Spike Lee took home his first Academy Award on Sunday night for the “Blackkklansman” screenplay, and he used his time on stage to both pay tribute to the past and look forward toward the next presidential election.
Lee opened his first Oscars acceptance speech by noting that he was collecting his award during Black History Month, some 400 years after slaves were brought over from Africa. Lee then shared a personal story, honoring his grandmother.
“My grandmother, who lived to be 100 years young,” Lee said. “Who lived to be a Spelman College graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandma, who saved 50 years of social security checks to put her first grandchild — she called me Spikey-Poo — she put me through Morehouse College and NYU grad [school].”
Lee had been nominated once before, at the 1990 Oscars for the “Do the Right Thing” screenplay, but the director had never before taken home a competitive Academy Award. He won an Academy Honorary Award in 2015 for his contribution to film. The announcement of his victory on Sunday night was met with an exuberant gasp from presenter Samuel L. Jackson and a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd.
“Before the world tonight, I give praise to our ancestors who helped build this country,” Lee said in his speech. “If we all connect with our ancestors, we will have love, wisdom and we will regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment.”
Lee ended his speech with a call to action, noting that the next presidential election season is already underway. Though he never explicitly referenced the current president by name, Lee called on listeners to make the “moral” choice when casting their ballots next year.
“The 2020 election is right around the corner,” he said. “Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love vs. hate.”
“Let’s do the right thing,” he concluded. “You know I had to get it in there.”
Spike Lee hops on Sam Jackson pic.twitter.com/2HEUG5mV0j
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 25, 2019