang life or the church) but by fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution; like the defiant youth in Ferguson and Baltimore.  So to pose my question again do you think the problem is human nature...” And he asked “human nature?”  I said “Yes, like it’s in people’s nature because I am firmly convinced that it is in the nature of U.S. imperialism and it’s going to take a revolution to get rid of that system.  And I invite you and everyone in the audience to get into Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism that’s providing a way out of this madness.” 

He thanked me for my comments and said “We obviously have different outlooks.”  He went on several tangents: he’s gotten a lot of flack for the film; as soon as he entered the theater he jokingly said who’s going to be the first to ask me about Black sexuality—and so he continued on that stream.  And then he tried to answer my question by getting into the social constructs of society that give rise to gang life—so he didn’t think it was in people’s nature.  But, then he couldn’t get over the phenomena of Black on Black crime; he even compared the gang life back in the day when innocent people wouldn’t get hurt (or the rules of thug life) and talked about the mothers whose kids get innocently killed.

The question posed set a certain tone for the overall audience.  Usually people’s questions aren’t deep but Spike Lee’s responses were interesting.  One person asked about working with the city of Chicago; and Spike Lee went on an important tangent on Laquan McDonald.  He had met with the mayor before filming; and talked about the hypocrisy of the mayor, given all the footage that’s been released and all the trouble he’s in given people want him out of office.  He did agitate for a bit on the outrageous murder of Laquan McDonald and asked “How much more footage do they have?”  Somebody else in the audience asked about the role of the police—which in a tangent to my question in talking about the brutality of the police he said everybody wants to talk about Black Lives Matter but what about the mothers of those who’ve been killed by Black on Black crime?  So in a response to the role of the police he basically said they’re painting a bad picture of themselves by choking Eric Garner to death and by continuing to kill unarmed men.  The Q+A was brief so this was the extent of the exchange. 

I was sitting all the way in the back and was going to give him a copy of the paper.  So as I was climbing over my seat he came up to me to shake my hand; I handed him a paper and he quickly walked away.  The other Revolution Club member and I started selling the paper to the audience (we had a lot of freedom) and got out all of our copies. 

As we were leaving I noticed Spike Lee was signing autographs. The crowd was thinning out and I decided to approach him again.  He basically said “now is not the time” then he said “you’re the communist, right?” I nodded.  I said “I’ll leave by saying this: everybody is so locked in the permanence of today; and I would insist that you get into the works of Bob Avakian because there is a lot of materialism there.  We need a revolution.  And if what he’s saying is true that things don’t have to be this way—then it’s bigger than you and me. It’s actually about the people of the world; and us having a chance of getting free.”  He didn’t say anything and I didn’t want to push it, so I said good night and so did he (he was also getting ready to introduce the next showing of his film). 


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

REVOLUTION AND RELIGION The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian
BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live
BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism
You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation Its History and Our Future Interview with Raymond Lotta
The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need