Monday, January 18, 2010

#115. The Martin Luther King Jr. Brand

We at SBPDL are walking on egg shells as we wish you all a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! By mentioning the saint’s very name, do we incur the wrath of his progeny bent on squeezing every scintilla of profit from their fathers name?:

“For a man who preached unity and brotherhood, and so eloquently spoke about a dream that his children might grow up to be judged by the "content of their character", Martin Luther King appears to have enjoyed remarkably little success teaching those noble virtues to his own nearest and dearest.

The offspring of the late civil rights leader, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the struggle against racial segregation, are embroiled in an ugly dispute over plans for a Steven Spielberg film celebrating his life, times and legacy as a modern American icon.

In the 1990s, they successfully sued USA Today and CBS for publishing and broadcasting the "I Have a Dream" speech without paying for it, in what became a test case. In 1997, the estate signed a multimedia publishing deal with Time Warner, which was reportedly worth between $30m (£19m) and $50m.

Scholars have since accused King's family of denying them access to important research materials. Yet the estate nonetheless recently saw fit to sell rights to use the "I Have a Dream" speech in television advertisements, and have attempted to sell King memorabilia to private bidders via auction.

Last year, a further scandal erupted after it emerged that Dexter King had insisted on a payment of more than $800,000 being made for the use of his father's image and writings on a planned national memorial to Martin Luther King in Washington.”

Thus, we at SBPDL are fearful of any illegal intrusion into the copy-right protected pabulum of one Martin Luther King (MLK) and the wrath we could invite by daring offend the caretakers of the incredibly lucrative brand of MLK:

“The family is protective of how King is depicted, and Farris said any items that are inconsistent with his uncle's message and image would not be approved.

Any proceeds from King-Obama merchandise would also go to the King Center, said Farris, a member of the estate management team that reviews intellectual property issues.

The family, which refuses to divulge details of its licensing deals, is also discussing how to go after violators.

King's estate sued CBS over its sale of a video documentary that used excerpts of his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. An appeals court ruled in 1999 that the speech was covered by copyright and was not public domain, but the estate ultimately settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

"They are probably one of the most careful, concerned and on-top-of-it groups of image protectors I've ever met," said Philippa Loengard, assistant director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia University.”

The Brand of MLK is one dependent on keeping positive images of the Martin Luther King alive and resonating with the general public. The enduring myth of MLK is perpetuated by a chorus of Disingenuous white liberal’s and Crusading White Pedagogues who see in him the embodiment of hope manifested in shroud of sainthood.

By invoking his word from the “I have a Dream” speech, these white people believe themselves honorary Black people in the struggle to defeat racism once and for all with the powerful weapons of morality and merit.

Black people, sadly, have no use for either of these white groups, except for the enabling of the “This is a Black world” that we all live.

None of this would be possible without MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech, one which can’t be distributed without paying tribute to the King Family, for MLK copyrighted the speech. Indeed, the King Family has sued USA Today for daring to publish this famous address. The speech doesn’t belong to the public, for how else would the King Family make a living without the MLK Brand perpetually bringing in royalties for them to live off of like the Hugh Grant character from “About a Boy”?

The MLK Brand is proof that the dream of “money growing on trees” has come true, for the in the case of the King Family they see this reality daily. Take for instance the $32 million the city of Atlanta paid for the entire MLK Papers collection from Morehouse College. The King Family found a way to profit handsomely off of one –sell instead of an auction for all the goods that would have proven much less profitable for them:

Organizers of a civil and human rights museum planned for Atlanta said Wednesday that they are poised to pay $11.5 million left on a loan so they can acquire the rights to 10,000 documents belonging to Martin Luther King Jr.

“In June 2006, Atlanta's mayor led an 11th-hour coup to buy the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection for $32 million only days before its planned public auction at Sotheby's in New York. Organizers had pledged to pay off the loan in two years but had struggled in the economic downturn to raise donations.”

These papers were valued at half the amount the city of Atlanta paid for them, yet the MLK Brand continues to provoke a mythology that oozes green.

Bertrand Russell has something interesting to tell us regarding myths, though:

“There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths.”

White people who cling to the myth of the MLK Brand do so for reasons that they deem honorable, as they yearn to be exonerated from the perceived historical stain of racism. By wearing the MLK Brand like the Nike Swoosh, these white people strive to show they truly believe in the halcyon words of the “I have a Dream” speech, never stopping to consider that Black people will never consider concession made by white people worthy of a full-pardon from their racist past.

Not even the election of Mein Obama fulfilled the MLK Brand and finally brought to life “The Dream”, for it must constantly be an unreachable and unfulfilled dream to ensure the King Family profits handsomely:

“The Dream is a continuing vision. It is not just a dream for black people but for all people who want to live in a society with peace, justice and equality. A dream that was started by Chrispus Attucks, a dream set in stone in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, a dream that many before King, like WEB DuBois, John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Langston Hughes fought for before him and one that many others fought after his death. Obama not only is keeping that dream alive but he is inspiring millions more to do the same.”

Like the Nike Swoosh, the MLK Brand hides some uncomfortable truths behind its shiny edifice. Though 3rd world children don’t sow its clothes, the MLK Brand does mask uncomfortable veracity about Black people in 2010 that some would deem hate facts.


Given the state of black America, it is hard to quarrel with that analysis. Blacks are 13 percent of the population, yet black men account for 49 percent of America’s murder victims and 41 percent of the prison population. The teen birth rate for blacks is 63 per 1,000, more than double the rate for whites. In 2005, black families had the lowest median income of any ethnic group measured by the Census, making only 61 percent of the median income of white families.

Most troubling is a recent study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which concluded that the rate at which blacks born into the middle class in the 1960s backslid into poverty or near-poverty (45 percent) was three times that of whites—suggesting that the advances of even some of the most successful cohorts of black America remain tenuous at best. Another Pew survey, released last November, found that blacks were “less upbeat about the state of black progress now than at any time since 1983.”

Or, consult the CDC for more information about Black people in 2010. Well, just read through our archives...

It has been more than 42 years since MLK was killed in Memphis, and yet one wonders what MLK would say about Black people in 2010? Thankfully, Aaron McGruder showed us:


King then goes on to ask: "Is this it? This is what I got all those ass-whoopings for?" He continues to refer to the audience repeatedly as "niggas" out of apparent frustration that the current generation of black people have willfully assumed the negative racial stereotypes associated with them. He goes on a tirade, attacking specific elements of black popular culture such as Black Entertainment Television, Michael Jackson, and Soul Plane. King concludes his speech by saying, "I've seen what's around the corner, I've seen what's over the horizon, and I promise you, you niggas have nothing to celebrate! And no, I won't get there with you. I'm going to Canada."

Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes the Martin Luther King Jr. Brand, for the myth behind MLK might be a cash cow for his family, but it hides a sad reality of the purported saint that can’t be kept quiet forever. In the end, those who can see will realize, like Russell, that the comfortable myths behind the MLK Brand were promulgated by feeble beings and absorbed by contemptible minds. When that day comes is still a mystery, but it will come.

Though lucrative for his family, the MLK Brand is built upon a foundation of lies. No amount of dreams and wishful thinking can deny this.

Black people know this fact about the MLK Brand, just like those who wear Nike clothing do so with knowledge it was knit by 3rd world laborers earning 10 cents an hour.

Pre-Obama America was supplanted thanks in large part to the MLK Brand's Universalist principles and appeal, though, which tells you a lot about the gullibility of people.


Anonymous said...


I'm not a big fan of Dr. King. He was nothing more than a figure head for the white "liberal" elite class. Despite all of the revisionist history expressed in schools and this site most educated people know that this man was despised by a majority of whites in this country. Their hatred reached its apex once he dared speak out against the war in Vietnam and poverty on a national level, primarily the extreme poverty faced by southern whites. A government created ghetto in New York is no different than government created system of Jim Crow.

The two videos were great!

-Black guy

Phalluster said...

The Boondocks is a splendid show; I own both seasons and am eager for the third.

MLK is the anti-Columbus. I suspect their pedestalization is a zero-sum affair.

Anonymous said...


I agree with you 100%. The Boondocks is a great show. I really like how Aaron McCruder is part of growing legion of black Americans that didn't drink the Barry Kool-aid(no pun intended). He like many of us knew all along that Barry is not a black man. He is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing.

-Black guy

Phalluster said...

Black guy,

Your analogy would work better as a sheep in wolf's clothing.

Regarding your growing legion, I consulted the polls and found black approval of Obama still above the 90% threshold - more than double that of whites.