Hot time. Summer in the city. Spike Lee’s block party makes a triumphant return after a four-year hiatus
An estimated 30,000 people celebrated the music of Michael Jackson and Prince in Fort Greene Park
Saturday, Aug. 26, marked the triumphant return of Spike Lee’s beloved Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson and Prince Block Party after a four-year hiatus. He announced the event via Instagram as only Spike Lee knows how to do:
“Whaddup Party People. It’s Finally OFFICIAL. I’m Elated To Announce That After A 4 Year Break ‘Cuz Of Covid We Are Having Your MICHAEL JACKSON💜PRINCE BLOCK PARTY On Saturday August 26th In Da Year Of Our LAWD 2023 From High Noon To 7pm At Fort Greene Park In Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn. On Da Wheels Of Steels Da Mighty @DJSPINNA And Ya Already Know He’s A WINNER. Dis Will Be Da Party Of Da Year. It’s Gonna Be A L💜VEGFEST For MJ And PRINCE. Come Dressed To Da Nines. Who You Reppin’❓Either Way It’s All L💜VE. We Gonna Sing And Dance So LOUD Michael And Prince Gonna Hear US. ‘Cuz Y’Know Spreadin’ 💜 Iz Da Brooklyn Way. And I’m Gonna Be Sippin’ Dem NUTCRACKERS😜😜”
And boy, was it a party! Lee emceed in his signature laid-back style for an astounding estimated crowd of 30,000 revelers. Partygoers enjoyed the stylings of DJ Spinna and entertainers who performed along to Michael Jackson’s and Prince’s tracks. Performers included drumline Fogo Azul, rappers Special Ed and Buckshot, and Michael Jackson impersonator, Gritty James, among others. Celebrities like Rosie Perez and Chris Rock, and no doubt many more were in attendance, too.
Only one word can describe the vibe of the event: joyful. With each song, the crowd rode a wave of nostalgia. People spontaneously broke into song and dance. Hands were placed on chests or waved in the air. Revelers belted out lyrics by heart. Faces turned skyward in praise and adoration of the two beloved music icons, Spike Lee and Brooklyn. Ashley Lampkin-Martinez, Manager of Spike’s Joint, the director’s streetwear brand, said it best. “The neighborhood was calling for it. We needed some peace and love.” Amen.
Stacy Kovacs is the Founder and Musical Director of Fogo Azul, an “all-women, trans, and non-binary Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line” per the group’s website. Kovacs told the Eagle Spike Lee introduced himself to Fogo Azul in 2021 when he stumbled upon their outdoor rehearsal in Brooklyn Bridge Park. There they discussed future collaborations and traded contact information. (Lee directed two videos for Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” One version was filmed in Brazil.)
Fast forward to forty-eight hours before the block party, Kovacs was contacted by Lee’s event organizers. There was only one problem, the group was double-booked. Without hesitation, Lee arranged a charter bus to transport the group from Jersey City to Fort Greene Park. They rehearsed in their seats. The minute they arrived they followed Lee around the Park playing “Sign O’ the Times” as he paraded a guitar gifted to him by Prince. Then they hit the stage to perform “They Don’t Really Care About Us.”
Of the whole experience Kovacs marveled, “Once on stage and drumming to MJ’s song, seeing the crowd move and air drum with us, dance along, and be together with such an iconic playlist–honestly, I’m speechless. Music transcends all cultures and ages and brings people together like nothing else on the planet. Seeing all those happy faces, to bring this music to the masses in such a special place, for such a special reason, was an honor I, and all of the members of Fogo Azul, will hold on to forever.”
The love poured in on Lee’s Instagram account, @officialspikelee for days. Cinematographer Ricardo Sarmientor wrote on Instagram, “The feeling of love, joy, togetherness, and pure reverence for Michael and Prince was pulsing from every corner of our lovely park. Thank you Spike for bringing everyone together to celebrate and for a few hours forget our troubles and dance in this thing called life 💜💜💜” ms_lee_aah remarked, “So many black people. So much love! I love us for real. We really did that ❤️💚🖤”
The Fort Greene production was such a success, many asked if the party would return to the same location next year. Lee responded, “Next Year Is The 35th Anniversary Of DO THE RIGHT THING. Going Back To BED-STUY DO Or DIE.” Guaranteed, that celebration is gonna be a banger.
To fully understand the impact Spike Lee has made on our culture, the arts and Brooklyn, make a note to visit The Brooklyn Museum this fall when Spike Lee: Creative Sources opens on October 7. The show will feature items from Lee’s private collection including artworks from prominent African American artists, musical instruments, historical photographs, and sports and film memorabilia. The show is meant to “ reveal the connections among the people, places, and ideas that have fueled Lee’s incisive storytelling.” The exhibit runs through February 4, 2024.
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