I can still remember those scratches and cuts leading up to the intro of one of the hottest songs and sounds coming from one of my most memorable Summers’ of that year. The guitar riffs and James Brown samples were perfectly aligned with Chuck’s vocals and Spike’s visual testament to our generation that left an indelible mark on my scrawny 18-year old self from Plainfield. 25 years ago, the ‘Central Park Five 5’ became synonymous with rape in Central Park, while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became overnight sensations on Saturday mornings. Arsenio would make history becoming the first brother to host a nightly talk show, and 1989 was the year Rosie Perez created the greatest opening credit sequence in film history with her electrifying gyrations to “Fight The Power”.
Spike’s 89′ release of ‘Do The Right Thing’ and Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ were the rallying cries of our struggle through our endurance through two terms of ‘Reaganomics‘ and the crack epidemic that decimated the destitute across the nation upon the eve of the 90’s. The cyber children of today are unaware of the parallel universes’ we share through this monumental collaboration of film and music to boldy express the scourge of racism on the big screen. Spike and Chuck became our audio and visual prophets of awareness during a period where transition was inevitable and contempt was plentiful toward my generation of young black males.
The hipsters and gentrification that now adorns 21st century Bed-Stuy leaves ambiguous traces of the past, as brownstones remain as over-priced monuments as if it were a mockery of their former occupants. Yes indeed, 1989 was the sound of the funky drummer because my heartbeat gave life to an awareness of the power that was oppressing my generation. Back then we didn’t care about movies becoming number one at the box office or who was starring in the film. We were more consumed with the excitement of seeing one of our 8 million stories with characters that we could identify with. The energy during that Summer was unprecedented and impossible to describe.
Do The Right Thing:
Who would have ever thought that one movie would harvest such an array of raw talent from some of Hollywood’s most gifted actors of past and present and through the mind of a short pigeon-toed black dude from Brooklyn? Who would of ever guessed that 25 years later Chuck’s voice in hip hop would come under scrutiny from a Jewish guy from Maryland who loves the culture? ‘Do The Right Thing’ was “our” visual and audio revolution to bring cognizance to our plight regarding the stigma of police brutality and racism in our hoods. ‘Radio Raheem’ served as a symbol of “our” social and economic conditions that ultimately served as an omen in today’s irony of circumstance.
And as much nostalgia the film and music induces from my childhood on this 25th Anniversary celebration , the pain remains as ‘Radio Raheem’s boombox is now replaced with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona can from a wanna be cop in an affluent suburb in Florida in real life. And despite all of the accolades and awards this powerful film recieved, the most impact was felt when ‘Raheem’ came crashing down to the pavement KOed by hate, as I silently wept in that crowded theater that Friday afternoon.
Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: it was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love.
NOTE: This post is dedicated to the memory of Ruby Dee and Eric Garner