Spike Lee finally won his first non-honorary Oscar, and the filmmaker’s reaction, both in his powerful words and in his joyful dance moves, was the most memorable of the night.
Lee won Best Adapted Screenplay alongside David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, and Kevin Willmott for BlacKkKlansman, and before his name was even read, the reaction of Lee’s longtime collaborator, Samuel L. Jackson, gave it away. As Lee made his way onto the stage, he also made his way into Lee’s arms, literally leaping onto him with excitement.
Lee took the opportunity not only to celebrate his film, but also to celebrate Black History month, remember his ancestry, and to encourage action on the heels of the 2020 election. “Do not turn that mothefucking clock on!” he began, before thanking his family and then turning to the meat of his speech:
The word today is irony. The date, the 24th. The month, February, which also happens to be the shortest month of the year. Which also happens to be Black History Month. The year, 2019. The year, 1619. History, herstory. 1619, 2019. 400 years. 400 years our ancestors were stolen from mother Africa and brought to Jamestown, Virginia enslaved. Our ancestors worked the land from can’t-see-at-morning to can’t-see-at-night. My grandmother Zimmie Shelton Reatha, who lived 100 years young, who was a Spellman College graduate even though her mother was a slave. My grandmother who saved 50 years of social security checks to put me through college. She called me Spikey-poo. She put me through Morehouse College and NYU grad film. NYU!
Before the world tonight, I give praise to my ancestors who built our country, along with the genocide of our native people. We all connect with our ancestors. We will have love, wisdom, we’ll regain our humanity. It will be a powerful moment.
The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there.
And at that, Lee did a dance.