One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is the night in 1994 when I first saw Spike Lee’s Crooklyn with my family at the drive-in theater near our house. I watched my parents search for the radio station playing the movie audio as my older sister and I sat in the backseat cuddled up with blankets and pillows.
That night I met Troy Carmichael, a rough and tumble nine-year-old tomboy who could both jump double dutch and outrun the boys on the block, who rocked beautiful braids and beads in her hair and who refused to take mess from anyone on her block or in her brownstone. On the screen, I saw a little Black girl that reminded me so much of myself — either that, or I decided in that moment that I wanted to be just like her.
Spike Lee’s film, which premiered 25 years ago this week, chronicles the bittersweet story of a Black family and their Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1970s. The movie is a nostalgic masterpiece revisiting the music and style of that era, with a soundtrack that featured artists from Bill Withers to The Delfonics, and colorful costumes compliments of Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter.
The story is told through the eyes of the sole girl in a crowded house of rambunctious boys. I watched as Troy, played by Zelda Harris, both took in the world around her and took her place in it — from stuffing tissue in her bra as her little brother bangs on the bathroom door, to stealing her oldest brother’s prized Buffalo nickels to buy ice cream after he smashes her first cone in her face. At a time when Black femme protagonists were rare, Troy’s coming of age story made young, Black girls feel seen and …read more