Spike Lee characters brought to you by a Brooklyn bodega
written by Moeima Makeba
Bodega. The word itself is heavy with ethnicity. A Spanish term, la bodega or grocery store was co-opted by Caribbean, Nuyorican and Black Americans as title for the convenience stores that popped up on corners and made all household items accessible to those in neighborhood. Soon the word was and is used so commonly despite not always being owned or operated by those with a Hispanic or Latino background.
Most people recognize the word and its meaning and have no idea of the tremendous foothold it has in New York culture. Walk through a bodega and its offerings are as eclectic as the people who've built the city. From snacks, drinks, meals off the grill and cold treats in the freezer - each item brings its own attitude and brand of nourishment or delight.
Much like the bodega, over the span of his career Spike Lee has delivered an array of characters to viewers that satisfy a range of personalities, perspectives and life scenarios. For breakfast, lunch and dinner you can walk through the bodega and easily find goodies to sustain you - much like Spike Lee’s characters that can provide just what perspectives you need.
Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) of Do the Right Thing
Another small but powerful role in Do The Right Thing, Radio Raheem’s character constantly takes the temperature of the increasingly agitated racial climate that is Spike Lee’s Brooklyn. With his four fingered ‘love’ and ‘hate’ knuckle rings, flat top and a larger than life boom box. Much like the double D battery Radio Raheem’s larger than life presence served a major representative of Black power, Black presence and a haunting premonition of the wave of police brutality that has only recently been caught on video.
Troy (Zelda Harris) in Crooklyn
The number one beloved summer treat for kids, big and small is frozen ice pops or “Freezies”. Brooklyn raised, Troy is a wide eyed girl growing up in Bed-Stuy with four brothers, quick with the comebacks and ready to cool things down when temperatures get too high. Like the ice pops of many flavors, Troy’s experiences in and outside of Brooklyn are checkered, but keep her sharp and ready to navigate a world that is more complicated than she knows.
Mookie (Spike Lee) of Do the Right Thing:
Spike’s most memorable character, played by himself embodied the paradox of Brooklyn: laid back but on the infinite hustle. And what else can capture that spirit better than the number one bodega sandwich: the artfully, simplistic and delicious bacon, egg and cheese. Whether you need fuel for the morning, a cheap meal to get you through regardless of time, or something to soak up all the alcohol from a recent night out - a bacon, egg and cheese will always be here for you.
Tina (Rosie Perez) of Do the Right Thing:
Though she played small role in Do The Right Thing, Tina is unforgettable; the IDGAF, pint sized demanding baby mama of Mookie needs him to step it up and “be a man” setting the tone of the entire movie, despite being easy to overlook. Equally easy to overlook is the chicken over rice special, served with or without a modest salad, grilled halal chicken over yellow rice is perfectly seasoned, filling, flavorful and priced right. White sauce, hot sauce optional.
Dap (Laurence Fishburne) in School Daze
Nothing like a bag of Lay's chips. Salted, tasty and ready to boost a meal or serve as a snack. Dap was equally as salty, maybe a bit more due to what happens when his college experience and political views collide. With wokeness comes both simplicity and complexity and like a bag of chips - having your eyes open is where is it starts. Adding more to that is up to you.
Fatima Goodrich (Kerry Washington) in She Hate Me
Love can turn sour then sweet just like Sour Patch Kids. In She Hate Me, Kerry Washington is a woman who discovers her lesbian sexuality, and leaves her boyfriend for a new life. Like each chewy dual flavored piece of candy, there's two sides to every coin, and to every story. A constant reminder that love in any form is rarely simple.
Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) in He Got Game
Beer and its foamy delicious nature can be friend or foe, bro or ho. Not far from the relationship between Jake, the returning father in He Got Game and Jesus his son, played by Ray Allen. Much like the tense relationship between these two characters what should be easy, simply isn't. We could argue trying to choose beer (40? 6 pack? Craft brew? Cider situation?) from the bodega is as much of a challenge. Sort of. Aight, not at all, a 24 oz Corona is a no brainer. But beer is meant to cool and refresh more than the body, but the temper as well. Much like fathers who are not only meant to guide their children, but have their lives offer testimony.