A small group of protesters are up in arms about director Spike Lee's upcoming appearance as a guest speaker at a small Chicago suburban college at their upcoming week-long Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. festivities.
North Central College in Naperville, Illinois is touting the famed filmmaker's appearance as "the first major public event during its Sesquicentennial year." "An Evening with Spike Lee" is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 18 and will be held in Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center with an admission price of $20 per person. Now, the Italic Institute of America (IIA), an advocacy group, wants to put the kabosh on the highly anticipated event.
According to Bill Dal Cerro, president of IIA, said the filmmaker's portrayal of Italian-Americans is distorted and conflicts with the civil rights leader's message of unity. "Having Lee speak at an event honoring Dr. King is akin to having Maury Povich as the guest speaker at a Happy Marriage Convention," he said in a news release.
The organization has, in the past, zeroed in on and launched campaigns against all forms of media and public figures who are guilty of portraying Italians and Italian-Americans in a demeaning light and depicting them in a harmful stereotypical way.
The organization and Lee have butted heads before -- they have publicly criticized the filmmaker for his portrayal of Italian-Americans in "Do the Right Thing," "Summer of Sam" and "Jungle Fever" and they have also bellyached about "Miracle at St. Anna," Lee's World War II drama set in Italy.
Now the group is trying desperately to get North Central College officials to ban Lee from next week's traditional cultural festivities. Will their pressure tactics work?
When AOL Blackspin contacted Ted Slowik, director of Public Relations and Media Relations for the college, he responded to the hoopla by stating:
"Spike Lee is still coming. One of the reasons we invite keynote speakers like Spike Lee is to provide an opportunity for our students to engage in thought and dialogue about issues of race and social activism -- topics that Lee has addressed in his films. North Central College has a long history of building bridges among cultures, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s visit to the campus in 1960 is one of many examples of how the college has provided forums for thought-provoking dialogue throughout its 150-year history."
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