For my money Spike Lee‘s 3 Brothers short, which debuted last week on CNN, is as emotionally effective as Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (Netflix, 6.12). After watching it two or three days ago I saw the below photo of Muhammud Ali and the quote that goes with it, and that got me also. What a magnificent figure of bravery Ali was…such a champion in all respects.
The tragic experience of Bill Nunn‘s “Radio Raheem”, who was choked and killed by the bulls in Lee’s Do The Right Thing (’89), was of course a forerunner of the murders of Eric Garner and George Floyd.
Raheem’s fate was based upon the real-life Michael Stewart, who died in the custody of NYC police in 1983 after being arrested for spray painting a subway wall.
Do The Right Thing is about a cultural conflict in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, between two or three Italian pizzeria guys and their African American customers.
Raheem’s ghetto blaster is a trigger. In the view of Raheem and friends, assaulting passersby with ear-splitting music was a celebration of identity and culture, but to most New Yorkers back then (and I’m speaking as an ex-resident who lived in Manhattan fom ’78 to ’83) ghetto blasters were a scourge.
Is it racist to say that those obnoxious, suitcase-sized devices made life occasionally hellish for Manhattanites, and especially for Central Park visitors on warm weekends? Because it’s true. A friend once told me about a kid on a bike who was blasting sounds near an open pasture in southern Central Park, and somehow the kid lost his balance and the blaster fell and shattered and was silent. A few people leapt to their feet and started cheering.