Written by Natalie Riddick ’23, History major and Dance minor
On February 18, 2021, LMU’s History Department partnered with the Black Student Union to put on a Zoom movie event to celebrate Black History Month. The film we chose to screen was Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. This movie recounts the remarkable true story of an African American undercover policeman who successfully infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. We chose to show this film because although this story is historical, it is also very relevant to the U.S. today. In Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, racist demonstrators openly marched in support of white supremacy, resulting in violence and a counter-protestor’s death. It was during this time that Lee was getting ready to make BlacKkKlansman, and he decided that he could not ignore the contemporary echo of persisting hate groups in America and did not shy away from making that connection as clear as possible in the film.
The film’s script periodically links the racial issues of the 1970s to the present, but this connection is made the plainest in the film’s final section, which shows news videos that detailed the chaos and death that took place in Charlottesville, VA, and compares it to footage of past civil rights protests. Lee does not let the audience reassure themselves that the story of BlacKkKlansman is rooted in the past but sends the message that our work is nowhere near done when it comes to creating a just and equitable society for Black Americans.
Sadly, the state of our country in 2021 has only become more tragic and urgent in the need for justice and change for Black Americans. This was clearly demonstrated in the summer of 2020 through the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others to police brutality and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the country. Watching this film during Black History Month as an LMU community was a firm reminder of our solidarity with the Black community at LMU and beyond and how much more work needs to be done for meaningful change to occur in our country.
It was a pleasure to put on this event with BSU’s president Rishan Ephrem. This academic year has presented many new challenges to student collaboration and community-building, but it has also pushed us to be creative and find new ways of staying connected as an LMU community. It was a pleasure to bring together the History community and Black community for a small break from school to celebrate Black History Month and have a meaningful reflection on how far, and how not far, we have come since that particular moment in U.S. history.