Friday, March 22, 2013

Cashing In On King

Proverbs 13:22

A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children:

An inheritance is often thought of as monetary, or material possessions. But when put in context it means much more. An inheritance can also be a legacy passed on from one generation to the next. An example of accomplishment, and successful endeavors in which ones descendants can take pride in. Character can also be a part of that inherited legacy, setting a standard to be cherished, honored, and followed. Unfortunately the descendants of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have not chosen to use their inheritance wisely.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge advocate for public charity, and was once quoted as saying, "Every person must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." As eloquent, and as well spoken as always, Dr. King's philosophy on life could not have been more apparent. His words echo the conscience of a man who is an advocate for selfless public service. Unfortunately his offspring have not chosen to live their lives as a reflection of their fathers credo.

I have often heard stories about Dr. Kings children. The narrative was always one in which his greedy, selfish, and ungrateful sons and daughters were selling their fathers likeness, speeches, and in essence his dream for a profit. For a long time I have declined to judge them because, after all, he is their father, and no matter how much he means to the world, he undoubtedly means much more to them. But as I began to do the research for this story the facts began to convince me that their intentions were less than admirable.

In their latest attempt to cash in on their fathers legacy the King children have sunk to a new low. This past week it was revealed that they had been paid more than $800,000 by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation for the use of King's image and words on the planned King memorial on the Washington's Mall.
I am sure that Dr. King would be proud of the fact that his children demanded money in exchange for his name. As if a price could be put on his contribution to all man kind. He has probably already turned over in his grave multiple times.

For many years, the family has insisted that although Dr. King may have been called the nation's prophet, as far as they are concerned, his image is for their profit. Of course, it is the profits, and not the prophet himself, that has led them regularly to court to fight over royalties and control.
Given the fact that they lost their father at such a young age, I understand the desire to keep his memory to themselves. But in an attempt to do so, they are branding Dr. King as a product for sale to the highest bidder.

The surviving children of Dr. King have been feuding in court since July, when daughter Bernice and son Martin Luther King III filed a lawsuit against their brother, Dexter, chief executive of the family corporation, King Inc., accusing him of misusing funds. He countersued, saying they had interfered with the goals of the King Center. The siblings' most recent battle involved a $1.4 million book deal with New York publisher Penguin Group for a ghostwritten memoir of Coretta Scott King. Dexter King went to court to force his siblings to turn over photographs and personal papers for the project. The siblings refused, saying that their mother had decided before her death that she no longer wanted author Barbara Reynolds to do the book.

During the 1990s, the King children sued USA Today for publishing, and CBS for broadcasting their father's "I Have a Dream" speech without payment and they won. In 1999, a federal appeals court ruled that the speech could be claimed as property because the family refused to release it into the public domain. CNN had to buy the rights to broadcast the speech to the nation. How sad is that?

"Nobody has the monopoly on Martin and Coretta Scott King," Bernice King told the Associated Press in an interview. "This is ours, and it should be governed that way." When she says "ours," she is not referring to the nation. Indeed, the only thing the three living King offspring seem able to agree on is that anyone wanting to further their father's legacy should pay for the privilege. To refer to her parents memory as "this", is a sign of objectification, dishonor, and indifference to say the least.

In 1997, the Kings signed a multimedia publishing deal with Time Warner reportedly worth $30 million to $50 million. Although often criticized by scholars for limiting access to King material, the family sold the right to use the "I Have a Dream" speech in commercials for the electronics companies Alcatel and Cingular. They also sought to sell King documents to private bidders in an auction. Philanthropists quickly acted to buy the historical material to prevent its loss.

Nothing is too small for the family to ignore. Isaac Newton Farris, King's nephew and chief executive officer of the King Center in Atlanta, demanded payments for images showing President Obama and King on the same T-shirts. "We're not trying to stop anybody from legitimately supporting themselves," Farris said. "But we cannot allow our brand to be abused." It is hard to imagine King himself demanding payment from someone who wanted to put his image alongside that of the nation's first African American president.

"Brand ?!" Hellman's is a brand, Fruit of The Loom is a brand. Pepsi is a brand. But the greatest civil right leader of all time is not a brand to be exploited by ungrateful opportunist's who do not have an ounce of character.

When Dr. Kings delivered his iconic "I Have A Dream", speech he said,

"I have a dream that my four 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."

Unfortunately the fruition of the dream is bitter sweet. Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice King are indeed being judged by the content of their character. But if those contents were to be packaged, branded, and sold the same in which their fathers legacy has been, the label would read,

Caution: may cause disdain, irritation, and extreme disappointment.


SIde Bar:
I wonder if they plan on going to each and every church and funeral home in the Black community to request a royalty for those white cardboard fans with Dr. Kings picture on it. In just saying......

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