Spike Lee did not so much arrive on the Morehouse College campus earlier this month as he glided in quickly like Mercury, not wearing wings on his feet, but a pair of golden Nikes.
The Academy Award-winning director skipped the red carpet of Morehouse’s Human Rights Film Festival award ceremony, where he was getting the first-ever Spike Lee Award for Social Impact in Filmmaking, and headed straight to the green room. The 1979 Morehouse graduate didn’t want to keep a group of student journalists waiting.
Lee sat at the head of a table in front of the Maroon Tiger staff with actor Nate Parker, who wandered in wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers 42 T-shirt with “Mookie” on the back in homage to Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.”
“How does it feel to be back at Morehouse?” the editor of the student paper asked.
A student from the Morehouse Maroon Tiger interviews Spike Lee before the start of the Human Rights Film Festival awards at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Oct. 12, 2019. CONTRIBUTED BY SEAN MCNEILPhoto: Sean McNeil
Wearing a white Nike Morehouse College hat, a maroon Morehouse hoodie, and black Morehouse sweatpants, Lee looked puzzled by the question.
For better or worse, four decades after he graduated from Morehouse, Lee continues to wear his alma mater on his sleeve. He sat on the school’s board for a while and donated money and resources to start Morehouse’s journalism program. In his phone, a Blackberry, are the phone numbers of dozens of guys he went to school with that he calls regularly if not to check up on, to remind them of how great the Yankees are. His second movie, “School Daze,” was his four years of Morehouse “wrapped up in a homecoming weekend.”
“Back?” Lee asked the student. “I never left Morehouse.”
Spike Lee enjoys a laugh before going on stage at the Human Rights Film Festival at Morehouse College on Oct. 12, 2019. CONTRIBUTED BY SEAN MCNEILPhoto: Sean McNeil
Lee is still amazed that it has been exactly 40 years since he graduated from Morehouse and had to be reminded of that fact when his class gathered for the reunion recently.
“I feel very young,” said Lee, whose energy belies his 62 years. “And you know why that is? Because I am doing what I love. When you do what you love, you live longer. And that is not tied to money. A lot of people have a lot of money and an unhappy life.”
Actor Denzel Washington starred in the Spike Lee film “Malcolm X.” CONTRIBUTED BY WARNER BROS.Photo: Warner Bros.
When Lee left Morehouse in the spring of 1979, he almost immediately became one of the most influential and original filmmakers in the world, changing the way black stories are told on film, while inspiring a generation of artists.