Martin Luther King Junior's final message to the world got an awkward rewrite this week. A Green candidate running in British Columbia's provincial election delivered a decidedly partisan version of the civil rights leader's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, complete with a faked black southern drawl.
In a video uploaded to social media, Mark Neufeld, a white politician who is running for the BC Greens in Saanich South, told a Victoria rally crowd he too "went to the mountaintop."
Neufeld repeated this phrase throughout his two minute version of the iconic speech, imitating King's vocal crescendos, and prompting a few giggles from the crowd.
Neufeld jokes the mountain he went to wasn't nearby Mount Douglas, it was Pkols, the Vancouver Island summit's Indigenous name.
"I went to Pkols, y'all," he told the rally. "And I looked over, and I seen the promised land, because the promised land, it's here. It's here in British Columbia."
Martin Luther King Jr delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech one day before he was assassinated, on April 3, 1968. In it, he references threats on his own life, and said he is not fearful of death or any man. Neufeld uses many of these lines in his own speech.
"I don't mind, I'm not fearing anyone," Neufeld said. "My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Greens."
On social media, critics called out the speech as racist. "This is so problematic on so many levels I just can't," tweeted Broadbent Institute director of policy Jonathan Sas. "Anti blackness alive and well in BC!"
"Pepsi ad round 2?" tweeted Alex Betsos.
When reached by VICE, Neufeld apologized for the speech and said he "meant no disrespect to anyone."
Neufeld said he was inspired by Dr. King, a personal hero and great orator in history. He noted non-white people in his family and campaign team, and talked about working closely with "the African community," then added, "I don't want that to sound like a bunch of excuses, I shouldn't have gotten carried away."
Story updated with comment from candidate Mark Neufeld 7:55 PM PST.
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