The University announced that Spike Lee, a writer, director, producer and entrepreneur, will be the 2016 commencement speaker on May 18 at the Royal Farms Arena.
Lee’s films raise questions about race and prejudice. He completed his undergraduate studies at Morehouse College majoring in mass communications, and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He currently serves as artistic director of the Graduate Film Program at Tisch.
His most recent film, Chi-Raq, was released in 2015 and addressed gun control focusing on gang violence in Chicago.
Lee was awarded an Academy Honorary Award in November, but he did not attend the February ceremony as part of a protest movement that aimed to foster diversity in Hollywood, which stemmed from the nomination of no actors of color for the four main Oscar acting awards.
His debut film, She’s Gotta Have It, was released in 1986 and won the Prix de la Jeunesse award at the Cannes Film Festival. Some of his other films include School Daze, Mo Better Things and Summer of Sam.
In addition to producing films, he has directed music videos for artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Eminem.
Seniors Nadine Abdullat and Jackie Choi appreciate his relevance to issues that are defining American culture.
“I’m really excited for Spike Lee to come,” Abdullat wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “I feel like the board really took into account what’s happening in the news and around campus to bring a speaker that will be able to speak to it.”
Choi highlighted how Lee’s appearance ties into the situation in Baltimore.
“We’re at a point at Hopkins, in Baltimore, and in the national atmosphere where race relations are coming to a head,” Choi wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “While I think Hopkins is far from fixing race relations and all of the issues surrounding racism, sexism, etc., I think it’s really cool that they’ve called in a director/activist who’s done so much to challenge the way race and prejudice have affected American society.”
Few Hopkins students go into film after graduation, and senior Hope Dancy said that she was hoping the commencement speaker would be more relevant to her pursuits.
“Not a lot of people really do film, so it would have been cool to maybe have someone who’s out of D.C. who might have something that’s a little more relevant to what we’re doing,” she said. “But I also understand that he is a big deal, and it’s really cool that we got him.”
Correction: The article previously misidentified the undergraduate college attended by Lee.