When I moved to Bedstuy more than ten years ago, I had no idea how special the neighborhood really was. Watching Spike Lee’s movie as a student in Amsterdam the Netherlands gave me a slight idea of what living in New York might be like but I certainly missed more than a few aspects at the time, to get the full picture. Still, the images of Mookie in the colorful Brooklyn neighborhood left an imprint that undeniably broadened my horizons.
Spike signing shitrs and taking pictures with fans
As a Black person who grew up in a colonized country and was working a Masters Degree in a motherland that still today considers Black Pete to be ok, I couldn’t help but unconsciously registering stereotypes when watching movies. This Spike Lee joint was different. I realize now that it must have been the first movie I ever watched without thinking Black stereotypes. The characters were people. Not just people I could relate to but also characters that I could recognized in daily life, from all walks of life and all races.
The portrayal of the social issues in a non-Hollywood way probably brought home the message even better. It could be a coincidence or not but the fact that a cafe in Amsterdam was consciously named Bedford-Stuyvesant after this particular neighborhood proofs that just the issue of gentrification is not limited to Brooklyn.
Even though I didn’t know that the neighborhood I was about to move to, was one of a kind or that “Do the Right Thing” was filmed in Bedstuy, it didn’t take too long to realize that the blocks between Bedford and Stuyvesant were special. Besides the friendly neighbors, the strong sense of community and culture, the hairstyles were an undeniable proof.
Where in the rest of the world the fast majority of Black women wear their hair straightened, natural heads were prevalent in this part of Brooklyn, ten years ago. Very much like the fade of Mookie, the Twist Out Top of Buggin’ Out and the Natural Hairstyles of Jade, people here were often wearing their hair strands naturally with pride and unapologetically. It came as no surprise that these streets of Brooklyn were ground to first hair salon in the world to ever offer professional dreadlock styling services.
By the time the sitcom “Everybody hates Chris” aired I knew that it wasn’t a coincidence that the blocks in my hood laid the foundation for unconventional stardom for people like Chris Rock, Mos-Def and Jay-Z.
On Saturday the temperature on Stuyvesant Ave was perfect for a block party that celebrated the ground breaking movie that was filmed right there between Quincy and Lexington. While Spike Lee was signing shirts, families were jumping rope and the music on stage kept everybody in tune inspiring the crowd to work the Electric Slide.
Although a lot has changed in the 25 years since “Do the Right Thing” came out, the movie seems more relevant in the fast gentrifying neighborhoods of Brooklyn. However, with stars like Dave Chapelle and Mos-Def returning to the neighborhood to celebrate with Spike in a “We Been Here” fashion, the issues will remain in the spotlight and the joint can only keep smoldering.
For more images visit the 25 years Do The Right Thing Block Party