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Saturday, February 1, 2003

Filmmaker Spike Lee takes BET to task

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Urging blacks to step into "gatekeeper" roles, Spike Lee criticized Black Entertainment Television, saying it lacks serious entertainment and that rap music promotes ignorance.

The director and producer of such films as "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X" and "25th Hour" spoke Thursday to a crowd of about 500 people, including students and Bermuda Premier Jennifer Smith. The lecture was sponsored by Bermuda College.

"I was told BET was big here and I shook my head," Lee said, referring to the cable channel that billionaire Robert Johnson founded in 1980. "If you get everything from BET you are getting the wrong thing."

BET spokesman Michael Lewellen said the network has long been about more than videos and comedies.

"We show more African-American cinema than any other network and we have a world-class news and public affairs organization that covers the issues of relevance to African-Americans," Lewellen said Friday.

"I wonder if Spike is even aware that one of his more critically acclaimed works, 'Malcolm X,' makes its premiere during Black History Month on BET.

"Judging by these comments, apparently not."

Bermuda, a British territory, is 62 percent black.

Five-time Grammy winner celebrates 22nd birthday

NEW YORK -- Some people celebrate their birthday with a cake. Alicia Keys celebrated with a plaque recognizing 10 million in sales of her debut disc, "Songs in A Minor."

The five-time Grammy winner marked both milestones with a party hosted by her mentor, J Records founder Clive Davis. Though she turned 22 on Saturday, the crowd of well-wishers sang "Happy Birthday" to her Wednesday night.

--From wire reports

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