So annually the nation decides to celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior (well everywhere except Utah where it's also Human Rights Day) but you get the idea. I was unfortunately under the weather for this year's MLK celebration at U of M so I didn't see much besides a doctor... who wasn't Dr. King. Despite my sickness, I thought about 2005 when I did a poem for an open mic that SMES-G (Society for Minority Engineering Students- Graduate Component)held to honor Dr. King's legacy. The poem is really long and is linked here. I may even podcast it, if I decide to explore that technology. I rarely do spoken word stuff anymore, so it was a nice release for some of my creative side (as if writing a dissertation isn't creative ;)
On Sunday night, the Boondocks had a fresh episode called Return of the King. The plot essentially has Dr. King returning to the current day after being awoken from a coma. In my opinion it was masterfully done for 4 reasons.
1) I think McGruder and company really captured the tensions between the commodification of MLK and his dream and the contemporary political environment. He would quickly be lambasted as un-American and touted onto ever political talk show to get insulted perpetually. The catch line of "I really should have had approval over this ..." is hilarious for two reasons to me. The image of Dr. King has two extremes, one which is completely over used and misused without consideration and the virtual death grip that a few individuals/organizations hold on texts and audio rights to Martin's speeches. Either way, I'm sure he would be completely disappointed by the current state of his archival legacy.
2) Uncle Rukus' contempt for MLK and civil rights. It's easy to forget that not all Black folks believed in the CRM. Besides reading, I also asked my grandfather about this a couple of years ago (he was in Selma at the time of the modern CRM) and he verified fear of change and the fear of loss were powerful polarizers in the community.
3)The potential role of the media in social movement formation. Cuba Gooding Jr. as MLK, Spike Lee pissed he didn't get tapped to direct the bio pic... accurate. The "urban" promotions firm that was hired, was right on point. That's all I got to say about that.
4) King's speech at the end of the episode. So this obviously the most controversial part to many. But I think it all hatches back to McGruder's Diabolical Plot. The N-word is likely here to stay. It's hard to reckon with, but McGruder did a great job of King using it to grab attention, to define, and collapse it in the same moment. A number of folks have commented that they didn't think Black folks would react that way to the speech. My response: Hell, this episode was based on a dream. Can we continue suspension of disbelief till the end of the darn episode?
My only beef ... why did Martin Luther King look so much like Ward Connerly?
Overall, I thought the episode should have elicited a range of emotions, which I believe it did. I really am glad to see that the Boondocks has "come around." I'm still trying to remember if Boondocks was originally slated for a 10 episode season or a 15 episode season. I would be overjoyed it were designed for 10 episodes, that way we would have closed season one on this high note, well a boy can dream, can't he?
Here at U of M, Michael Eric Dyson was the speaker at the Ross School of Business. 1) I didn't really care to see him speak, seen him before, not thinking I'm going to be amazed. 2) He spoke at the B school... are you serious? 3) I know he got PAID for speaking there on MLK day - take em' to the cleaners! Here is a webcast of it if you wanted to check it.
And only because I think they should be mentioned, here are two pieces that should get you thinking about the current state of Michigan and King's Legacy. First, an article from the Metrotimes (yeah I know, that's the paper you look at for concerts, not social commentary) and then a piece by Brian Dickerson which is a blueprint... for failure.
Oh, and guest contributors are on the way... be on the look out.