Tag Archives: Civil Rights

He Left a Playbook to Deal With This

While the context was specific to achieving racial equality and not pandemic preparation, another high-profile individual left a detailed document on how to respond to a  crisis.

 

The individual was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the document is a book published in 1967, called “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community.”

 

Fifty plus years later, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” presents some hard truths and stark realities that remain relevant and demand our collective attention, perhaps even more so today. Its resonance, while centered on race relations and equality, has justice at its core.

As those of us in the fields of health sciences and healthcare seek to improve health equality and inclusivity, we only need look to Dr. King’s wisdom for insight and direction.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, the answers exist in what Dr. Leon McDougle, (National Medical Association (NMA) President and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and the Chief Diversity Officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center), refers to as the  “already structured forces in the (Black) community that can serve as the basis for building a powerful united front.” Specifically, Dr. McDougle was referencing: The (Black) church, The (Black) media, The (Black) Fraternities & Sororities and (Black) Professional Organizations.

Dr. King’s message is particularly instructive:

“We need organizations that are permeated with mutual trust, incorruptibility and militancy. Without this spirit we may have numbers but they will add up to zero. We need organizations that are responsible, efficient and alert. We lack experience because ours is a history of disorganization. But we will prevail because our need for progress is stronger than the ignorance forced upon us. If we realize how indispensable is responsible militant organization to our struggle, we will create it as we managed to create underground railroads, protest groups, self-help societies and the churches that have always been our refuge, our source of hope and our source of action.” –  (King, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, pp 169 – 170)

The “source of hope and our source of action” that Dr. King referenced is precisely my guiding north star.  We must build and foster relationships with organizations, institutions and individuals who are prominent and trusted in the community.

The objective is simple – to illustrate and demonstrate how science can save lives…specifically Black and Brown lives. In order to accomplish this, we must be active and visible participants in remedies and clinical trials that will produce cures and solutions. We are resilient and strong and realize that, while it is a part of the solution, science alone will not save us.  It is important that we rely on ourselves.

Research has proven that people who are able to exert some control over their lives fare better and experience a better quality of life. The challenge is to strengthen our self-reliance and channel it in ways that help us better cope and survive.

COVID-19 is the latest and most prominent disease disproportionately devastating people of color and under-served communities; but that is only one disease in a longer list including HIV, Heart Disease, Diabetes and a host of other maladies.

So, when your pastor, sorority sister, fraternity brother or that individual you respect talks to you about science, clinical trials and how we have to organize the power in our community to save lives, Listen. Ask questions. Become engaged. Get informed. Most importantly, do not ignore Dr. King’s playbook.  Our lives depend upon it.

 

The Intimacy Between McDonald’s and the African-American Community

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There is an intimacy that exists between the African-American Community and McDonald’s that is quite remarkable and noteworthy.

It is a relationship that, from a pure marketing perspective, is unprecedented and compelling.

While food is always central to the conversation, this conversation also includes community, heritage, cultural pride, accessibility, acceptance and optimism.

It isn’t captured in a commercial, though there were times when McDonald’s nailed the “essence of the special relationship” in that format.

It is an unspoken “nod” that says,

“We’re a part of your family…your community – we’ve always been in your community – and like any good friend, we’re always here for you”.

Yes, there is a special intimacy that this brand has with African-Americans (and Latinos) that is bigger than the products it sells.

Authentic is always “in”…especially in times of crisis.

 

From the Rodney King riots in 1992 to the upheaval and unrest in Ferguson today, McDonald’s proves that it does more than sell good food.

 

 

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“In the wasted landscape of South Central LA, everything had been destroyed. Everything except for five buildings. In the post-apocalyptic aftermath, surrounded by smoldering ruins and debris, there were five buildings which had been untouched. Not a broken window. Not a slash of spray paint.  All flooded in their usual operable fluoro lights.

These five buildings all had one thing in common. They were all McDonalds.”

‘When the smoke cleared after the mobs burned through South Central Los Angeles in April, hundreds of businesses, many of them black owned, had been destroyed. Yet not a single McDonald’s restaurant had been torched.’

Click here to read Chuck Ebeling’s full blog post, Rodney King Death Today Reminds of a Positive Lesson From LA Riots

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“…McDonald’s, typically framed with large windows, also serves as an ideal safe zone amid heavy-handed police crackdowns, said Mitchell.

“It’s a fairly comfortable place, it’s a place they’re familiar with, lots of people go there and, in a different way, it’s a place that’s easily surveyed,” he said. “It’s a safe place, it’s so much in the public eye.”

It’s a little hard to tell whether we should be glad that McDonald’s is serving a useful public cause, or utterly depressed that traditional meeting places like libraries and local sandwich shops have been replaced by a corporate behemoths like McDonald’s and Starbucks.

(Click here to read the full HuffPost article, “How One McDonald’s Became The Epicenter Of The Ferguson Conflict“)

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In full disclosure, I am a McDonald’s supplier.

I have worked for McDonald’s local Co-Ops specializing in the areas of African-American and Ethnic Marketing.  The experience has afforded me the opportunity to view the brand up close and personal for thirty uninterrupted years. At the core of what differentiates McDonald’s is the Owner/Operator – men and women who do more than sell food. In many instances, they are active and visible participants in the communities where they do business.  They act as parents, advisers, counselors and active supporters of their communities.

 

 

 

Portrait of Nina

140811_r25323a-690As a child, my mother introduced me to the music (and politics) of Nina Simone.  It took me years to fully appreciate Simone’s gifts and message.  A contemporary of Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin and Harry Belafonte, “her intelligence and restless force attracted African-American culture’s finest minds.” Simone was was one of the true pioneering voices of the Civil Rights movement. She changed the face of both music and race relations in America.

“Her skin was very black, and she was made fully aware of that, along with the fact that her nose was too large. The aesthetics of race—and the loathing and self-loathing inflicted on those who vary from accepted standards of beauty—is one of the most pervasive aspects of racism, yet it is not often discussed. The standards have been enforced by blacks as well as by whites.”

Click here to read the full New Yorker article, A Raised Voice, How Nina Simone Turned the Movement Into Music.

Photo: Courtesy New York Public Library

To learn more about Simone, start by reading I Put A Spell On You, The Autobiography of Nina Simone and listening to The Essential Nina Simone

This was NOT his dream…

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an American icon and the father of the Civil Rights Movement.
His efforts led to the 1963 March On Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

Crass commercialization of Dr. King’s birthday insults what he fought and stood for.

Those of us who understand and appreciate that America has made countless strides, also realize that his dream has yet to be realized.

Shame on Parx Casino for creating what has to be one of the most disrespectfully offensive campaigns and television spots.

MLK "Sell-a-bration"

I had a conversation with a fellow advertiser and we veered into a discussion about the appropriateness of using the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National holiday as a catalyst for a sale or special.
Given the issues of equality that the civil rights icon fought, and ultimately died for, I am of the opinion that it is not only inappropriate, but offensive and crass.
While there is a prevalent belief among some that we now live in a “post-racial” society, nothing could be further from the truth.
In some respect, that is why I am opposed to using Dr. King’s name and or likeness as a convenient means of creating a sales or retail event.
This hasn’t prevented retailers, to varying degrees, like Sears, local car dealers or a surf shop in Laguna Beach from creating MLK “Sell-a-brations.”
This special holiday has also become an opportunity for satire.
Another friend commented when I asked her what she thought, “It has become a retail holiday, especially when big brands like Sears participate in the process.”
That may be true, but does that make it right?