On this date in 1989, the Spike Lee directed flick Do The Right Thing debuted in theaters across the country. The movie, starring Lee as “Mookie” the pizza delivery guy, grossed almost $38 million at the box office.
Aside from a few music videos, this movie gave the world its first glance at the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, once referred to by its residents as “Bed Stuy Do or Die”. The same streets that raised Biggie and Jay were the setting for this riveting drama that delves into the racial tension felt in the city in 1989.
The Rotten Apple, then headed by Mayor Ed Koch, was a melting pot that was boiling over with racially charged crimes. Do The Right Thing was created on the heels of the Tawana Brawley case, the Central Park Five, and preceded the beating death of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst by only two months. The movie tackled similar issues that grew out of very common scenarios that occurred during that summer in Brooklyn.
Filmed on Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington and Greene Avenues in Bed Stuy, Do The Right Thing featured some very prominent actors and actresses including Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Samuel Jackson, Bill Nunn, and even introduced Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez to their first silver screen roles. Even Spike’s sister, Joie Lee, landed her real life as Mookie’s little sister.
This past weekend, Do The Right Thing’s anniversary was celebrated on the block where it was filmed with a performance by PE of “Fight The Power”, the film’s theme music. Celebrities such as Erykah Badu, Yasiin Bey, Dave Chappelle, and many other came out for the festivities for the film that introduced the world to Brooklyn.