Several Brooklyn dwellers and visitors alike gathered for Spike Lee’s sixth annual “BK Loves MJ” block party on Aug. 27, at noon. The free event was held between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street, on Do the Right Thing Way, a fraction of Stuyvesant Avenue named after Lee’s 1988 film.
Hosts Lee and rapper/radio host Sway gave short introductions and segued into over one hundred fifty attendees dancing, and singing along to the tunes that could be heard several streets away.
Lee’s block party first started in 2010 as an annual celebration of the life of the late Michael Jackson, who would have turned fifty-eight on Aug. 29. Lee also held a similar event shortly after the death of Prince in April. The hashtag “#BKLovesMJ” (Brooklyn loves Michael Jackson) surfaced over Twitter and Instagram, with much anticipation brewing in the coming days for the event. The emblem includes a photo of Jackson and the advertisement for the party features “Rock With You” playing in the background.
Special appearances included Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “There are two types of people in America. Those who live in Brooklyn, and those who wish they could,” he said. Adams honed in on the sense of community formed from events, such as Lee’s, and the necessity of forming bonds and the value of getting acquainted with one another, especially in the midst of the tragic deaths as recent as Philando Castile, and Ezell Ford. “Imagine the Michael Jackson we lose at eight and nine years old to violence; they never reach their full potential to do the things that they want to do,” he declared, “As we hear his songs and dance to his music, and feel the vibe, let’s not leave here on Stuyvesant and Lexington and Do The Right Thing Way not knowing each other…realize our diversity is our strength.” Banners hung from fences and fire escapes adorning the surrounding houses as a means of paying homage not only to Michael Jackson, but also to aforementioned victims of police brutality, and other notable black figures in history, such as Muhammad Ali.
The Raspberry Berets lead the crowd in a collective flash-mob, shortly before Adams’ appearance. Featured were participants of AfroPunk, among several others in the hours following.
The party was sponsored and recorded by 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. Several subsequent advancements in Brooklyn and beyond came to fruition as a result of its founding, as it has spawned various opportunities for giving back to communities in need and has advanced multiple careers for people of color.