Tag Archives: Civil Rights

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


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.




“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




“…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useful public cause, or utterly depressed that traditional meeting places like libraries and local sandwich shops have been replaced by a corporate behemoths like McDonald’s and Starbucks.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“)


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?

The History of the African-American Funeral Director and the Fight for Civil Rights and Racial Intregration

“To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors & the African American Way of Death” is not merely a book about the history of death.

It is much more.

It is a history of African-American entrepreneurship.

At its core, “To Serve the Living” is about African-American funeral directors.

They were pioneering entrepreneurs in a largely segregated trade, economically independent and not beholden to the local white power structure.

More importantly, their financial freedom gave them the ability to support the struggle for civil rights and to serve the living as well as bury the dead.

“These entrepreneurs had both the financial resources and the prestige as leaders of their respetive communities to stand at the forefront of the formative campaigns for civil rights…”

The financial and political clout of African-American funeral directors provided them with a stature that could coalesce the community on points of relevance ranging from voter registration to community empowerment. This is a testament to their resilience, fortitude and pioneering spirit in times when such qualities in African-Americans were challenged and often times resulted in bodily harm or death.

In a September 2011 C-Span interview, the book’s author Dr. Suzanne E. Smith points out the impact, viability and prominence of the African-American funeral director, from antebellum slavery to today

“…[P]rimarily, barber shops, beauty shops and funeral homes have remained largely segregated…[F]or the most part there is a loyalty in the African-American community to the African-American funeral director.”

Click here for the C-Span interview