Michael Jackson would have been 60 years old this Wednesday, and as has become custom in Bed-Stuy (for the past eight summers, anyway), Spike Lee threw a massive birthday block party for the beloved King of Pop. The setting was Do The Right Thing Way–Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington and Quincy, where Lee filmed much of his seminal film, and still the only street in town named after a movie or any other work art–and on a glorious afternoon the neighborhood came out in force for the occasion.
Brooklyn’s own DJ Spinna manned the turntables, playing hours of MJ classics and keeping the huge crowd dancing and joyously singing along. Lee spent long stretches on the runway-shaped stage, handing out nutcrackers and cracking wise. Anthony Ramos, another Brooklyn native who played Lee’s first film character, Mars Blackmon, on the She’s Gotta Have It TV series, emceed the afternoon with humor and exuberance. And there were guests appearances up there, including BlackKKKlansman star John David Washington (he also handed out nutcrackers, though declined to partake himself); and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who (barely) busted a move to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”
There was plenty of great people-watching on the street as well, with loads of Michael Jackson impersonators of all ages and varying degrees of grace, the fashion-forward set stopping by on their way to the Afropunk Festival, Aretha Franklin tributes, and just the always-awesome NYC stoop-culture spectacle of neighbors being neighborly. One of the most powerful moments of the day came during “They Don’t Care About Us,” the whole block waving Pan-African, or Black Liberation, flags and shouting along to the defiant chorus. Lee promised that next year will be the biggest party yet, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Do the Right Thing (and MJ’s 61st birthday).