December , 2018

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Pfleger ‘We can’t ignore reality’

By Chinta Strausberg

With several Oscar nominations and 35 films under his belt, director, writer and producer Spike Lee set the record straight about his upcoming movie, “Chiraq,” during a press conference Thursday outside of Saint Sabina Church where he told his critics “They don’t know what they’re talking about” and when the dust settles, they’ll be on the “wrong side of history.

Flanked by Father Michael L. Pfleger, Evanston native actor John Cusack and a number of mothers who have lost their children to gun violence, Lee told a bevy of reporters who were camped outside of the church, “A lot of things have been said about this film by people who know nothing about the film. A lot of people have opinions about the so-called title of the film; again (they don’t) know nothing about the film.

Rather than listening to “people from afar and again don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,”  Lee set the record straight about his film saying he wanted to tell not just Chicago but the world “why this film matters.”

Artists, Spike Lee said, “hold a mirror up to what is happening in the world, and they do that with no fear. If you have fear, how are you going to tell the truth.” Referring to the time he made “Do The Right Thing,” Lee said, “There were people who said this film would cause riots all across the America, that black people would run amuck. People wrote that this film would stop David Dinkins from being the first African American mayor of New York City…but those people ended up on the wrong side of history and the same thing will happen in Chicago. They will look stupid and be on the wrong side of history. We’re here for peace. We have to stop this,” Lee said.

“Last night, May 13th, 2015, 13 human beings were shot, 3 were murdered. Let’s not play games with the names. Let’s call it what it is. It’s murder. It’s taking someone’s life, and it’s a ripple effect.”

Saying he has made several trips to Chicago to make this film and had to go to a funeral of one of the members of his production team’s brother “was shot down in cold blood. That’s not the way you want to meet somebody…someone’s family at the cemetery with her son laid up in the casket. We have to stop the madness. It’s insane. Don’t go for the Okey doke. It is nothing to do with Chicago losing tourism…. It’s not about Chicago losing business,” said Lee.

To those critics who wonder why isn’t he putting more emphasis on the destruction of property, Lee asked where were the voices about the deaths that caused the destruction. “Let’s not put property and profit over human life,” he said. “This is not a joke. This is not a game. This is real life and death…. This is serious business.

“We are not playing around and no one wants to be a member of this club up here,” Lee said referring to the Purpose Over Pain mothers who lost their children to gun violence. Rather, he said, “We want to shut it down. I love Chicago. Wait to the movie comes out. If you like it you don’t like it, but see it first. Pray for us, pray for all Chicago…,” said Lee.

Lee has been criticized by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Will Burns (4th) who wants to block Lee from getting a $3 million tax break if he titles the movie ‘Chiraq.’ However, Pfleger said people have to deal with the reality of violence in Chicago.

Father Pfleger read a statement by NBA star Joakim Noah. “I realize the title, ‘Chiraq,’ can be perceived as a glorification of violence, but the realities of what is happening in the city of Chicago is not something any of us should hide from. I am confidant that Spike will present a thoughtful portrayal of this city. I am honored and excited to support the film, and the continued movement for positive change.”

Pfleger told reporters, “First, we have to deal with some realities. The reality is in the first 134 days of this year…there has been 780 shootings, 664 shot and 116 killed. Last night, there were 14 shot in the city, 3 of them fatal. That’s nearly six a day being shot in Chicago since January 1st.

“We must face the reality of what is going on not just in Chicago but across America,” said Pfleger.  Saying people have to face reality, Pfleger said, “We cannot become immune to it. We cannot ignore it. We cannot deny it. Violence is real in America, and we must face the reality” like guns, he said, “where it is easier in so many neighborhoods to get a gun than a computer.

“We got to deal with the reality of guns and the proliferation of guns in this country and those who are making money off of those guns,” Pfleger said. “We cannot ignore this reality,” he said looking over a sea of parents holding the pictures of their loved ones. “This is proof of the reality. These are all stories of pain and tragedy….

“We are not painting a city. We’re painting a reality that’s difficult and it’s hard,” Pfleger said praising Spike Lee. “I can’t think of a greater person to face this reality than someone with the history and a body of work of Spike Lee.

“Nobody should better be able to face this reality than someone who has proven his consciousness, proven his professionalism and proven his willingness to be courageous in dealing with issue…a man who is an African American director, and one of the best directors in America, who did casting in an African American community, who is hiring from the African American community, dealing with African American issues…sounds real right to me,” Pfleger told reporters.

Rather than criticize the movie, Pfleger said, “Let’s face it and let’s offer solutions. Let’s offer peace and let’s call us all to look within ourselves in how we can solve this horrific tragedy in America.”

As an example of the effects of gun violence, Pfleger introduced Pamela Bosley, from the Purpose Over Pain organization comprised of parents who have lost their children to gun violence.

Rather than wallow in their grief, Bosley, who lost her son, Terrell, 18, on April 4, 2006 as he was unloading musical instruments in the parking lot of his church, said they demand commonsense gun legislation and on last Mother’s Day placed nearly 500 red flags outside of Saint Sabina to bring awareness of the gun violence.

To those who are constantly complaining about the title ‘Chiraq,’ Bosley suggested that they “put that same energy behind saving our children…” whose lives were taken. Bosley rolled off several names of those children who were victims of violence like her son, Terrell, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, Blair Holt, 16, and others. “No grounds are safe in Chicago,” said Bosley. To critics who say Chicago is not a war zone, Bosley said, “in my neighborhood, it sounds like a war zone to me. We need to get it together and save our children because this has to stop.”

Pastor Brenda Mitchell’s son had two tours of duty in Iraq. He had to come back home and bury his brother. “For me, it’s my reality….” “For us,” she said violence “is real….”

Cusack said when Spike Lee called him he looked him in the eye and said, “the only reason to do this film is to save lives.’  Cusack said he understands why politicians are upset with the title of the movie but that “art must be courageous…. Anybody who wants a more peaceful America will understand where the heart of this film is.

“There is no controversy around this film” other than a “manufactured political controversy. A few people say it’s controversial and then the press repeats it…. controversial to whom,” asked Cusack. “Making himself clear, he added, “I am 100 percent sure that the great city of Chicago can survive a film of conscious just like it did ‘Transformers.’” “I love my city Chicago, and I would never do anything to hurt it. I am very proud to be in this film…and will try to do a very good job.”

Spike Lee’s co-writer, Kevin Willmott, who is a professor at the University of Kansas, said this issue of gun violence is the same in Kansas City as it is in Chicago.  “We’ve lost several babies to shootings. Spike and I have worked for years to make this film. It’s a film about hope…peace…justice. It’s a film about taking ownership of the problem, and we hope this film can make Chicago better” and other urban areas. “We hope the film can bring us all to another level.”

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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