Spike Lee celebrated winning his first non-honorary Oscar in his long career as a film-maker with an explicitly political speech, during which he called on the audience to “regain our humanity” at the next US election.
Lee was accepting the award for best adapted screenplay for his film BlacKkKlansman, with co-writers David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott. It is a satirical film loosely based on a true story about a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan by using a white, Jewish proxy.
The film explores how racism has remained in America’s bloodstream since slavery and how it has erupted into the mainstream with the election of Donald Trump. BlacKkKlansman concludes with footage from Charlottesville, where Heather Heyer was killed by a car driven into a crowd protesting against a “unite the right” rally of white supremacists.
It was Lee’s first Oscar win, not counting an honorary award he received from the Academy in 2015. The prize was presented by Samuel L Jackson – an elated Lee jumped into his arms before shouting “Do not turn that motherfucking clock on!” to the Oscars producers who he thought might curtail his speech.
Lee was also wearing Love and Hate rings, worn by the Do the Right Thing character Radio Raheem, and a purple suit in tribute to Prince. A Prince cover of Mary Don’t You Weep plays over the credits of BlackKklansman.
The word today is “irony.” The date, the 24th. The month, February, which also happens to be the shortest month of the year, which also happens to be Black History month. The year, 2019. The year, 1619. History. Her story. 1619. 2019. 400 years.
Four hundred years. Our ancestors were stolen from Mother Africa and bought to Jamestown, Virginia, enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from can’t see in the morning to can’t see at night. My grandmother, [inaudible], who lived to be 100 years young, who was a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandmother who saved 50 years of social security checks to put her first grandchild — she called me Spikie-poo — she put me through Morehouse College and N.Y.U. grad film. N.Y.U.!
Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who have built this country into what it is today along with the genocide of its native people. We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love and wisdom regained, we will regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment. The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there.
Watch Spike Lee give his Oscars speech in the video below.