Cincinnati’s April riots, ignited by the police shooting of Timothy Thomas and fuelled by lingering racial tensions, took me back to the culmination of Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing: I was searching for a context in order to understand the images of violence and destruction unfolding on my television. The blazing sun and stifling heat throughout had foreshadowed the film’s eruptive climax. Personal tensions mounted as the mercury rose in the thermometer. Cincinnati was not this hot-not in April, anyway. But it wasn’t hard to comprehend how a single act of violence had compelled an entire community to rise up and lay waste to its own home.
Mention Cincinnati and Do the Right Thing to Archie Shepp, however, and you’ll get a far different reaction.