Dave: Okay, so you just got out of the film. What is your first impression?
A. Allen: It was a really good movie. To me, it was educational because it gave me an inside look at the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan can be intimidating to a black person, you know? Where I grew up, there are a lot of gangs and basically it’s the same idea. It’s people organized with an idea, right? The Ku Klux Klan is not that intimidating like it was when I came in. It educated me on what they’re really about: small people with small ideas.
Tammy: Beautiful, wonderful, I loved it! No movie is my favorite movie, except “Grease,” and a few other light skippies...but I did love this movie. I loved the way it presented itself in the '70s movie/black soul, movie way. It was great music, classic Spike Lee: reminiscent, jazzy, smooth.
Dave: Did you feel like there was anything shocking about the film?
A. Allen: You know what was really shocking about the film was that the black man had the nerve to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. That could’ve cost him his life in a terrible, horrible way. That was shocking to see someone have that much courage. When people mention the Ku Klux Klan, that’s a terrorist group. It sends fear in your heart. That’s what they want. For him to infiltrate them the way he did. I thought it was so funny, even when he was taking the picture with the Grand Wizard he had his hands to his side and when he started taking the picture he hugged him real tight. You know they didn’t like that! He continued the investigation, so that was shocking too.
Dave: How serious did you think the movie was? Did you think it was serious or did you think it was funny?
A. Allen: The way that Spike Lee makes movies, I think this was one of his more serious movies and you can tell that he put some serious effort into it. With the acting and the background and the research.
Amanda: Did you see any similarities to things going on currently?
A. Allen: Oh yeah. Without a doubt. As you can see that’s been going on a long time with police abusing black people. A long, long time. The thing about it is now we have phones and cameras and it’s being recorded so it’s being exposed. Even back then it was going on. I think the movie reflects the '70s.
Tammy: Early '70s I would say, because it was after Martin Luther King.
Dave: What’s your immediate response? You just left the theatre, what are you thinking about this movie?
Tammy: I liked it a lot. I didn’t see Chi-raq. I haven’t seen a Spike Lee movie in a while.
A. Allen: When I met Spike Lee, I gave him a magazine that had a write-up about [Chiraq] in it. I said, “Spike Lee, when are you going to do something serious like a documentary on the black community” and whoop, there it is. That’s what it appeared to be to me, like a documentary and then when they mentioned Stokely Carmichael; they put him out of the country and told him he couldn’t come back. They put him out of the country. I do remember hearing him speak and the guy who didn’t look like him, but he spoke like Stokely Carmichael; I could hear the passion. That’s the way Stokely Carmichael spoke; you could feel him.
Dave: Did you see him?
A. Allen: Yeah I met Stokely Carmichael.
Dave: When was this?
A. Allen: Back in the '70s, mid '70s.
Tammy: How old are you?
A. Allen: I’m 95, you didn’t know? You’re supposed to say you look young for your age.
Tammy: I love Spike Lee, I have seen all his movies, minus “ChiRaq,” I even asked and waited to get the poster of “Do the Right Thing” from the record store, you could do that back then. There was a lot of build up and anticipation. But I liked it, even when the guy was talking, the first guy, Stokely Carmichael, and they were flashing black faces and they were beautiful faces. He was saying like you’re not going to have thin noses and all those things, but all the people were still beautiful. You know both of its sides were extreme. Even at the end, there were a lot of horrific things that happened to black people and horrific things that happened to white people. If the KKK wasn't crazily racist the rest sounds like a peaceful existence, it is just very bad to feel the need to eliminate any part, piece, or section of America to achieve their goal. Another movie that has pointed this out was John Singleton's “Higher Learning,” very good movie as well and also very true.
Amanda: The racism makes it completely wrong, though.
Tammy: Right. I did hear in one scene someone say 'Make America Great Again' and I don’t think that was a mistake. All the way to the end it was complete extremes. All of it is completely sad at the end, even the man talking at the end who was so angry. It’s enough to make you mad. You see people standing up for what makes our country beautiful and innocent bystanders are getting hurt.
Dave: Is there any modern-day example of what we just saw?
A. Allen: A modern-day example is Charlottesville. That goes back to what Tammy was saying. It was two extremes. That’s a good part of it, because even though it was two extremes, the movie was based on the middle.
Amanda: What about Black Lives Matter? Is that similar?
A. Allen: They were saying Black Lives Matter and then they were saying White Lives Matter, and isn’t the campaign now All Lives Matter?
Dave: Oh I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s the campaign.
A. Allen: You haven’t heard that?
Dave: Oh I’ve heard it, but I don’t think it’s proper.
A. Allen: Yeah, because it started out Black Lives Matter, then it went to White Lives Matter, then it went to All Lives Matter, which all lives do matter.
Dave: The point is my life isn’t as easily threatened as yours is.
A. Allen: From the Ku Klux Klan’s point of view, your life is very much threatened, because first of all we can contaminate your blood. That’s what they were saying to keep their blood from being contaminated.
Amanda: I thought it was powerful.
A. Allen: I think it was too. You have a lot of people, even blacks, that believe in separatism. Blacks be with blacks and whites be with whites.
Dave: There was some laughing, there was some seriousness, what’s your overall feeling as a takeaway?
A. Allen: Educational. My takeaway was that it was very educational.
Amanda: I think it was a very historical lead up and provides context for a lot of things still going on.
Dave: Like what?
Amanda: The political climate. The Nazis and the hate crimes that have been happening. It seems that people have been empowered recently and that this organization has been around for a while but underground, but it’s been more visible and empowered more lately. This is interesting historical context leading up to where we’re at.
A. Allen: Even in the movie it talks about how the Ku Klux Klan infiltrates the political system and becomes more effective. Then you can see how that could possibly be in effect today with Trump being president.
Dave: I think that’s what they were going for. What about you, Tammy? What was your takeaway?
Tammy: It’s very moving. It’s about how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t. We came but now we’re backtracking. Those things shouldn’t be happening. They’re very publicized. If they were happening in secret before, they are extremely publicized again. The fact that somebody is fueling it more again makes people think that it’s okay.
Dave: Would you say after seeing it you feel empowered or angry or sad?
Tammy: I feel sad. Like he did good and all that, but oh well, we’ll see if we have another job for you. It’s serious. Pay attention.
A. Allen: It was an eye-opener to see what was going on back then is being exposed today. It really is. It’s empowering to see that the blacks were invited on the force and invited to go into this investigation. That was good. I’m glad I got to see it, because I’ve been wanting to see it.