In a 2012 interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Spike Lee spoke about his deep appreciation for the HBCU experience. The Clark Atlanta and Morehouse University shared: “Being taught by African American faculty, people really took a deep, interest in educating and one of the things I learned at an early age was the importance of education.”
Now, he’s paying it forward with a new fellowship program geared towards Black students aspiring to build a career in film.
In a news release shared with ESSENCE, the legendary filmmaker announced that he along with talent firm The Gersh Agency created the SPIKE FELLOWS PROGRAM, a fellowship to support students at the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC), which consists of three Historically Black Colleges and Universities — Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University.
“It is with great honor, privilege, and excitement to announce the Spike Fellows in association with my partners The Gersh Agency and the AUCC,” Lee said in the news release. “From the jump, from the get-go, I knew when (not if) I opened a crack in the door, I was bringing as many Black and Brown folks with me in front and behind the camera.”
A staunch proponent of HBCUs, Lee has consistently supported the advancement of Black-led educational institutions and touted their importance both on and off screen.
“I know firsthand the education one receives at a Historically Black College and University,” said Lee. “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’.”
The Gersh Agency joined forces with Lee to build the program and funnel resources to participants.
“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,” said Gersh Senior Managing Partner, Leslie Siebert in a news release. “We are honored that Spike has chosen us to be his inaugural partner, and we are proud to welcome the five inaugural Spike Fellows into our organization.”
Kicking off this month, The inaugural class of Spike Fellows will consist of five graduating students from AUCC will receive academic debt relief, industry mentorship, post graduate internships, and full-time employment, all provided by Gersh according to the news release.