Last fall, protests on the University of Missouri campus led to the resignation of the school’s president and a near boycott of the football team. These pivotal actions followed a series of alleged racial incidents on campus: racial slurs called out to minority students and a swastika drawn in human feces on a campus bathroom wall, to name a few. Black students felt overwhelmed with the way the university responded. For months student activists protested but received little attention until members of the football team threatened to sit out games, costing the school up to $1 million.
Though Tim Wolfe stepped down from his presidency, campus protests continued. Activists desired that their list of demands be met with such demonstrations that one professor felt it necessary to call for “muscle” to keep reporters at bay. These protests inspired other black student-led demonstrations and popularized the hashtag #BlackOnCampus.
Rumor has it that Spike Lee’s next project will revisit these events. Some of Lee’s most acclaimed documentaries follow Hurricane Katrina, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and the careers of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, and Jim Brown. In a film entitled “2 Firsts Up,” Lee plans to bring the Mizzou movement center stage, presenting "an examination of how the Black Lives Matter movement sparked activism at the University of Missouri, its football team, and across the United States,” as reported by the Columbia Daily Tribune. With expected release on May 31, the film will be a part of “Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joints”, a new series of 15-to-30 minute mini-documentaries.
Reportedly Lee has been on campus conducting student interviews, as well as attending a recent screening of a documentary made about Concerned Student 1950 (the year Mizzou integrated). Additionally, Lee filmed a recent protest that student activists led because of the lack of racial progress on campus following Wolfe’s resignation. Of this instance, Interim Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Chuck Henson says “The working group is working and the protest that happened on our campus today is unfair and might leave a wrong impression about the amount of progress we have made and the climate on our campus today. We are dealing with issues that took more than 100 years to develop here, and it is certainly going to take more than 100 days and three meetings to address.”
Lee has not publicly commented on the film. His latest feature film “Chi-raq” focusing on the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago received critical notice, though it didn’t perform well at the box office. Hip-hop star and Chicagoan Chance the Rapper is a notable detractor, having called the film “exploitative,” “offensive,” “sexist,” and “racist.”
Nonetheless, “2 Fists Up” is highly anticipated and looks to be a provocative piece on student activism that deserves closer study.