Joseph Abrams, FOX News, July 14, 2009
A billboard proclaiming that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican has stirred a religious and political hornets’ nest in Houston, where a church leader is trying to draw black voters into the Republican Party.
The jumbo-sized roadside ad made its contentious claim for about a week–until a local black activist charged that the sign unjustly politicized King’s legacy and was hurting his community by telling a “blatant lie.”
“Martin Luther King may have very well believed in some of the Christian principles of the Republican Party, but Dr. Martin Luther King was not a Republican or a Democrat,” said Quanell X, who heads the New Black Panther Party in Houston.
“Dr. King was bigger than a political party–he was a humanitarian, and so to attach him exclusively to any party is to devalue his humanitarian global status,” he said. “We were insulted . . . by the billboard because it was a blatant lie.”
But the founder of RagingElephants.org, the black conservative group that sponsored the sign, told FOXNews.com that the sign was designed to get blacks to rethink their political affiliation. . . .
What’s more, he said, the sign is accurate.
Kimau-Imani told FOXNews.com that King’s niece, the Rev. Alveda King, has long argued that her uncle was a Republican, though he acknowledged there was no documentation or voting record to prove it.
Those claims enraged Quanell X, who held a press conference late last week to rally against the sign and ended up in a shouting match over the legacy of the murdered civil rights icon.
The billboard, which Kamau-Imani says cost $3,000 to display for a month, came down shortly after Friday’s press conference–about 20 days ahead of schedule, a move Kamau-Imani attributed to the “spineless” response of the billboard company, SignAd.
“The simple fact is that the leader of the Black Panther Party here in Houston called a news conference and they spooked,” he said.
Quanell X told FOXNews.com he was pleased that he had succeeded in getting the billboard removed. He added that King would never have embraced the present-day GOP, which he said had “racist elements.”
What went little noticed in the fray was the subtext on the billboard, which said that the Raging Elephants are committed to “leading America’s 2nd emancipation.”
Kamau-Imani told FOXNews.com that black voters feel that “your blackness, your street cred is tied up with whether you are a Democrat or not”–a notion he said amounted to a kind of mental slavery that keeps blacks from speaking freely.
The president of the Houston branch of the NAACP said that the civil rights group does not wade into partisan politics, but seemed pleased that the sign had come down.
“The community has prevailed,” said Carol Galloway, president of the organization’s Houston branch.