Spike Lee’s ‘Chiraq’ Isn’t Strong Enough To Hold The City It Exploits

CHI-RAQ Trailer from 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks on Vimeo.

Dear Spike Lee,

Just cause you heard my Big Momma call me June-Bug or Poo doesn’t mean you get to. Most don’t honor the name Chi-raq here, but for the ones that do it’s their choice, our city.

Yesterday, like the rest of Chicago (and America), I ran to the Internet to see the trailer for Chi-raq. On a scale from One to Fuck This, I’d give the trailer a “He Could Catch These Hands.” You turned our children’s funerals into a Blaxploitation Greek slam poem chopped with a little Kanye West muted color music.

I will never deny what you’ve done for the Black community through film. Last year I was able to attend the Do the Right Thing 25-year anniversary screening and discussion. It was humbling to be in your presence. You were so passionate about portraying the hood in an accurate and honest light. So in my best Deborah Cox voice I am asking Spike “How did we get here?”

I’d never heard of Lysistrata prior to the trailer but as a Black woman I may be or am definitely offended that you are implying that if Black women closed our legs, our sons would be still be alive. Excuse me Mama Spike but you can have a seat in the “No Pussy, No Comment” section. If withholding sex could make changes there wouldn’t be a wage gap.

And for the record there are women hittas in this city — if you don’t know what a hitta is maybe you should have done more research in the hood. Unpopular opinion (yet still a fact): being in a gang is similar to a job or a club, there are expectations. People can’t call into work like “Look Skylar, I can’t do your taxes today because my side piece decided to hold out on me.” They will get fired, except in the streets you getting yo ass whooped. But my absolute favorite part is the implication that these men, who are willing to shoot each other outside of an elementary school, are dignified enough to not try and force themselves onto a woman if she says no. You must not know what it’s like to ride the Red line alone?

chiraq

I am not saying the topic of the film is not needed but can it at least be about Chicago (or made by a Chicagoan)? The day before the release of the trailer, 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was shot in the head and chest, just a few blocks away 20-year-old Kaylyn Pryor was gunned down, and the 15-year-old boy that was with her is still in critical care. These are not tragedies or fables, we are not removed from this pain. We are still mourning and fighting and breathing and raising Black children in this city. What hurts the most about this is how careless this trailer feels, how statistics and experts talk about our dead like they weren’t just playing ball down the block a few breaths ago.

How would you feel if a stranger came into your home uninvited and started live-tweeting about your crackhead auntie? No, that’s my crackhead auntie, only I can call her a hype. These thugs, shooters, gangbangers are our family too, our blood too. I don’t condone, support, or romanticize murder but I do know many of my family members could be on either side of the trigger.

In closing Mr. Headass, I don’t hate you, I just don’t trust you with my grief. If this movie was directed by Tyler Perry I would still be pissed but I wouldn’t be giving it this much time. I expected more from you. I expected you to give a damn.

P.S. Please don’t even form your lips to tell me you thought we’d accept Nick “Wild N Out” Cannon as the lead. Nick Cannon is as thug as a sweater vest or a Mariah Carey turned Jesus-on-the-cross cover-up tattoo.

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26 Readers Commented

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  1. poet on November 5, 2015

    Have you seen the film? Or is this just a judgment on the trailer…?

  2. Goolie Goalie on November 5, 2015

    Looks like he….

    Did the Wrong Thing.

  3. Mike on November 5, 2015

    I’m not mad. Comedy to address a real issue. Probably funny too

  4. marquis on November 5, 2015

    I totally disagree with this whole article. This movie isn’t about you or your life. Its fictional… Very fictional. Let this man make his movie and stop being but hurt. The real problem about chiraq is somebody actually decided to make a movie about that place. I’m willing to bet the release date for the trailer was decided way before any of those kids got shot, and even if it was that’s really not his problem nor his business. This made a movie… Its called chiraq… That doesn’t mean it is about Chicago. Instead of trying to chasitze this man for doing what he do be supportive of a black man doing something other than selling drugs and shooting pistols.

    • Just some guy on November 6, 2015

      “This made a movie… Its called chiraq… That doesn’t mean it is about Chicago.” HOW IS A MOVIE CALLED CHIRAQ NOT ABOUT CHICAGO?!?! WHAT THE FUCK IS IT ABOUT THEN, PONIES?!?

    • Shaq on November 6, 2015

      ^^^…In the deepest kanye voice I can muster,”Fuck that.”

    • Lily Rose De Filippo on November 8, 2015

      Uhm…kids BEEN getting shot down way before this, the elderly and other innocent bystanders. This is nothing new. Our city got the stupid name Chiraq for a reason and a reason we are not proud of. Idk where you’re from but it seems that these issues aren’t a natural part of your environment. And that’s cool. But when you name something after a city gone wrong, the people from it are looking for some hope in it. That someone in the outside world understands.

  5. Keira Pinkney on November 6, 2015

    Trailers are like sound bites…. I’m going to give it a chance before I throw Mr.Lee to the wolves.

  6. Shine on November 6, 2015

    Marquis (person who gave comment also) is clearly not from the Chicago…

  7. Alexander. on November 6, 2015

    damn

  8. Shaq on November 6, 2015

    Anyways, I love the article. I totally agree with your assessment of the Trailer. There are a lot of components that need to be addressed not romanticed. It’s some haters in the comments per usual who may have not understand contextual the point you are making. But, I do and I agree. If the film proves otherwise I may recant. Until then, the reality remains underlined.

  9. Katie Hall on November 6, 2015

    I think the there is a major risk in trying to create art that is thought provoking & original off of a topic that involves basically genocide of young people. There are so many other places too where this level of violence is happening (Memphis, TN for one) so maybe Spike and his team made a bad choice of location and name. Moreover, that trailer just seemed cheesy as well, for lack of a better word.

  10. Tobias on November 7, 2015

    I’m from Chi. Born and raised. I admire Spike Lee’s work. But this …. Shit right here! From what I see in the trailer is not Chicago. I understand that it was adapted from a Greek play called: Lysistrata, which was a comedy. What the fuck is so funny about young brothers and sisters getting sencelessly murdered on the daily? From what I see in the trailer, its like a fucken circus of characters, with Samuel L. Jackson as the ring master. The portrayal of the brothas and sistas is appalling. The brothas are blood thirsty, extra ignorant, can’t think beyond they dick, ass niggas. The sistas are portrayed as having nothing but sex as a weapon to stop the murders. I expected more from Spike, I thought he would portray the corruption in Chicago’s political and social infrastructure along with many hidden agendas of the powers that be, who has orchestrated the conditions that are leading to brothas and sistas having no hope or know how. So they murder cause in their eyes, they have no self worth. It seems as if though the powers that be commissioned Spike to perpetuate the genocides going down on the south and west sides.

  11. Left The City on November 7, 2015

    The film is not a documentary.

  12. Ciana on November 8, 2015

    Love the passion, but this article is full of irrelevant fallacious arguments. This is not a documentary or comedy. Chiraq” is a satirical film (using humor to shed light on political issues) and is based on the Greek play by Aristophanes “Lysistrata”, which is about a group of women who came together to discuss how to end the Peloponnesian War in Greece.

    I read an intriguing perspective regarding Nick Cannon…Since this is a satire, I withdraw my statement. Cause these “goofy ni$$as”, they are not real. Who better to play a “goofy ni$$a” than Nick?

    Cause the same way y’all looking at Nick is how I look when I see the shenanigans of “drilling”.

    Check out the 2ND less humorous trailer

  13. Ciana on November 8, 2015

    And yes I’m from Chicago.

  14. Emmanuel on November 8, 2015

    It’s not a documentary! It’s only the trailer people. The one thing I do agree in this article is yes, the men that are doing this would definitely take what they wanted from their woman BUT not all of them see woman like that. Just because you a thug don’t make you hate woman. So in that light Spike might have something. Plus don’t forget Spike wasn’t raised with a silver spoon. He might not live in Chicago but he has a good idea of what’s going on. Hell the mother of Tyshawn has used money from his gofundme to buy a car so what about them apples. The dad don’t want to cooperate bc then he would be a snitch. At this point Chicago is what Chicago is, so don’t get upset when people talk about the problem, SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

  15. Aurelius on November 8, 2015

    This is just the trailer. 30 years of Spike Lee Joints have taught me that the trailer never touches on the depth, humor, big ideas/questions that this brilliant black film-maker has bought to the movie house. I remember thinking that School Daze and Do The Right Right were both stupid comedies. Yet, both of these movies had a permanent impact on the conversation about race, class, and community. Let’s hold off on our outrage. We don’t have enough information. We seem to have become a generation bored and impatient when it’s comes to context. And happy to judge an entire conversation on 5 seconds of content. I live in Chicago, too. Formally 79th and, now, near 47th St. I have to educate children in this mess. I’m glad somebody is putting this ridiculousness on blast. Comedy had always had more impact than drama. Ask John Stewart. Spike has had drama from establishment for his whole career. We need to make sure this man’s movies make more money than The Perfect Guy, Friday, and any other film that portrays black people, yet, ignores the trauma of our lives 150 years after the (official) end of slavery. Spike may not be offering solutions, just commentary. You can’t know what the commentary is until you have ticket in hand and the final credits have rolled.
    Meet your back here, then.

  16. Dre on November 8, 2015

    I rather have the actor who played in the Wire to play in CHI-RAQ new movie they put Baltimore on the maps… I just saying the actor you have now we can not relate to them.

  17. James on November 9, 2015

    How about we all stop blaming Spike Lee for our problems. He’s doing him, he makes films and that’s his job. Before you try to say something, I am from Chicago, grew up in Humboldt Park and now live in Marquette Park. If you have a problem with the violence in Chicago, as I do of course, then stand up and call on your representatives to do something. Politicians all love to use our plight as a platform for their campaigns but don’t do sh!t about it. Rahm Emanuel wants to raise our property taxes to pay for police pensions, for what? They ain’t doing their jobs. Instead of them harassing our children as they walk home from school, and play in their neighborhoods, they should try some good old fashion crime solving. I think we should go on a tax strike, if we stand our ground as a city and not pay those taxes you’ll see how fast they start doing their jobs.

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