Father Pfleger: Resolution To Block 'Chi-raq' From Tax Break Is 'Insulting'
By Selena Fragassi in News on Jul 28, 2015 4:45PM
Image Credit: Dante Mozie
First Chief Keef, now City Hall. Saint Sabina pastor and social activist Father Michael Pfleger has been on a roll in the past few weeks, issuing a series of public comments about several “distractions” he sees in the ongoing fight to curb violence in Chicago.
Pfleger’s previous target of criticism was rapper Chief Keef (who has a long arrest record), whom he admonished for wanting to hold a benefit concert for victims of a drive-by shooting. But Pfleger is now turning his attention to City Council this week upon news that Ald. Will Burns (4th) is seeking to stop Spike Lee from receiving a popular filmmaking tax credit for his Chi-raq movie project, which has been in production around town. It’s a move Pfleger has called insulting.
The issue with the film, reportedly about black-on-black gun violence in Englewood, is with the title, which Burns sees as glorifying gang culture. “Chiraq,” equating the rampage in Chicago to a Middle East war zone, is a term thought to have originated with rapper King Louie to describe the ongoing violence and highlight the economic, social and racial divide between the North and South Sides of the city. Burns has called it a “slap in the face” to hardworking citizens in areas like Englewood and alleges Lee’s film will further destroy the city’s reputation and “therefore is not eligible for a government subsidy” from the Illinois Film Office. Lee had previously met with representatives and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to request the 30 percent tax break (in Chi-raq’s case $3 million), which is awarded to projects that create jobs, stimulate growth and bring diversity.
The subsidy is the least of the city’s problems, and just an “orchestrated distraction” from the real issues of violence plaguing Chicago, according to Pfleger who is a supporter of Chi-raq and worked with Lee to sponsor a Block Party at St. Sabina’s in June.
"I'm almost insulted by the fact that we're discussing this. We're not dealing with the real issues,” he said in a statement picked up by DNAinfo. Pfleger chastised the City Council for not putting the focus on the 234 lives taken by gun violence already this year.
"Instead I'm discussing the name of a movie," he lamented.
Pfleger’s comments were echoed by some Council members who quickly shot down Burns’ proposed resolution, reminding Burns that aldermen have little power over the use of the subsidy and hoping for some good to come out of Chi-raq.
"I think he's on a mission" to "raise consciousness,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) while State Senator Jacqueline Collins hopes Lee’s film will provide an “honest acknowledgment” of the gun violence. To which Pfleger added, “We should be thanking him.”
The topic may all be for naught anyway since all subsidies are now put on hold pending Governor Rauner’s budget alignments. Either way, Chi-raq for now will go on.