Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer”


Right now I am meditating upon Spike Lee’s film “Red Hook Summer.” This film–preaches red, walks red, uncovers an evil church red “rat” that needs to be corrected by the community. The implicit recognition that something is very wrong in the African American church experience is this film’s thesis and its “rat.” Mookie (Spike Lee), i.e., knows that; therefore, he will deliver pizza, but he will not attend “Old Timers Day.” And it seems Spike Lee intends to right the wrong by telling and giving voice to an African American story that is often silenced by church members. Loving preachers can be flawed and one of their flaws may be molesting boys. The film calls for a right of the wrong that has been placed in a community. Oh it seems that the wrong is a poor community; it seems that the wrong is a vegan man-child who may not believe in God. In the inner sanctuary of the wrong, the wounded (as well as those who inflict the wounds) function. “Red Hook Summer” begs for a response. This is it: There is a need for a healing altar in the African American church experience, especially as it relates to down-low preachers who molest children. This healing call is beautifully woven into the film by African American church music that moves, that flows through the film like spiritually imbued jazz. “Red Hook Summer” forces me to engage in an interior conversation with myself. How does a religious community heal when it is wounded by its church leaders? The healing is in discovery. A community discovers the real identity of its man of the cloth, its preacher man. A boy-child discovers his Grandfather has features of the devil he preaches about. That is the gift that Spike Lee, the critical film-maker, has given to the genre of film–the repeated message that in the African American community there is beauty and evil at the same time. “Red Hook Summer” moves slow; it peals back the beauty and the ugly of the African American church experience one scene at a time. “Red Hook Summer” is not only an African American story; it is a human story about evil. It deserves a viewing!

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