“I Have A Dream”…and it’s on sale for $11.99

Photo by Christian Catamo

It’s time to go grocery shopping at the Murray Homestead, so I found myself looking at the grocery store circulars that came in the mail to see where the bargains are.

I mean, the last time I bought a dozen eggs, it cost me close to $6, so I’m looking for coupons and other things that will cut a few bucks off my bill. The date for the circular says that these bargains begin on Sunday. My husband Chris will be watching the NFL Playoffs to scout the Philadelphia Eagles potential matchup, so I can go shopping while he’s otherwise occupied.

I was in a good mood. Fresh fruit and veggies+low prices always put me in a good mood.

But the fact that the circular had “Celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday” over the phrase “The World’s Greatest Sale” made me come real close to taking a shredder to the circular.

Why? Because using the birthday of a noted Civil Rights leader to market a 5lb bag of Mandarin oranges for $3.99 is just plain wrong.

While I understand that capitalism is America’s love language, it’s more than a little gauche’ to me that Madison Avenue is using the birthday of a man who died while trying to help striking sanitation workers get better pay and working conditions to sell everything from cars to car insurance, to club girlies shaking their behinds on a yacht.

Since former President Ronald Reagan begrudgingly signed into law the bill that made the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, the big fear for many people in the African American community was that this could happen.

For a long time, MLK Day avoided that. You saw lots and lots of church services. The MLK Day of Service here in Philly is one of the country’s biggest. There are lots of events like concerts, teach-ins, and calls to action designed to mobilize people to work toward the Beloved Community King envisioned, but that we have yet to achieve.

All of that stuff is stuff King could have gotten behind. Granted, he would have told the folks at the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change here in Philly that the King Day luncheon doesn’t have to run so long that it turns into the King Day Supper, but other than that, he probably would have been cool with most observances of the holiday.

But he wouldn’t have appreciated the Georgia Air Force’s ad for a MLK Day Skeet Shoot. Or, and this was my personal favorite, the FBI’s MLK Day commemorative Tweet.

(Now because we have reached a point in this country where soon you won’t be able to teach young people about MLK, I should explain that King was shot to death in Memphis and that the FBI was among the agencies that terrorized the civil rights leader during his lifetime. In fact, they tried to talk him into killing himself. Kinda wild, huh?)

I know that I’m powerless to stop Madison Avenue from trying to tie products to the King Holiday. But, I’m hoping that as you commemorate the holiday that you remember that the man was killed trying to force America to pay attention to the needs of the nation’s poor.

Honoring that sacrifice with a Coach handbag doesn’t have to happen.

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