Spike Lee has met controversy recently because of the name of his upcoming film on violence in Chicago, Chiraq.
However, on Friday the 58-year-old director had a warm reception from citizens as he was joined by the film’s stars John Cusack, 48, and Jennifer Hudson, 33, for the annual end of the school year peace march of St. Sabina Church.
The actors addressed the crowd, urging for peace in the city ahead of the march, where they also filmed scenes for the upcoming picture.
Showing support: John Cusack and Jennifer Hudson joined the annual end of the school year peace march of St. Sabina Church on Friday to show their support and to film scenes for upcoming film Chiraq
The Chicago Sun Times reported that Chicago native Jennifer – whose mother, brother, and nephew were murdered in 2008 – was teary-eyed as she addressed the crowd, pleading: ‘Y’all, we gotta stop the killing.’
She continued: ‘We gotta stop. We gotta stop. I’m out here with my Chicagoans. We gotta stand for peace.’
John – also a Chicago native – then addressed the crowd, calling all of the event’s attendees prophets for working towards peace.
Prophets: Chicago native John addressed the crowd, saying the attendees were all prophets because a prophet is ‘someone who tells the truth, walks the walk, and pays up’
He spoke from a podium which was embellished with a bright orange sign which read, in bold lettering: ‘Chicago’s PEACE is our Selma!’
‘A Jesuit priest once said a prophet is someone who tells the truth, walks the walk, and pays up,’ he said.
‘So everybody here, by that definition, is a prophet. The police are prophets. Everybody wants peace, and this city … has paid the cost.’
Hoping for change: John and Jennifer were spotted chatting with Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, an activist and Pastor in Chicago, as they donned ‘Chicago’s peace is our Selma!’ T-shirts for the march
John and Jennifer sported white and blue T-shirts displaying their messages of peace during the march, which the latter partly covered with a stylish denim button down.
The pair also held onto a purple banner as they walked, which read: ‘#stoptheviolence WE CAN DO THIS!’ along with a peace sign and the name of the pastor of the Faith Community of Saint Sabrina, Rev. Michael L. Pfleger.
John and Jennifer were also seen chatting with the Pastor at the peace rally, as well as citizens of Chicago.
Activists: (L to R) Rev. Pfleger, Spike Lee, John, and Jennifer were spotted looking somber at the march, at which Jennifer addressed the crowd in a teary-eyed speech, saying: ‘Y’all, we gotta stop the killing’
The Say Anything star also took to Instagram to share a series of snaps from the event, writing of one photo: ‘Peace rally chiraq set- Chicago’
Lee has recently been met with criticism for the title of his star-studded film, Chiraq, which is a combination of the names of Chicago and violence-torn Iraq, and pronounced (shy-RAK’).
In a news conference on May 14 he defended the title of his film, explaining: ‘This is not a joke. This is not a game.’
‘This is real life and death and that’s the way we’re going to approach this,’ the Oscar nominated director continued.
‘We can do this’ The film’s stars were spotted marching alongside citizens of Chicago at the event, for which the Chicago Sun Times estimated ’500 or so’ appeared to join the cause
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is one such critic of the upcoming movie, saying he thought it unfair to the residents of the Englewood neighborhood where the film takes place. One member of the city council has pushed for the city to deny Lee’s company a multimillion dollar tax break for shooting the film unless he changes the title.
However, Rev. Pfleger supports the director, and hosted the news conference at his church. He said: ‘Nearly six a day are being shot in Chicago since January 1,’ adding: ‘Last night there were 14 shot in the city, three of them were fatal.’
Englewood is one of the most dangerous pockets of the city with 46 homicides last year in the police district which includes the neighborhood, according to police statistics.
John has also previously spoken out about being proud to star in the film, sharing that Lee told him ‘the only reason to do this film is to save lives,’ adding that he loved Chicago and ‘would never do anything to hurt it.’
Pfleger, who continues to support Lee and the use of ‘Chiraq,’ pointed to the ongoing violence as a reason why Lee should do the film.
‘Violence is real in America,’ he told the crowd, adding ‘We must face the reality.’
Chiraq also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Common, Angela Bassett, and Jeremy Piven, and is slated to hit theaters sometime in 2016.
Consoling the grieving: John and Jennifer chatted with citizens at the event, during which they also filmed scenes for Chiraq, due out in 2016