44 Years Since His Assassination: MLK’s Words Still Need to Be Heard By Nightlife World

It was on this day in 1968 that Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered. His life is celebrated on the third Monday of January near the date of his birth, the 15th. This is a nightlife column and I will deal with that narrow window in regards to Dr. King’s legacy. Despite a black president and a supreme court justice and many milestones, black youth are still snuffed out in random acts of ignorance and/or hate, and black role models mostly play with some sort of ball. Again, I’m just a nightlife blogger so I will keep to what I know. I know Martin Luther King’s birthday falls on a Monday and so clubs usually make much-needed loot off the 3-day winter weekend. For most operators, rememberance stops there.

I see an industry where it seems that there are even less black people in power than, say, 10 years ago. Racism in upper management, the job market, and at the doors of top-notch clubs is still rampant. The answer from one player was that his joint is not racist at all – the motivation for entry isn’t really black or white or yellow, just green. If a person is buying bottles his money is, within reason, good. There is always the qualifier: those if’s, and if he is within reason to justify what really happens. The percentage of non-whites in the perceived best joints does not reflect reasonable racial policies.

Out in Bed. Stuy. this past weekend for the Awards Ball, my companion and I were two of possibly half a dozen "white" people among the thousands. Although those kind of ratios are rare, I have been in supposedly chic NYC spots and seen only a handful of non-whites amongst the crowd. Of these "lucky" few, most were models or well-known atheletes or musicians with very small entourages. As far as staff, a handful of non-security personnel keep it from being obvious. One dude told me that "they" aren’t turned away; "they" just don’t show up. I wondered if "they" knew not to show up because "they’ were denied entry when the place first opened. "They" probably talk.

It was refreshing to see a black doorman at Southside, a place I visited once a few years ago with a beautiful, 6-foot, educated black woman. On that night, it was just her and a couple of promoter-types that were non-white inside. She noticed and was taken aback. In a column around the holidays that year, when I was giving out gift ideas for club operators, I offered them "Brotherly Love." Brotherly Love is still mainly missing around town and It just isn’t cool. I think club operators should take a minute or three on a day like this to remind staff of their obligations to move off these disgusting norms. They may want to practice their speech in the mirror before…and after.

From Dr. King’s "I Have a Dream" speech:

"All I’m saying is simply this: that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."

MLK’s ‘Dream’ Fifty Years Later: Are We There Yet?

If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today—the 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech—he would be 84 years old. He would also be able to witness something that his younger self might never have imagined: A black president making a speech reflecting on the civil rights movement. President Obama’s commemorative speech today was made at the same location where MLK delivered his own famous speech to 250,000 civil rights supporters on August 28, 1963: on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

MLK’s speech wasn’t just a defining moment for the civil rights movement, but for modern American history: Over 100 leading scholars of American public address named it the Number One political speech of the 20th century.

So on the 50th anniversary of "I Have Dream," take a few moments to experience the passion and poetry of one of the most influential Americans of all time and ask yourself: Are we there yet?

MLK Day in Clubland

I grew up in a different era than most of you. As a young man, I saw the country by a beat-up Volkswagen camper and my thumb. I experienced a world with segregated bus stations and bathrooms, and gained an “understanding” of a status quo that dictated different terms for blacks and whites. My experiences with racism were, of course, second hand. My public school had one black kid in it. He wasn’t well received. As a white male growing up in middle class Queens, I was unaware of inequality. The ‘60’s changed all that. In my lifetime, walls have come down and new ideas have taken hold, but as I’ve said in this column before, it doesn’t mean a thing to have a black president if black people are turned away at club doors only because of the color of their skin. Happens all the time, and at all the “best” places.

For the most part, doormen and women, even those who are non-white, are very guilty of perpetuating their owner’s racist policies, which are often unspoken but very much in place. If you don’t believe me, just look around next time you go out and see if the club you are in is actually mixed. Talk is cheap, and affirmative action implemented to actually do something about it is uncommon.

Clubland even has a widely accepted word for it. They rarely say a place is “too black.” That would define them as something short of the progressive men and women of the world they believe themselves to be. It has become acceptable to embrace the music industry term “Urban.” It has become acceptable to say things like “that place is too Urban for me.” The term urban is not urbane. It is pure and simple racism bundled up and perfumed, and practiced every day in a smart town where the mix of cultures is a selling point. In the chicest joints in town, classless acts of separation and evaluation of status include the ethnic background of the customer.

OMG, don’t tell me about how the black models and/or celebrities and/or bottle buyers get in without a problem. Success and beauty are always fabulous, but take two average-to-good-looking white dudes and dress them the same as a couple of black dudes and see who gets in first — or at all. There are some exceptions, as there are some exceptional people running doors, but they are rare. I wont even get into what its like to be a hardworking, respectable person from India, Pakistan, or Jordan. These ethnicities and other non-white groups might have even less of a chance of getting into a hot spot.

Martin Luther King and so many others stood loud and proud for those oppressed by an unbelievably backward country. He demanded we do better. To point out our failure to fully embrace equality is not to discount his work, his words, his dreams, or his massive achievements. Yesterday was MLK day, and I was pleased that BlackBook decided to honor the man and the movement and close their offices. Maybe I didn’t say anything today that wasn’t obvious, but I think we can do better, and I think mostly white clubs aren’t cool. The public should think about seeking out more progressive places to enjoy themselves and spend money.

Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King, dancing.