Trailblazing filmmaker Spike Lee has forever changed the landscape of cinema; using his distinctive lens to bring captivating narratives that illustrate the fullness of humanity to the silver screen. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Atlanta-born, Brooklyn-bred visionary is on a mission to empower the next generation of storytellers through the creation of a fellowship for scholars at historically Black colleges and universities.
Lee—a Morehouse College alum—is launching an initiative dubbed the Spike Fellows Program in partnership with the talent agency Gersh. Through the program, five students from Lee’s alma mater Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, and Spelman College who are passionate about building careers within the arts will receive financial assistance, have access to mentors within the entertainment industry, and be aligned with internship and career opportunities through Gersh.
Lee says the rich educational and cultural legacies of HBCUs inspired him to cultivate the fellowship program. “I know firsthand the education one receives at a Historically Black College and University,” he shared in a statement, according to the news outlet. “I am who I am because of my grandmother [Zimmie Jackson] and my mother [Jacquelyn Shelton Lee] who both graduated from Spelman College. I am who I am because of my grandfather [Richard Jackson Shelton] and my father [William Lee] who both graduated from Morehouse. It’s on the campuses of Spelman and Morehouse where they met, fell in love and got married. As my elders often told me, ‘Deeds not words’.”
Leslie Siebert, who serves as senior managing partner at Gersh, added the fellowship will be instrumental in elevating diverse voices within the realm of entertainment. “As industry leaders, we’ve always taken seriously the responsibility to build a more diverse, dynamic ecosystem in which people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences can thrive,” she shared.
The collective of fellows will be selected by Lee, the management team at Gersh, and educational leaders within the Atlanta University Center Consortium. The fellowship program is slated to kick off this month. There are plans for programmatic expansion over the next few years.
Many prominent Black directors are leading initiatives to develop career pathways for rising talent. Ava DuVernay joined forces with Google for the creation of a grant centered on empowering underrepresented creatives.
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