In days of old, in order for their voices to be heard by the masses and multitudes, preachers and protesters would stand atop a milk crate or a wooden soapbox. In my life I’ve stood on soapboxes, both literal and figurative, in order to get my views heard. The sad part of being a soapbox king is how difficult it is to get people to listen with open minds and ears.
I know I’m sometimes petty with the things I protest, but it makes sense to me. Take Burger King for example. No, I don’t eat BK, nor do I willingly buy it for my daughters, even though my youngest is addicted to their funnel cake. In a vain attempt to break her addiction (to BK, not funnel cake!), we journeyed to the Illinois State Fair, where she overindulged on funnel cake. That was over a month ago, and my fingers are crossed that she won’t return to BK. Maybe I’ll even learn to make funnel cake.
Why BK? Well, as a creature of convenience, I only patronize restaurants on the side of the street where I’m driving. I don’t like cutting across traffic to enter or exit fast food joints. Not simply because of the traffic issues, but I always wondered if people would think I was a desperate fat boy, weaving and speeding across traffic to get a Whopper. My wife likes the drive through at fast food joints, but the sagacity of Leo Getz in ‘Lethal Weapon’ always echoes in my head; “They f—k you in the drive through!” Well, BK got me three times in the drive-through, and we didn’t discover it until we got to our destination. So yeah, I don’t patronize Burger King, but I only discourage my kids from going, no one else.
I don’t buy Nike products. Once upon a time, I loved everything about Nike… until it was revealed that their shoes were made in Chinese sweatshops, which relied heavily on child labor. Read that again. Chinese and child labor. Hmmm. So those are literally thousands of jobs sent overseas, the abuse of children, all for extra profits for Nike? Nah, I’m good.
In the mid-nineties, on one unforgettable evening, I found myself in a juke joint on Mississippi 12. I was feeling good due to Crown Royal, and I had a memorable experience dancing with a beautiful woman. She smelled of cherry blossoms, and she swayed perfectly in my arms to a song ‘Half on a Baby’ by Chicago’s own R. Kelly. It got heated on the dance floor for a few minutes… until the young lady, I was committed to came walking in with her entourage. Needless to say, I ended the dance abruptly, and then disappeared out the door.
Anyhow, I know that R. Kelly is multi-talented, brilliant, a good songwriter, and has a great singing voice. But… I remember him parking his Benz at Kenwood high school to meet girls. As the sad, disgusting tales unfolded over the years, my moral compass wouldn’t let me listen to his music or buy his CDs. For all those who continue to attempt justification of his music and lifestyle, I quote Huey Freeman from ‘The Boondocks. “If you’re really an R. Kelly fan, introduce him to some women his own age!” I don’t listen to his music, nor would I go to see him live, even if the tickets were free and I could sit next to Jill Scott.
In life, we have to make decisions based on our own preferences and beliefs. Eight or nine years ago, my wife and I argued for two or three days about America, the flag, and the national anthem. At the time, my argument was that everyone should stand for the flag or anthem, out of respect for those who fought and died for America. I also tried to convince her that America isn’t about that flag, but about the people who try to live up to the beliefs echoed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Emancipation Proclamation. I thought I gave a pretty convincing argument.
Until she reminded me of the thousands of Black men who fought for America, only to be treated as second-class citizens upon their return. Or how the flag isn’t representative of any good thing which has happened to Black folks here. Or how all of those documents I spoke of weren’t written with us in mind, not even the Emancipation Proclamation, which was meant to pacify Maryland and Kentucky (slave states which didn’t secede), while fomenting unrest in the Confederacy. I haven’t stood for the national anthem or saluted the flag in a very long time.
Sundays in autumn. Sigh. I used to have a ritual of cooking breakfast, listening to gospel, then watching the NFL. Due to CTE, non-guaranteed contracts, the Colin Kaepernick situation, and what I consider a “plantation” system, I haven’t watched an entire professional football game since 2015. I watched three quarters all of the last season, and not a single minute this season, not even highlights. I don’t see myself watching it again, even if Colin Kaepernick is given a job.
I am not often serious in the public eye; I’d rather tell a joke or funny story. With the resurgence of racism, the rise of Darth Cheetoh, police brutality, the unequal treatment of women, the persecution of American Muslims, LGBTQ issues, the brutal conditions on Native American reservations, and a multitude of other issues, I’ve become a soapbox king. To remain silent is an act of cowardice, a betrayal of Martin, Malcolm, Emmett Till, and my own ancestors, who picked cotton and endured chains, daydreaming about freedom and the right to stand up and be treated as a human being. I have a debt to pay, and standing for the things I believe in is my way of paying homage to those who paved the way for my existence.
© 2016 Marlon Hayes, All rights reserve
-Marlon S. Hayes
Marlon S. Hayes is a poet, blogger, writer, and author. He can be followed at Marlon’s Writings on Facebook, Voices from the Bleachers on Facebook, and his website marlonhayes.wixsite.author. Check out his latest book ‘Sippin’ Life at Lucky’s Bar and Grill’ available at Amazon.