Statement regarding ‘Malcolm X’ sparks interest

By Bryan Malenius

Filmmaker Spike Lee’s statements regarding the release of his new movie “Malcolm X” triggered a strong response not just in the major metropolitan areas, but at NIU as well.

While addressing a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists in Detroit, Lee stated while promoting the Nov. 20th release of his film “Malcolm X,” “Don’t go to work that day! Don’t let the children go to school! Go to this movie! We have to support this film …”

Lee’s statement was the subject of Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper’s column last Tuesday. Roeper interviewed many Chicago area black business owners who said they objected to the idea of giving their employees a day off to go see a movie.

According to Roeper’s column, the overwhelming message of those owners to their employees was to see the movie on their own time.

But Lee’s statement can be interpreted a number of ways, said Sandra Penner, the Student Association’s Minority Relations director.

“The statement will stir up controversy and spark interest. People are going to wonder what all the controversy is about and want to see the movie,” Penner said. “I think the statement is more symbolic.”

Some NIU students echoed Penner’s thoughts. “Spike said what he said to increase awareness,” said Patrick Smith, a sophomore communications major.

John Butler, student regent and graduate of the NIU Black Studies program, said he believed Lee’s statements were right on the mark.

“Film today is an incredible source of education as a modern mechanism of spreading information. What Spike Lee is saying is that he’s got some information that just can’t wait.

“I do believe the American educational system has institutionally excluded the contributions of countless African-American leaders who are every bit as responsible for the status of this country as George Washington and Abe Lincoln—especially the civil rights leaders of the 60s,” Butler said.

When questioned about the motives of Lee’s statements, Butler said they were “absolutely done out of sincerity.”

Butler said the isolation of this one statement in an effort to question the motives of Lee is exactly the kind of effort used to discredit Malcolm X.

“You see, we as a society do that to people we are afraid of,” he said. “We disect their statements and form conclusions that are at best rooted in personal prejudice.”