All Articles Tagged "dr. martin luther king jr"
From The Club To The White House: What’s The Deal With How Everyone Uses Dr. King’s Image These Days?
While some of you will be celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day by performing service projects around your community or taking the day off as a silent protest for reparations for all the unpaid work and Jim Crow bulls**t our people have gone through, some of you will no doubt be at the American Legion Post for the MLK Weekend No Worries Bash in Florida.
That’s right, many folks across the country decided to pay tribute to one of the greatest figures in the history of the Civil Rights Movement by going to the club, including the MLK Weekend Blast-Off, which went down this past Saturday night in Auburn, Alabama. No word yet on what notable dignitaries might have descended on this fancy shindig, but according to the er…invitation, which featured the bust of the slain Civil Rights leader Photoshopped into a leather bomber and a neck full of enough bling that could make Nino Brown sit his five dollar a** down before King makes change (get it? Change? Martin Luther King Jr.? Ah, forget it…), Ciroc – or Coric (according to the backwards bottles on the flier) – probably was flowing and the ladies were admitted free all night.
While most would agree that putting Dr. King’s face on your club flier is not the best way of paying respect or homage (and odds are that the promoter is more concerned with cashing in on the very lucrative three-day weekend), truth of the matter is that people have been using, and in many instances misappropriating, King’s legacy for years to sell or market stuff. How could we forget the McDonalds’ “Candles” commercials from the ’80s? I’m sure obesity, high blood pressure and the McRib sandwich was not what he marched all them miles in Selma. And then there are his very own family members like Alveda King, niece of the late Dr. King, who has been using her uncle’s legacy to promote her anti-gay, anti-abortion agenda with her cohort Glenn Beck. She even went as far as to claim that the late Coretta Scott King, who said that Dr. King would have supported gay rights, didn’t have the authority to speak on Dr. King’s behalf because she was just related by marriage and not by DNA.
And then what about all those pictures I see of Dr. King Photoshopped sitting next to, hi-fiving and basically co-signing President Barack Obama on mugs, T-shirts and posters- My personal favorite is the very well-executed pencil drawing of a bust of Dr. King, with the caption “I have a dream,” positioned next to another pencil-drawn bust of President Obama, with the caption, “I am the dream.” That imagery is pretty bold and some would argue, pretty authentic, especially considering that today marks not only King’s national holiday, but the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president. To add to the symbolism, it has been reported that President Obama used a Bible, which belonged o Dr. King, to take his oath.
Unfortunately, Dr. King is no longer with us, so will never know how Dr. King would have reacted to the many ways in which his image has been appropriated. Perhaps he would embrace President Obama’s historic first and then second successful presidential run as the fulfillment, or at least extension, of his legacy. But as a passionate advocate for peace, racial equality, as well as social justice and human rights, Dr. King might not have felt as supportive of some of the Obama Administration’s policies that deal with education, the environment, the use of drones, illegal immigration and the black and poor, particularly black and poor communities. Again, there is no way of knowing for sure. For all we know, Dr. King might have changed positions later in life. However, if he was the same man as his legacy suggests, he might have been a vocal critic of the President. And that type of dissent don’t land your face on mugs and T-shirts, or in pencil drawings next to the country’s first black president. And I doubt very highly that President Obama would be using his Bible at the inauguration.
And while it is true that King was a man of respectability, he was also a man, who once performed a difficult behind-the-back back shot in a pool match with civil rights leader Al Raby in the slums of Chicago in 1966. Therefore, while a picture of Dr. King Photoshopped into a leather bomber with Mr. T chains, looking like an ’80s rap thug is certainly jarring, it is not entirely impossible to believe that he wouldn’t have embraced Hip-Hop/street aesthetic in some form. Based upon the legacy he left us with, I could totally see a modern-day King co-signing a few rappers and appearing in a few hip-hop videos. What better way to recruit the next generation of leaders into the movement for social justice than meeting them where they are at – and in many cases, when where they are at might just be at the club? Heck, even Maya Angelou did a song with Common – and he been calling women b***hes and h*es on and off for years.
But I guess we all have our own version of Dr. King’s legacy, which we like to remember and honor. My own Dr. King is birthed not just out of his dream of racial equality but of social justice, which inspired him to give these words against war in a speech, delivered at Riverside Church in April of 1967:
“My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”
Funny, that’s the King we never see a stamp, a party flier, a television commercial or a political platform of. That is what we probably should be offended by.
R&B singer Ne-Yo made headlines recently when he revealed that he turned down the chance to play Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because he didn’t want to gain 30 pounds. He may have passed on a career defining opportunity, but after his role in Red Tails, maybe not…
In the acting world, getting the chance to play someone famous in a biopic is sure to take a career to the next level, and these days, everybody is doing it. Usher has already spoken out about the high expectations he has for his upcoming role as Sugar Ray Leonard. He wants an Oscar. He’d be following in the footsteps of fellow entertainers and actors who have stepped into the shoes of iconic public figures and created a path towards podiums in doing so.
Denzel was robbed of an Oscar for his portrayal of slain civil rights activist Malcolm X in 1993. Denzel assumed the identity of the complex man with ease and grace. He spoke the way Malcolm spoke. He carried himself the way Malcolm did and he made people feel as passionately about the Nation of Islam as the leader did with his nuanced performance. Denzel thoroughly inhabited the role of Malcolm through his cadence, posture and every inflection to the point where it felt he was no longer acting. He became Malcolm Little turned unconventional hero. Denzel may not have won the Oscar for the biopic, but the universal praise for his performance should be a fitting consolation.
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Oscar Grant and Sean Bell are just two of the slain black men that the African American community has rallied around before Trayvon Martin became synonymous with the struggle of racism.
In each instance, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton used their presence to bring attention to the aforementioned plights. Some call these two race hustlers who only exist to have cameras in their faces. That seems to be the go to attack line when these two get ready to put someone on blast.
There is power when I say, “Don’t make me call the NAACP, Al and/or Jesse!” because some people just don’t want those kind of problems. Al and Jesse aren’t just bringing themselves; there are bringing the spotlight for people of color have gone missing or die before their time. They even motivate this current generation to join the fight. When these two start hustling to bring awareness, the media takes stock of what they’re saying—even if it is only momentary. And sometimes, momentary is all they need to fuel long-term momentum.
It took a month and President Obama publicly speaking about Trayvon’s death before he was afforded coverage in PEOPLE magazine and mainstream sites. Think about it. Some have already begun critiquing why there even needs to be such a national focus on Trayvon and why gun laws need to strengthened. Others have gone as far as claiming George Zimmerman has become a martyr to public opinion. In contrast, the death of Caylee Anthony prompted Caylee’s Law, and ironically, very few people complained about the rush judgment against the mother who was accused of killing her young daughter.
It should not be appropriate to question Trayvon’s character. Black boys and men are not the enemy of the state who should bear the brunt of stereotypes. I know wasn’t the only one who stood up to clap as Sharpton chastised the media for belaboring Trayvon’s indiscretions as though he was the culprit in his own death.
In the interest of full disclosure, I met Sharpton in 2008 at a church in Philadelphia. I’m quite sure he doesn’t remember being interviewed by a nervous young reporter. I stood before him in a bit of awe. I was jaded about him because he is not frozen in time like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. He has lived to make mistakes, much like Jesse. However, in that moment, it really hit me that if it had not been for his sacrifices and those of so many unsung heroes, my life would be so much different.
Trayvon’s death has exposed the underbelly of racism that was not hidden from view, but neither blatantly in our faces either. For some, the fourth wall has been broken down for a new generation to lay claim to a civil rights struggle which did not end in the 1960’s. We are not in a post racial society.
And, therein lies the rub. On the surface, the cultural landscape of 2012 seems different from a racially explosive 1964 if we were to measure the contrasts through a superficial spectrum. Blacks have amassed more wealth, degrees and prominence, but we’re still on unequal ground. We have borne great fruit from our labors, but the root of inequality is still as poisonous.
Trayvon’s death can’t be in vain or the cause du jour. He is arguably the Emmett Till of our generation. The dog whistles and criticisms that there’s been too much of a fuss validate why we need more of us on the front lines to push back. We need more ‘hustlers’.
Stephanie Guerilus is a writer and author. Follow her on Twitter at @qsteph.
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A man is set to be murdered, legally, by the State of Georgia tomorrow, September 21, at 7 p.m. That man’s name is Troy Davis, a man born in the same state as the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. only a few short months after the hatred, bigotry and injustice King spoke out against cut down our fearless leader in Memphis, TN. Davis now stands to lose his life courtesy of the same injustices King spoke about and we are all witness to this travesty.
Troy Anthony Davis stands accused of murdering a white off duty police officer in a Burger King parking lot in 1989. There is no physical evidence that links Davis to the crime. Seven of nine witnesses who testified during the original trial have recanted their story and have said that they were coerced by the police to implicate Davis in the murder. According to the Daily Mail, Davis and his lawyers argued that the racial composition of the jury and poor advocacy from his lawyers had affected his right to a fair trial.” Davis was convicted and sentenced to the death by lethal injection in August 1991.
A series of taped conversations with Jacqueline Kennedy have been released recently and many members of the public have been surprised to find that the former First Lady had great distaste for, of all people, Martin Luther King, Jr. But while folks are getting annoyed at the headlines, it’s worth examining why the future Jackie O. would feel such a way about the civil rights icon. It is always best to hear a back story before you judge.
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover informed President John F. Kennedy that Dr. King was trying to arrange some wild party while in DC for the March on Washington; On top of that, he also told Robert Kennedy that King said nasty things during JFK’s funeral. Considering Hoover’s many attempts to discredit Dr. King (and his probable hand in his assassination–just saying), one would be naive to assume, with all that we now know about the COINTELPRO mastermind, that these words were true. Would Mrs. Kennedy have suspected falsehoods? It’s not as likely. Hoover wiretapped King’s conversations between 1963 and 1966, citing a possible link between the activist and the Communist movement as his reason for doing so. Hence, his alleged inside scoop on the conversations and activities of Dr. King.
In the interviews, which have been made available by ABC, Kennedy is quoted as saying, “I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.” This was only a few months after JFK’s funeral; Bobby Kennedy claimed to have heard the wire taps on which King made jokes about the pallbearers almost dropping the coffin. He also allegedly quipped that the priest who conducted the service was drunk. Bobby shared this info with his sister-in-law.
Mrs. Kennedy, who was no stranger to infidelity allegations in her own marriage, also took offense to the idea that Dr. King was planning a sex party during his trip to Washington for the 1963 march: “(President Kennedy) told me of a tape that the FBI had of Martin Luther King when he was here for the freedom march. And he said this with no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy in the hotel, and everything.”
I voted for Barack Obama.
And, while I took the opportunity to help elect this country’s first black president (with hopes of something different), I am not a Democrat. Rather, I reside on the lonely island of black conservatives—judged and misunderstood. I believe Shelby Steele described it accurately in “The Loneliness of the Black Conservative”:
The liberal-conservative axis is a bit different for blacks than for Americans generally. Under his American identity a black Republican is conservative, but under his racial identity he may be quite liberal. Many black Republicans, for example, are intense supporters of preferential affirmative action and thus liberal in terms of their group identity. (Colin Powell is a case in point, as is Arthur Fletcher, a black Republican who helped President Nixon introduce America’s first racial preference in the famous “Philadelphia Plan.”) But the “new” black conservatives—the ones who have recently become so controversial—may even be liberal by their American identity but are definitely conservative by the terms of their group identity. It is their dissent from the explanation of black group authority that brings them the “black conservative” imprimatur. Without this dissent we may have a black Republican but not a “black conservative,” as the term has come to be used.
Nearly 85 percent of black Americans identify as Democrats, which I’ve always found to be quite interesting because most can’t tell you why. Without understanding, so many blindly give praise to a party that, in many ways, has enabled them to fail. Case in point, the dissolution of the black family is often blamed on welfare and how it was designed to benefit single mothers thus making marriage less attractive and unimportant. As a result, we currently have a 73 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate and more children with absentee fathers than any other racial group in America. All studies point to that as a negative and poverty speaks for itself. Welfare was a Democratic initiative.
By Ruth Manuel-Logan of BlackVoices
The niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd at a National Organization for Marriage rally last weekend in Atlanta. Dr. Alveda King (pictured) passionately addressed the issue of same-sex marriage, stating that it would lead to “extinction” and “genocide.”