Clarke Peters on Spike Lee's Latest Joint

The actor discusses America's culture of victimization in the new film Red Hook Summer.

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CP: I'm an artist because we're allowed another sort of communication with our higher selves. I didn't make Sandusky or that preacher do what they did, but somebody said you have to do this now because people need to have this discussion. Spike has his finger on the pulse of issues that we shy away from or even blatantly ignore. In hindsight, we couldn't have picked a better time for this film.

TR: HBO's New Orleans drama Treme returns in September. Can you share any spoilers regarding Big Chief Lambreaux? 

CP: He'll be the same, because while much has changed in New Orleans, much has stayed the same. People don't have their homes, and thousands don't have insurance. The corruption is in your face. Still, in little ways things are changing for the better. Wendell Pierce's Treme character Antoine Batiste has rebuilt his community and is seeing that the other communities don't have grocery stores, so he makes a chain. In doing so, the community doesn't have to go somewhere else to get what they need.

I grew up in New Jersey but I spent my summers on Putnam Avenue in Brooklyn. As a kid, there was a Haitian grocer, a Jewish shoemaker, my uncle had the liquor store, another one had an electrical shop -- everything was there in the community.

Hillary Crosley is the New York bureau chief of The Root.

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