NEW YORK – The passing of Bill Nunn at the age of 62, added another sad chapter about parts of my teenage years being taken away from me. Nunn played the role of Radio Raheem in the critically acclaimed movie Do The Right Thing, which would forever be characterized as immortal.
Radio Raheem was a character that if one grew up in the late 80’s and early parts of the 90’s in New York City, one would know someone that would walk around the block holding on to a boombox, blaring the latest hip-hop and R&B tunes in the hood. I had a cousin that would walk around with his Fila jumpsuit with matching crispy white Fila sneakers, clutching his Boombox as he made his way around the blocks of Prospect Heights. The entire neighborhood knew him, and the other “Radio Raheem’s” of the world also resonated in the inner cities.
The way Radio Raheem’s life ended in Do The Right Thing made the powers that be, nervous before the official release of the movie could be viewed. I remember extra police, were dispatched in theaters across America in anticipation of the reaction among people of color concerning how the film was depicted. Radio Raheem’s life ended in such a demoralizing way that it resonated with people in the past and the present. What happened to Radio Raheem has continued to be a daily episode in urban communities. Police have been taking the lives of Black people, without any repercussions since “the slave patrol”, where I call that police policy the original stop-and-frisk.
Things haven’t changed since, and it has always been the same. It just that the brutality isn’t just captured once in a while like the police beating of Rodney King, but every time police are caught abusing and killing the Black body like it’s a sport. America would become nervous in anticipation as to what would happen when people of color would get sick of being brutalized by the police. We have had responses of riots, and before we hear the nonsense of people are stupid for destroying their neighborhoods. Since those that love to quote Martin Luther King, to make those who are oppressed fall in line. Ensure that we quote one of MLK’s most relevant quotes: “A riot is the voice of the unheard” to understand why riots occur in response to police brutality in the first place.
There are many Radio Raheem’s who died at the clutches of the police, and now with the enhance technology of the camera phones this is no longer become a fictional movie and more like a documentary. The demise of the Radio Raheem’s of the world like Eric Garner and women like Marlene Pinnock who was beaten by a police officer on the side of the highway, which was also caught on video for the world to see. No longer can we act like policing in America is not a problem in urban communities, where they are adapting more of the “broken windows” way of policing instead of adapting “community policing” methods. I’m also tired of people saying, “well don’t call the police when you in trouble.” My tax paying dollars ensures that one gets paid in the first place, so they are obligated to perform their jobs with integrity, transparency and without racial biases. We pay police officers, to serve the public, so when I hear that nonsense I think one is being willfully ignorant, and a police apologists and it’s embarrassing.
I wonder if Spike Lee knew that Radio Raheem, would be one of the most important characters in Do The Right Thing. Sure, Radio Raheem didn’t have a lot of dialogue in the movie (even though that scene where he interacted with the Korean clerk was hilarious), but the symbolism was all that was needed to keep Radio Raheem immortal in the world of police brutality in America. Rest in peace Bill Nunn the character he brought to the screen will be forever immortal and some of us will continue to keep blaring “Fight The Power” like Radio Raheem would want us to do in the face of police brutality in America.
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