Following an extended screening of Spike Lee's new film "Chiraq" a heated exchange occurs between Spike and Umi Selah during a questions and answer session. The exchange brought the seldom told history of the systematic destruction of working-class and poor African American communities to the forefront of discussion. Ultimate, Umi Selah was looking to halt historical discourse and acceptance of the black ghetto's existence solely becaue of the "cultural behaviors" of black and brown people. Just as I, Umi Selah looks to expose the conscious efforts of our profession to absolve the most powerful shapers of society, architects, urban planners and social scientists from their responsibilities.
"I'm flabbergasted by this movie. As a fan of your entire body of work, frankly, I'm reserving how angry and confused I am at what I just saw my brother. You're creating a film here that places the entirety of the blame for the situation and the plight that's going on in Chicago on the black people". Spike Lee interjects "That's not true". Selah then proceeds to ask Lee, whats the goal of the movie. Spike's response, "to save lives".
Umi Selah then challenged Spike Lee to provide tangible solutions to curbing violence, such as jobs for The City's youth and furthermore he challenged Spike to use his platform to expose the true source of the violence in the black community, the social conditioning of the people through the built environment. Umi references ethologist John B Calhoun's density and behavioral research which with mice, simulated the present situation of the continually expanding population of humans by saying, "There was an experiment that if you put mice on top of each other, they will steal, kill and destroy each other". JB Calhoun, whose research is the backbone of urban sociology, coined the term "behavioral sink", which refers to the altered, often self destructive behaviors of the rat population when faced with increased density. Umi Selah then anthropomorphized Calhoun's mice, just as many others, by stating "So if you put a bunch of people in projects all over this country, what do you think they're going to do?"
This exchange has inspired me to expand my Hip Hop Architecture blog series, Urban Renewal vs Urban Reality, which uses Hip Hop Lyrics As Modernism's Post Occupancy Report.
Come back to see my next series in the Hip Hop Lyrics as Modernism's Post Occupancy Report titled "Destruction By Design".