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She tells everyone I'm her grandson…"Christianity was really used to dupe and trick black people into being pacifists … Also, religion gave us spirit to go on when we had to pick that cotton, face those whips… She says, 'I don't want to get knocked over the head.'" My surprise at the contradictory reports about his grandmother's behavior make him peevish. Because of the subject matter of my films or because she doesn't want to get kidnapped for ransom. There's a battle going on for popular culture; specifics don't count." There are two epigrams to covering the bases. Wrists that look as if they could be snapped like a sapless twig. A member of the black aristocracy, his great-grandfather graduated from Tuskegee Institute.

Look at all the great people that come from the church—Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Maclolm X…in [Farrakhan's] Nation of Islam, you get what's yours now. Let me say there is a Greater Being…], her father is reverend of my grandmother's church, Friendship Baptist Church. She does not tell people I'm her grandson." He yawns, having covered all religious bases with more irritability than passion. He covers all bases, recruiting rhetoric, evasion, and contraction: "Quayle and Sister Souljah are a sideshow, pathetic… One is a quotation from Malcolm X urging blacks on to self-defensive violence. Malcolm is just showing the same virtues as the forefathers of this country. Until his senior year in college, he was sexually "just invisible," he says. I got a little bit of play with women in my senior year, just a little… Spike Lee was born in Atlanta and he moved to Crown Heights, but the time and the place that has the most claim on his memory—there is always one neighborhood that is home—is Cobble Hill, where all his friends were white and Italian.

A stay-at-home mother, I used to make brownies for all the kids after school.

For all I know I made brownies for Spike Lee's brothers.

I never in my mind separated myself from them because they weren't fortunate enough to live in a brownstone; I was happy. His wife of twenty-seven years had just died of cancer. Is it possible that he has replaced the anguish of family trauma with agitprop rhetoric?

I never had that attitude that I'm middle-class, I'm better than those ignorant low-class people." He says he carried this attitude with him to Morehouse College, where there was a "schism between black middle-class college kids and black underclass kids in the projects around the school. I didn't have sentiments lots of my classmates had. My mother said I wasn't the greatest child, but she knew she could depend on me for anything that needed to be done. Any stepmother must realize that when you come into a family, you're an outsider, a stranger. The rhetoric: "Racism has been our biggest cancer, and until we deal with and acknowledge it, we're never going to be able to move forward and upward. They got Michael Jackson, they've got Cosby, they got Arsenio Hall'; and their perception is that because a couple of people were able to slip through the cracks, it's like that for thirty-five million Americans, but the truth is that the African underclass now is larger than it's ever been.

"Somebody whups you upside your head," he says, "what you gonna do? Once somebody knows that if they hit you there's some consequences, then they think twice. " Would he have been equally ambitious, equally determined, fierce, if he had been tall? "Luckily that didn't affect me that much," he says, somewhat opaquely, when I ask him how it felt to be singular.

My vanity, perhaps my arrogance, required so much more: curiosity and responsiveness and affinities. All else aside, Spike Lee, after all, adapted his screenplay for from one by Baldwin and Arnold Perl... It happened once, that meeting of minds I'd allowed myself to imagine. How many times and to how many people can he say that integration has to mean "more than pissing in a urinal next to a white man"? Studied ennui interrupted by howls of random manic laughter is an act that pales. What finally got him to say it was when [the character named] Buggin' Out called him a fat guinea bastard. " "It depends on how long you talk and how long I talk, I guess ..." It would be nice to talk somewhere other than dark studios. "It doesn't matter to you but it makes a whole great difference to us.My kids went to the Woodward School in Fort Greene, where Spike's mother later (in 1968) "had the foresight to see that it was time to buy a brownstone facing the park—165 Washington Park—while the getting was good: ,000." My daughter and Spike went to the same experimental high school in Coney Island.care, life being an endless process of returning to the source.Another stepladder orator is played by Bobby Seale, codefendant of the Chicago Seven. There is a scene in the chapel of the prison to which Malcolm was sent for six years in 1946 for burglary.Radical attorney William Kunstler plays the judge who sent Malcolm X to prison. The portrait of God before whom black prisoners are called upon to worship is white, insipid.Actors and actresses, black and white, are looping — synchronizing voices to actions in crowd scenes: Black women gather at 110th Street in Harlem to be interviewed by prospective white employers; this Park Avenue "maids' market" more closely resembles a chattel market, an auction for living souls ...

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