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Remember the Time Public Enemy Defended MLK Day...

  • Geoff Rynex


And now, the latest installment in our occasional (read: one-time-only) series, Remember the Time. Today’s post is entitled “Remember the Time Public Enemy Defended MLK Day Using Violent Artistic Resistance?”

Believe it or not, there was a time when the idea of a government holiday in honor of Dr. King was controversial. John McCain, a man who persuaded 45.7% of the national electorate that he should be president as recently as five years ago, initially opposed it. As did his home-state governor, Evan Mecham, who actually canceled the holiday in Arizona in 1987 after it had already been instituted by executive order of the previous governor. As late as 1990, voters in the state opposed the holiday on a ballot measure.

And that was all Chuck D could stand...

On their 1991 album Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Back, Public Enemy included a little ditty called “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” a play on the title of the Glen Campbell classic. Soon after, a video for the track was released. It aired on MTV exactly once.

In case you’re at work, just know this: Chuck and Flav are not headed to Arizona for a round of diplomacy or civil disobedience. There are bereted militants. There’s a martial-arts-practicing bomb maker. A stand-in for McCain chokes to death on a box of poisoned chocolates, and a stand-in for Mecham is detonated by a car bomb controlled by Chuck. It’s angry. It’s political. It’s uncompromising.

And now Arizona recognizes MLK Day.

— G.R.