This fellowship will assist students at the three historically Black colleges and universities, Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University, which comprise the Atlanta University Center Consortium.
Lee expressed his tremendous admiration for the HBCU experience in an interview he gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution back in 2012.
“Being taught by African American faculty, people really took a deep interest in educating and one of the things I learned at an early age was the importance of education,” said the prideful “Morehouse Man,” according to Essence.
After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from Clark College and completing several classes at Spelman College, Lee (Class of ’79) has decided that his life’s work will consist of helping others achieve their educational potential.
“It is with great honor, privilege, and excitement to announce the Spike Fellows in association with my partners The Gersh Agency and the AUCC. From the jump, from the get-go, I knew when (not if) I opened a crack in the door, I was bringing as many Black and brown folks with me in front and behind the camera,” Lee said in a news release on Thursday.
Lee has been a constant advocate for the development of minority educational institutions and has championed the significance of HBCUs on and off the screen. The importance of historically Black colleges and universities to him stems from the fact that he comes from a long line of alums.
“I know firsthand the education one receives at a Historically Black College and University,” Lee noted. “I am who I am because of my grandmother [Zimmie Jackson] and my mother [Jacquelyn Shelton Lee], who both graduated from Spelman College. I am who I am because of my grandfather [Richard Jackson Shelton] and my father [William Lee], who both graduated from Morehouse. It’s on the campuses of Spelman and Morehouse where they met, fell in love and got married. As my elders often told me, ‘Deeds not words.’”
Gersh, much like Lee, has a history of getting behind social causes, both as a company and on behalf of its clients.
“As industry leaders, we’ve always taken seriously the responsibility to build a more diverse, dynamic ecosystem in which people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences can thrive,” Gersh Senior Managing Partner Leslie Siebert said in the statement.
“We are honored that Spike has chosen us to be his inaugural partner, and we are proud to welcome the five inaugural Spike Fellows into our organization,” Siebert continued.
The Spike Fellows Program is founded on the idea that possibilities will arise as a result of visibility and accessibility. Five AUCC graduates will make up the first class of Spike Fellows. Gersh will provide school debt remission, industry mentorship, postgraduate internships and full-time employment for this group.
Gersh’s Head of Culture, Jayson Council, will oversee the Fellowship program.
“I joined Gersh to lead the charge in identifying powerful opportunities and signature moments to advance cultural competence and accelerate social impact,” Council shared. “As an HBCU graduate, I am extremely proud of Gersh and Spike for their commitment to growing opportunities for AUCC graduates.”
A panel composed of Spike Lee, the AUCC community, and Gersh management will choose the five fellows for the program, which will launch in January 2023. The program will be expanded in the future with more funding and fellows as Lee and Gersh have committed to a multi-year commitment.