Spike Lee has done the right thing again! His new movie "He Got Game" touches almost every nerve and fiber of the African-American contemporary experience. More importantly, Lee provides a valid metaphorical perspective on that experience. If you want a starting point for discussing the economic, political, social, educational or entertainment experiences of African-Americans, "He Got Game" is your movie.
However, because the African-American experience is enmeshed in the American experience, the movie's relevance cannot be restricted to ethnic grounds.
The two main story lines are simple enough: (1) A father's attempt to reunite with his son after a long separation; and (2) The almost unbearable pressure faced by talented, young high school athletes to choose between college or going into professional sports. But nothing is simple with Spike Lee. He confounds the storylines by touching on important issues like involuntary manslaughter (in the heat of passion), African-American males in the criminal justice system, parental abuse, parents who live vicariously through their children, teenage love and sex, hang-on relatives and friends, crooked coaches, self-serving politicians, religion and more.
There are few topics for which "He Got Game" did not pass judgement. Spike Lee, however, is not presumptuous. He does not ram his perspective on these issues down your throat. He simply lays them out for you to see, analyze and decide for yourself.
Nevertheless, let me suggest a few considerations. First, the movie clearly states the realization that the ability to generate wealth produces choices; without wealth, there are few, if any, choices. Second, today is the building block for tomorrow; the past should only serve as a frame of reference, not as the crucial factor in decision-making. Third, African-American fathers- and all fathers for that matter- must re-learn the skill of generously teaching and counseling their sons and daughters without the expectation of a payback, even if it entails self-sacrifice. An understanding of, and action on, these simple concepts will move us forward.
No one person, event or idea can save African-Americans. Nor can it transform seemingly chaotic circumstances into paradise. But the role of Jesus and "He Got Game" may catalyze a thought process that can guide us all to salvation.
(B. B. Robinson, a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American
leadership network Project 21, is president of Eye on the Media, Inc. in
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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