Bill Dal Cerro, president of the Italic Institute of America, has taken objection to director Spike Lee‘s upcoming appearance at Chicago’s North Central College. Lee has been tapped at the keynote speaker for the college’s week long celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But Dal Cerro site’s Lee’s depiction of Italians as cause to exclude Lee from the event, “Having Lee speak at an event honoring Dr. King is akin to having Maury Povich as the guest speaker at a Happy Marriage Convention,” Dal Cerra stated in a press release.
The leader of an Italian cultural group criticized North Central College’s choice of Spike Lee as its Martin Luther King Jr. week keynote speaker, saying the filmmaker’s portrayal of Italian-Americans is distorted and conflicts with the civil rights leader’s message of unity.
“He wants to be provocative, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Bill Dal Cerro, president of the Italic Institute of America, said Monday. “Where we take issue is that he is provocative at our expense, to the point where he distorts our culture and goes out of his way almost to make us the bad guys.”
Dal Cerro, a Chicago resident, does not plan a protest the event, but assailed movies such as “Do the Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” “Summer of Sam,” and “Miracle at St. Anna” as unfairly stereotyping Italians. In a press release issued by Dal Cerro on behalf of the group, he said Lee is a divider as opposed to a uniting figure like Martin Luther King Jr.
“Having Lee speak at an event honoring Dr. King is akin to having Maury Povich as the guest speaker at a Happy Marriage Convention,” he stated in the press release.
But officials at the Naperville college campus and event organizers remain excited about Lee’s planned visit on Jan. 18.
“Spike Lee’s rubbed black folk, brown folk, Italians, Jews the wrong way,” said Renard Jackson, a professor and Martin Luther King Day organizer at the college. “He’s like Archie Bunker, he’s an equal-opportunity portrayer of people sometimes inadequately or improperly.”
Ted Slowik, director of public relations and communications at North Central, said the public will have the opportunity to ask tough questions of Lee if they so choose. He said audience members will have a chance to interact with Lee, and the college wouldn’t quash individual opinions or inquiries.
“To my knowledge we’re not planning to screen the questions,” Slowik said. “We’re not handpicking students to get up and get in line. We’ll inform people they’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and ask that they respectfully and orderly seek their opportunity to do so.”
Slowik added that the college doesn’t necessarily endorse the views and opinions of the speakers it brings to campus.