live video

Democratic gubernatorial debate underway

Spike Lee to appear at 30th anniversary ‘School Daze’ screening at Fox


Long before “Black Hollywood” or “ATLwood” for that matter became popular monikers for Atlanta, Spike Lee was sowing the seeds that would one day help it all come true. “School Daze,” the director’s bold and epic HBCU film shot at his alma mater Morehouse and the Atlanta University Center at large, hit theaters 30 years ago this month. In celebration, “School Daze” will screen at the Fox Theatre on Presidents Day (Feb. 19).

“I’m a cinephile and I know that a whole lot of people, the younger generation, never got to see ‘School Daze’ in a movie theater,” says Lee, explaining the importance of the Fox while hidden in the back seat of an inconspicuous black SUV nestled in the Ponce City Market parking lot. “They only saw a DVD. They never got to be in a theater with other people. And so this is going to be lit.”

The follow-up to his acclaimed 1986 debut, “She’s Gotta Have It,” struck major chords. Although the TV show “A Different World,” the NBC spinoff to “The Cosby Show” set at the fictional Hillman College, started airing in September 1987, months before “School Daze” hit, it didn’t dig as deep. The students at Mission College tackled a long list of issues such as divestment from South Africa, colorism, hair texture, intra-race classism, political activism, structural racism, hazing in fraternities and female self-esteem, especially in sororities, most of which would later surface on “A Different World.”

RELATED | The AJC series HBCUs: A Threatened Heritage

Atlanta movie showtimes and trailers

As beloved as “School Daze” may be today, Lee never forgets that everybody wasn’t thrilled. “There was a woman, a film critic, I remember her name, Abiola Sinclair; she wrote for The Amsterdam News in New York. She said ‘School Daze’ set the black race back 400 years,” he recalls. “There were people who said I was airing dirty laundry with the whole colorism thing. It’s a well-known fact that we were kicked off Morehouse’s campus shooting ‘School Daze’ by then-President Hugh Gloster.”

“School Daze” also featured a cast that included Lee as Half-Pint, a Gamma Phi Gamma pledgee, as well as Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Tisha Campbell, Ossie Davis, Roger Guenveur Smith, Bill Nunn, Samuel L. Jackson and even Kadeem Hardison, Jasmine Guy and Darryl M. Bell from “A Different World.” Most of them would make waves in Hollywood for years to come.

RELATED | Throughout February, the AJC spotlights a different African-American pioneer each day

Lee’s inspiration for “School Daze,” which he actually wrote before “She’s Gotta Have It,” was very personal. “I did this film because my father went to Morehouse. My grandfather went to Morehouse. My mother went to Spelman. My grandmother went to Spelman,” shares the Atlanta-born, Brooklyn-bred black film pioneer. “’School Daze’ was my four years at Morehouse, my four years at Atlanta University Center, AU Center, jampacked into a homecoming weekend.”

Although Lee is a Morehouse College alum, he gives a lot of credit for his film success to professor Herb Eichelberger at Clark College (as it was known when he attended prior to evolving into present-day Clark Atlanta University). “He was very instrumental in my development,” Lee emphasizes. “Dr. Herb Eichelberger saw something in me, and he encouraged me to be a filmmaker.”

And 30 years later, Lee is overjoyed to celebrate that fruit with his many fans in the city that nurtured him and gave birth to one of his most cherished films. “We’re encouraging everybody to come out,” he says, noting that general admission tickets are $10. “Wear your school colors, fraternity colors, your sorority colors,” he says, going into pitch mode. “We’ll be selling very special edition ‘School Daze’ merchandise. I’m going to be there. It’s going to be a historic occasion.”

Likening this “School Daze” screening to those of “The Rocky Horror Show,” Lee promises that “it’s going to be interactive.” So much so Lee advises, “If anybody is coming on the 19th to see ‘School Daze’ at the Fox Theatre just to hear the dialogue, don’t come.”

And when the infamous “Da Butt” scene, which former City Council President and one-time mayoral candidate Ceasar Mitchell even participated in as a Morehouse student, comes on, “We’re going to be up in (our) seats doing the butt,” Lee beams.

EVENT PREVIEW

“School Daze” 30th anniversary screening

7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. $10 at the Fox Theatre box office; plus fees if you order online. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. foxtheatre.org.

RELATED | Spike Lee: why he brought back ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ on Netflix



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Meghan Markle's rescue dog, Guy the beagle, goes from shelter pup to royal pet
Meghan Markle's rescue dog, Guy the beagle, goes from shelter pup to royal pet

A new member of the royal family is making headlines – and no, we're not talking about Meghan Markle. According to the Guardian, a beagle named Guy was in a Kentucky kill shelter until Ontario-based A Dog's Dream Rescue saved him and offered him for adoption at a 2015 event in Canada. That's where he met his new owner, Markle, who went on...
Royal wedding: Kitty Spencer stuns with resemblance to her aunt, Princess Diana
Royal wedding: Kitty Spencer stuns with resemblance to her aunt, Princess Diana

Bride Meghan Markle wasn't the only one turning heads at Saturday's royal wedding. Many fans of the royals said Lady Kitty Spencer, niece of the late Princess Diana and daughter of Earl Charles Spencer, Diana's brother, looked just like her famous aunt. According to the New York Daily News, the 27-year-old model wore a forest green Dolce & Gabbana...
Royal wedding: Meghan Markle wears Princess Diana's aquamarine ring to reception
Royal wedding: Meghan Markle wears Princess Diana's aquamarine ring to reception

After Saturday's royal wedding, Meghan Markle honored the late Princess Diana, Prince Harry's mother, with a little "something blue." According to "Today" and Vogue, the Duchess of Sussex wore Diana's emerald-cut aquamarine ring to the couple's evening wedding reception. >> Read more trending news  The ring wasn't...
Concert review and photos: Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers offer finely honed nostalgia
Concert review and photos: Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers offer finely honed nostalgia

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene There is something comforting about the summer shed tour circuit. The Doobie Brothers rocked a 15-song set list. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC Sure, you get some Kendricks and Wiz Khalifas, but music fans of a certain age wait to see which mix-and-match formula will be created each year among the &lsquo...
Royal-watching in Marietta: ex-pats and Georgians, tea, vows and ... baps?
Royal-watching in Marietta: ex-pats and Georgians, tea, vows and ... baps?

Sunrise in Marietta was still a few minutes away as the large screen showed a large crowd in a massive London cathedral. In the Queen’s Pantry, tucked into a strip mall near the corner of Johnson Ferry and Roswell roads, nearly 40 people bubbled with eager excitement as they settled in to watch the wedding of Harry and Meghan – who were...
More Stories