THE CHI-TOWN LOW DOWN: Spike Lee announces feature film ‘Chiraq,’ Emanuel up in arms

By Managing Editor

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee announced this month that he would be shooting his next feature film “Chiraq” here in Chicago.

The film, made for Amazon Studios, will emphasize the subject of “black-on-black violence” and how it affects communities on the South Side, according to an April 15 Chicago Tribune report. Lee plans to focus on the Englewood neighborhood, which is considered to be one of the city’s most dangerous to be in. 

When Lee made the announcement, many including Mayor Rahm Emanuel had something to say about the film’s title. The term “Chiraq” originated when Chicago’s homicide rates exceeded the number of American deaths during the Iraq War from 2003–2011, according to a VICE infographic. Media outlets and critics were eager to jump the gun and label Chicago as the murder capital of the U.S.

Whether or not the term is deemed offensive or fitting, Chicago’s  crime-stricken areas have been the subject of debate and hand wringing since the term came into use. However, Emanuel met with Lee to express concern over the use of “Chiraq” in Lee’s film and asked him to consider changing the title on April 15 at City Hall, according to the Tribune report. 

Lee using the title “Chiraq” for his film is damaging to Chicago’s reputation, but the truth is that parts of the city that do not attract tourism, economic growth or even thriving schools are neglected and have to face the reality that is “Chiraq.” 

It is sad that the term is used to describe a city that many call their home, the place they go to school or where they raise their children, but what is even sadder is that the term came from a very real statistic that sheds light on just how bad the city’s violence problem is. 

During the April 15 meeting, Emanuel applauded Lee in creating a film that will highlight a topic that is not often shown or discussed in the media.

But with the film dealing with the actual reality of black-on-black violence and the effect it has on some Chicago neighborhoods, Emanuel better be prepared to address the backlash and questions coming his way about what he is doing to combat the crime rates and violence.

It is impossible to fix the city’s segregation and poverty issues—the reasons behind the jump in crime—in one mayoral term as they have accumulated over years and years of neglect.  However, now that Emanuel has been reelected, hopefully he will choose to invest more into the communities that need it rather than the tourists who call Chicago a vacation spot. 

If Emanuel does not like the term “Chiraq,” then he should be doing more to lower the crime and homicide rates that made the term a suitable description for the city’s most violent neighborhoods.