In Conversation With Spike Lee - The Red Sea International Film Festival

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Spike Lee has partnered with The Gersh Agency to establish a fellowship at three HBCUs —his alma mater Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University.

Five Atlanta University Center Consortium students will be recipients of the new fellowship which begins this month.

In a statement, Lee said, “I know firsthand the education one receives at a Historically Black College and University. I am who I am because of my grandmother [Zimmie Jackson] and my mother [Jacquelyn Shelton Lee] who both graduated from Spelman College.

“I am who I am because of my grandfather [Richard Jackson Shelton] and my father [William Lee] who both graduated from Morehouse. It’s on the campuses of Spelman and Morehouse where they met, fell in love and got married. As my elders often told me, ‘Deeds not words’.”

Lee graduated from Morehouse in 1979. In 2022, his mother and grandmother were honored by Spelman who named their admissions office after them.

A panel including Lee, senior management at Gersh, and the AUCC community will choose the first Spike Fellows, who will receive student loan debt relief, industry mentorships, an internship and full-time employment after completing the fellowship.

“I joined Gersh to lead the charge in identifying powerful opportunities and signature moments to advance cultural competence and accelerate social impact,”  Jayson Council, Gersh’s head of culture said in a statement. He will oversee the Fellows program. “As an HBCU graduate, I am extremely proud of Gersh and Spike for their commitment to growing opportunities for AUCC graduates.”

In other Lee news, it was announced that the Academy Award-winning director will receive the Writer’s Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award. The award, named after the late British screenwriter Ian McLellan Hunter (not to be confused with Lord of the Rings actor Ian McKellan) has previously gone to Norah Ephron, The Wire’s David Simon, John Waters, Tom Fontana, Geoffrey Ward, and John Sayles.

“For nearly forty years, Spike Lee has written and directed some of the most meaningful and creative films in cinema,” Michael Winship, WGA East president said in a statement. “With a unique ability to challenge, entertain, and inform, his narratives spotlight the racism and bigotry that too often have defined the Black experience in America.”

Lee’s only Oscar win was for writing, not directing. He won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman in 2018.

Lee will receive the honor at a ceremony held both in New York City and in Los Angeles on March 5.