Spike Lee speaks in honor of MLK Day

Lacey Crisp

The Basilica of St. Mary was so packed Saturday that ushers moved people to overflow rooms. All were there to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with keynote speaker filmmaker Spike Lee.

Lee’s speech focused on the “complete” history of King.

Several thousand people attended the Celebrate the Dream tribute.

Some police officers walked through the crowded aisles, patrolling the event that celebrated nonviolence.

People from many races, ages and religions sat and listened to choir groups and high schoolers sing.

Lee is originally from Atlanta but grew up in New York. He has made several films, including “School Daze” and “Malcolm X.”

“Dr. King has been reduced to a sound bite: ‘I have a dream,’ ” Lee said.

He said people need to be educated on the impact King had on the civil rights movement.

“A lot of kids only know they don’t have to go to school one day because of Dr. King,” Lee said.

Sam Adegoke, president of the University’s Black Student Union, said he was glad the event took place at a predominantly white church.

“I think it was great they did it at the Basilica, because it educates many who wouldn’t necessarily celebrate the holiday,” Adegoke said.

He said that although King was a large part of the civil rights movement, all black leaders need to be celebrated.

“The reason why African Americans are where they are today is largely due to Martin Luther King Jr.,” Lee said.

“He has paved the way for many of us.”

Adegoke said Lee was the best choice for a keynote speaker because of the issues Lee centers his films on.

“He has dealt with a lot of racial issues in his movies,” Adegoke said. “He can speak very intelligently on issues.”

Adegoke said it is important to celebrate the history, but there is still a way to go in equality.

“We need to grow on another level,” Adegoke said. “We aren’t where we should be, but we are getting there.”

Jeff Tate, a University student and member of the Black Student Union, said he was glad to see so many people out celebrating the holiday.

“It is extremely important that we as black people have a holiday and we use it as a time to reflect as to where we came from,” Tate said.

He said Lee brought up the “right” issues, particularly when he talked about “gangsta rap.”

“Gangsta rap is dangerous,” Tate said. “There are a lot of things that are detrimental to the psyche of black people, and we are complacent, and we haven’t arrived to where we need to be.”

Tate said he enjoyed it when Lee talked about the “real” history of how King spoke out against the Vietnam War.

“Even though it was a roomful of a thousand people, it was a real personal event,”

Tate said. “It felt like a conversation, because he didn’t have notes.”

Minneapolis Community and Technical College sponsored the tribute.