malcolm x

SLJoints Final | “Get on the Bus” and “Malcolm X”

by Sarah, Jeanne (@leej), Matt (@mattbuon), and Tyler (@tzb2016)

Spike Lee’s opening credit sequences are a hallmark of a Spike Lee joint. These sequences are the first opportunity for Lee to get a point across, set the tone for the arch of the film, and “set the table for what the film is to be about” (Wickman n.p.). We chose to employ a commentary video style over the opening credits for Get On The Bus and Malcolm X with the goal of understanding how the visual, aural, and/or editing in these sequences contribute to Lee’s overall argument in each respective film. (more…)

Black on Black Deaths|Malcolm X and Chiraq

I) What is worth dying for?

For a while, I was struggling to figure out what to say about Malcolm X, because I was incredibly moved by the movie. Days after the screening, I listened to several of Malcolm’s speeches on YouTube, and our recent class discussions enabled me to discover why I was so inspired by him.

Malcolm X knew that his activism and his statements against Elijah Muhammad heightened the arrival of his death. Yet, he never let that stop him.

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.” — Malcolm X

Freedom is what Malcolm believed in. Freedom is what pushed him to keep fighting against the injustices inflicted upon Afro Americans. He believed that freedom was worth dying for.

II)The System:

What is worth killing for?

In Malcolm X, black on black violence envelops in a completely different format from Chiraq. However, each of these forms of violence is a result of a system. In Malcolm X, the system revolves around Elijah Muhammad. The system is perpetuated by the symbol of Elijah Muhammad and his followers, but not the man himself. Since Malcolm X deviated from the system, and sought to demystify the symbol of Elijah Muhammad, he had to be “punished”. It has nothing to do with Islam, which in fact is a peaceful religion, and everything to do with the structure of that system.

In Chiraq, the system at hand is one which has existed since slavery. It is a system that seeks to oppress blacks and suppress development. A system that damages, impoverishes, takes advantage, and murders. I recommend that y’all watch Crips and Bloods: Made in America. In the documentary, there’s a part where one of the OGs mentions that a system succeeds in oppressing others, if it causes them to oppress themselves.

I’m not saying that these systems provide justifications for killing others. I don’t believe that such a justification even exists. I’m just stating that they are the root cause.

Jeremiah”Wright” Washington



Praying to the Creator

Could Jeremiah Wright’s character be influenced by the works or Jeremiah Wright?

In 1995, Jeremiah Wright delivered a prayer at the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. In the movie, we always see Jeremiah Washington initiate prayers.

Jeremiah Wright was a pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ from 1972 until 2008. He is a well-known preacher and was the ex-pastor of President Obama.

Barack Obama adapted his phrase “audacity to hope” to “audacity of hope” and used it as a title for his 2004 keynote address and the title of his second book.

Jeremiah Wright is most known for his relationship ending comments about President Barrack Obama back in June 2009. Jeremiah told news reporter that Obama was being controlled by “them Jews” and that he was unable to talk to Obama because they weren’t going to let Obama talk to him. He basically exposed the fact that Obama isn’t in control of his own position as present and in reality he has no power. He’s just doing what Jewish Zionist tells him to do.


These remarks reminded me of the chicken comment that Malcolm X (in the movie) made about the President’s assassination. Shortly after the Nation of Islam turned their backs on him. Here’s what President Obama did:

One comment said “Obama sold out his Reverend of 20 years to be elected president. He did it to appease white people.” How do you feel about this comment?

Malcolm X | Foreshadowing and Death

The tension in the last half an hour of Malcolm X is palpable. There’s a certain dread about this part of the film, and the anticipation of Malcolm’s death seeps off the screen. Much of this is from the wonderful acting in these final scenes, but I wanted in this post to pick up some of the ways that Spike Lee foreshadows Malcolm’s assassination through film form, especially through the repetition of image-types, sound, and camera movement.

Death – violent death – enters the film as a major theme in an early scene of Malcolm and Shorty playacting cops and gangsters.

Close-up shot of a “dead” Malcolm.

Immediate, jarring cut to his father in his own moment of horrific, impending death:

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Compare these shots, where the camera is close to the ground to the shot of Malcolm’s dead body after his assassination, where the camera looks vertically down at him (from heaven?):

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Malcolm X: Breaking Down the Single Story

As I mentioned in class last Tuesday, I think Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDtalk “The Danger of a Single Story” is crucial to consider in the context of our discussion regarding the benefits and setbacks of portraying sole figures as the faces of larger movements. I could be biased because of my intense love for Adichie, but I think her talk amazingly poses some of the potential problems related to allowing a single narrative to stand in for the narrative of many.

I find Adichie’s comments regarding stereotypes particularly pertinent to our questions about Lee’s “Malcolm X”. She notes that stereotypes might have some validity to them, but by letting these stereotypes stand in as the single story we are doing incredible injustice to the people being portrayed. Adichie’s talk explores various stereotypes she’s encountered throughout her life and how the nature of the single story merely reinforces these stereotypes.

In the context of “Malcolm X”, though, I think the film works to combat the nature of a single story that becomes so prevalent with figures such as Malcolm. As we noted, most of us are exposed to a very one sided story that portrays him as a militant radical. We are indoctrinated with the standard Malcolm X vs. MLK narrative and forced to view the former as violent and the latter as a crusader for peace and non-violent protest. Lee’s film (in addition to the biographies/autobiographies we discussed) helps to break this single sided image of Malcolm. Viewers are exposed to other elements of his life as they are portrayed on the screen and gain the access and insight that Adichie stresses. Lee combats the single story of Malcolm X with the film and shows us the different events that led up to a multifaceted Malcolm.

So, in the context of the need for a leader to be the face of a moment, I think it’s crucial to maintain a spectrum of voices as means to ensure that the movement is accurately represented. By allowing all voices to be heard, a movement gains momentum and truly becomes revolutionary.

Malcolm X | Reviews/Responses from 1992-2015


I was interested to see what reactions to Malcolm X (the film) would be considering how different this portrayal was compared to the general depiction of Malcolm X as a violent extremist.

This article was written after the release of Selma (2014) and highlighted the persisting necessity of Lee’s biopic, Malcolm X, as an unapologetic film which details the struggles faced by black Americans. She also points out how movies of this degree are unlikely to resurface in the current entertainment culture which prioritizes white saviors in civil rights narratives.

Another article, written in 2013, also has nothing but praise for the film. The article is mainly focused on Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Malcolm not as a “hero” but as human. I thought this was interesting in light of the conversation we had in class where we discussed the dangers/benefits of reducing a movement into an individual on screen.

The last article I chose to include was a review released right after the film came out. Though he critiques parts of the movie, including the way fails to communicate Malcolm’s history to those who hadn’t read Alex Haley’s biography and how the end evolved into a “reverential narrative monotone”. His biggest concern is how the film may have been too subtle in its controversial subtext so that viewers might’ve missed it completely. I found myself disagreeing with many of the critiques that were introduced in this article but I definitely am also biased because I really liked the film.

What did you guys think about these reviews?

Intellectual Emancipation



The man in prison tells Malcolm Little “I can show you how to get out of prison.” On the surface level if one sees a man approach another man in prison about showing them how to get out you would assume that they were planning to escape. However, he followed by saying “you can’t bust out of here like they do in the movies, because even if you get out of prison, you are still in prison.” He is basically saying that a prison does not only exist in the physical world, but you can also be imprisoned mentally. He encourages Malcolm to free himself mentally. The next scene he tells him to think of the definitions in the dictionary in the opposite way. He is making him think critically about the way he processes information. He liberates himself mentally and gains the courage to challenge the pastor when in “church” and being taught that Jesus is white. This isn’t the first time Spike Lee introduces us to the moral of intellectual emancipation. I can remember in Inside Man when in the opening scene the man says “there is a difference between being in prison and stuck and a tiny cell.” Although the physical boundary exist in both situations, the way you think about them from a mental standpoint determines how you would describe the situation.

Link to my blog post about Inside Man: