When one thinks about Martin Luther King, Jr., there are many of qualities and contributions that come to mind: civil rights activist, God-fearing, revolutionary, a symbol of peace.
But there’s a disconnect that exists with the younger generation on the significance of his work. A flier has created controversy with the image of King on a man’s body with a gold chain holding the “westside” gang symbol with the title “Freedom 2 Twerk: Martin Luther King Day Weekend Party.”
The party was said to be held on Jan. 18 at the Social Network Banquet and Event Center in Flint, Mich. Vic McEwen, owner of the venue, was unaware of the intention of using Dr. King’s image as promotion and promptly cancelled the event, but the damage has been done. In an article for MLive, he stated how all promotional materials that have his business’ name are to be approved prior to distribution. Since the Mid-Michigan Teen Parties didn’t get his consent, he was able to cancel the event immediately.
The Mid-Michigan Teen Parties have yet to respond and couldn’t be reached for a comment.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that King’s image has been manipulated for the use of club fliers or that the holiday has been misinterpreted as a day of recreation instead of community involvement and reflection. In 2012, a Miami strip club used his image to promote their “I Have A Dream Bash” with half-naked women. Other fliers included the “4th Annual Chocolate Affair” and “Bopping for Peace.”
EMU student Ali Kangas voiced her thoughts about the flier being an abuse of advertising.
“I think that this is poor marketing on their part and politically incorrect for that matter,” Kangas said. “Also it’s an abuse of advertising. Why this was a good idea to anybody is beyond me. Twerking has absolutely nothing to do with MLK and absolutely everything to do with Miley Cyrus. Just saying.”
People within the African-American community voiced their disgust and disappointment for the lack of respect and blatant ignorance towards such a beloved figure as King. To many, these forms of display are a slap in the face to the individuals who sacrificed and fought for the future generations.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ignited with criticism towards the flier with discussions and towards McEwen with angry phone calls. Brittany Wright, a Columbia College Chicago student, believes that the purpose of the anniversary should not be used as a ploy for club promotions and inappropriate behavior.
“Year after year, we have seen people come together to celebrate events in history in which they know nothing about and continue to maintain clueless about,” Wright said. “When these anniversaries roll around they should serve as a moment to reflect and gauge how far we have really come. Why people get red, white and blue hair and nails for the Fourth of July baffles me, and so does this flier. I’m almost more concerned as to why they’re having a twerk party on this day instead of having a vigil or some sort of call to action.”
Bernice King, daughter of the slain civil rights activist, responded to the controversy during a segment with Fox 5 Atlanta reporter Deidra Dukes about the lack of consideration towards her father’s legacy.
“I feel like we have failed to reach these groups. This imagery thing is just appalling, and it’s almost embarrassing. For me, as his daughter, it’s like wow,” Dr. King’s daughter said. “I lost a father who sacrificed everything for them to live a much more dignified and respectful life, and for it to come to this makes me sad.”
What confused her the most is their reason to attach his image to events and behavior that he would never condone.
“My father would have worked to elevate them, to connect with them and bring them into the movement,” she said.
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