*Who doesn’t know the name Rosa Parks? Her name is arguably the most famous in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. And with what Ms. Parks has often stated was an uninvited wealth of fame, saying she simply did what she did because she was tired (I met her and these words came from her lips) comes a lot of opportunity for her image to be used and misused in commercial fashion.
I recently learned that retail giant Target had attempted to commission a series of Rosa Parks inspired items including books, movies and plaques, to commemorate her life.
But what may appear as an act of honorable homage being paid to this historical figure by some, may look like something else to others.
“Others” is the operative word here. And it specifically refers to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. The nonprofit lists their purpose is “To carry on the lifework of Rosa Parks in youth development and civil rights education/advocacy.”
The website also says that they utilize, ” Volunteers from professional, technical, community and international backgrounds” who “are recruited and trained to share their knowledge and skills reflecting Mrs. Parks approach to self development.”
The Institute filed a lawsuit to stop Target from selling the merchandise. They claim ownership of the rights to Park’s image and likeness and say Target did not obtain permission to use them.
It all boils down to money, folks. And my intent is not judgement, it just recognizes business as usual.
But unfortunately for the Institute, the lawsuit was denied. Here’s why.
According to Rolling Out, “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a 15-page judgement that has ruled against the non-profit. At issue is a Michigan law that deals with the right of publicity versus the right of privacy.” In the decision, the court ruled that the first amendment protects Target from a lawsuit by the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development . This upholds the ruling previously made by the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
The issue became an issue because Rosa Parks is a historical figure. She doesn’t BELONG to anybody. And when the judge went in to further explaining why this was a no-win situation for the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, he stated that fact; along with the business end of things I alluded to before.
I am going to come right out and say it: If Target would have agreed to pay the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development a percentage of the sales made from Parks’ likeness, this would be a nonissue.
According to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute website:
Our central mission is to motivate youth to reach their highest potential. We have designed programs based on Mrs. Parks philosophy of “Quiet Strength” which engages youth in hands-on experiences to build practical day-to-day living skills. We promote multicultural participation in our program to provide youth with a cross-cultural exposure for nurturing a global and inclusive perspective.
And perhaps some of that percentage could’ve gone towards actually paying the professionals they recruit and train; as well as the maintenance of their programs.
In his elaboration on the matter the judge stated.
“Parks and the Civil Rights movement were a matter of legitimate and important public interest,” and “Michigan law does not make discussion of these topics of public concern contingent on paying a fee.”
To see the caveat that Target is expected to uphold as a result of this ruling, visit Financial Juneteenth here.