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Rise Up

Here's How to Continue Martin Luther King's Legacy Better Than a Super Bowl Commercial

Using Dr. King’s inspiring words to sell trucks is pretty tasteless, but joining the renewed version of Dr. King’s own Poor People's Campaign is not.
Image via Wikimedia Commons

When Dodge aired its now-controversial “Built to Serve” commercial during Super Bowl LI, some viewers took offense to Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.’s unmistakable voice speaking over images of people helping one another across the barriers of race, gender, and age. Like the other multi-million dollar ads of the evening, the experience was cinematic, only this one interspersed King’s sermon with scenes of a Dodge Ram splashing through rivers, implying some kind of connection between service and buying a pick-up truck.


Though the notoriously protective MLK estate did, in fact, approve the ad, many, many people on the internet seemed to find using King’s inspiring words to sell trucks a bit tasteless. What's worse is that King actually spoke out against car advertisers in the same exact speech used in the commercial.

But to overcome the internet outrage cycle, it might be worth taking that anger and turning it into something positive, especially towards the organizations that tirelessly carry out the work and honor the words of Dr. King everyday.

The anger over Dodge's use of Dr. King's legacy in it's commercial is better channeled into fighting against racial inequality rather than internet outrage. Kristine Lucius, Executive Vice President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights told VICE Impact. “There is a new sense of engagement and mobilization of people who were not engaged before,” she said. “People are lighting up the phones and marching in the streets.”

A renewed version of Dr. King’s own Poor People’s Campaign, which attempts to lift up and deepen “the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division” is set to hold its first national mobilization on Monday, February 5. Events take place across in 32 states and in Washington D.C., with participants planning to flood state Capitol buildings to confront leaders and demand action on what they see as reenergized systemic racism affecting the nation.

Help to really keep Dr. King’s dream alive by finding a local event or donating to the Poor People’s Campaign.