In addition to being one of the major corporate donors behind the “frozen in carbonite” Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial D.C., retail behemoth Walmart has been aggressively targeting urban black communities.
As part of that effort, the company is airing a commercial this year where boulevards named in honor of the slain civil rights leader are positioned as cornerstones where Walmart seeks to “stand together as one” with the community.
Scenes of a barbershop, the Apollo Theater, and a church couple together with narration that alludes to Dr. King's “dream.” It would all seem like prime material for The Onion-style satire, if only it wasn't all too real.
Though not on any streets named for MLK Jr., Walmart does plan to open four new stores in Washington D.C. next year. Hip-hop, in its historical role, has stepped up and is offering a counter-narrative. Underground rapper Head-Roc released the single and video “Keep DC Walmart Free” on Wednesday with biting criticism of the corporation. “The historical parallels of what Walmart represents as an organization, in a town that is over half Black and Brown residents, as we fight for full sovereignty via Statehood, are too ironic and chilling to ignore,” he says in an official press statement. Lyrically in song, Head-Roc, “The Mayor of DC Hip-Hop” tackles poor working conditions, right-wing political contributions by the Waltons, and the wiping out of small businesses in making his case against Walmarts opening up in D.C.
“Keep DC Walmart Free” was produced in conjunction with the grassroots community organization Empower DC and features a cameo by I MiX What I Like author Jared Ball. The song doesn't contain explicit lyrics, but something tells me, it wouldn't have made the shelves of Walmart if it were made for sale anyway. It's all good, though, as Head-Roc is offering up the track for free download here! (Get it now!)