Saturday, January 25, 2003

Spike Lee backs out of Feb. appearance at UC

Film director joins boycott of city

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Filmmaker Spike Lee has canceled a Feb. 28 speaking engagement at the University of Cincinnati "due to pressure from boycott groups," the university's student body president said Friday.

Darren Tolliver, UC's student body president, said he received notice from Mr. Lee's agent Wednesday that the African-American film director would not be coming to speak on campus for Black History Month. Mr. Tolliver called the cancellation "devastating" and "disappointing" to thousands of students. He would have been paid $25,000 for his appearance.

"This is obviously very frustrating because we have worked hard to prepare for him to come and have invested monies in advertising and promotions that cannot be reimbursed," Mr. Tolliver said.

"From the beginning we were up front and clear that there was a boycott in Cincinnati. We were told that it would not be a problem."

Mr. Lee joins a list of artists who have backed out of performances in response to the 18-month-old boycott. Among those who have honored the request are actor-comedian Bill Cosby, actress Whoopi Goldberg, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and R&B singer Smokey Robinson.

Mr. Tolliver said an added frustration is the fact that UC's campus is not even in the defined "boycott zone," which is bordered by Interstates 71 and 75 from Central Parkway to downtown's riverfront.

Heather Parrish, Mr. Lee's secretary, declined to comment or confirm the cancellation. Mark Davidson, of Nationwide Speakers Bureau Inc., the agency that booked Mr. Lee, did not immediately return phone messages Friday.

Nate Livingston, a spokesman for the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, said his group sent letters and placed several phone calls to Mr. Lee asking him not to come to Cincinnati, though no one ever spoke to him directly. "I think it is important to clarify that we are asking all outside entertainers not to come to Cincinnati period, not just to stay away from downtown," he said. "We think this sends an important message that Spike Lee is willing to give up a payday to stand up for justice."


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