Rosa Parks Vs. OutKast

Rosa Parks files suit against Outkast to have her name removed from their

April 2, 1999 12:00 AM ET

Civil rights figurehead Rosa Parks filed suit against Outkast |and laFaceRecords on Wednesday, March 31, asking for 25,000 in damages and to have hername removed from all of their products. Gregory J. Reed, Parks' attorney and co-author of her two books, Quiet Strength and Dear Mrs.Parks: A Dialogue With Today's Youth, said, "You have her nameassociated with lyrics that contain vulgarity and profanity that she doesnot appreciate."

Richard Manson, president of the Millennium EntertainmentGroup that's representing Parks in this case, told MTV News, "[OutKast] didnot confer with Mrs. Parks about using her name or likeness in the song inquestion," adding, "she views this as the same kind of conduct that shefaced 40 years ago, an abuse of people."

Group members Big Boi and Dre, inan attempt to get Mrs. Parks to hush that fuss, released the followingstatement: "Rosa Parks has inspired our music and our lives since we werechildren. The opportunity to use our music to help educate young peopleabout the heroes in the African-American community is one of theresponsibilities we feel we have as music artists. It was, nor ever hasbeen, our intention to defame a woman who we consider a role model and acivil rights pioneer. We hope to be able to work out this situationamicably."

Outkast has retained former Chief Justice of the MichiganSupreme Court, Conrad L. Mallet, Jr., as their representative in this suit.Justice Mallet issued the following statement: "Every United States citizenrespects the profound contributions made by Mrs. Rosa Parks. The two youngmen who make up the group Outkast have conveyed to me their deep dismay thatrepresentatives of Mrs. Parks have somehow convinced her that their releaseof the track 'Rosa Parks' has dishonored her and that Outkast hascommercially exploited her name. They wish me to convey to Mrs. Parks theirsorrow for any misunderstanding and want Mrs. Parks to know that they wouldnever seek to take advantage of one of this country's genuine heroes.

Outkast is shocked that representatives of Mrs. Parks would sue them knowingfull well that their honorable use of Mrs. Park's name is protected artisticexpression designed to pay homage to a great human being. They regret thatthis issue has degenerated into a legal contest but are confident that therespectful use of her name in the title of the song was and is appropriate."He went on to say, "Everyone in this country loves Mrs.Parks and quitefrankly remembers all the years she worked for Congressman John Conyers Jr.,as an assistant and office manager. Mrs. Parks and I were on theCongressman's staff at the same time. I can assure you that I would nothave taken this case unless I was sure that Millenium's position on thisissue was dead wrong. As Justice Thurgood Marshall said, 'the FirstAmendment serves not only the needs of the polity but also those of thehuman spirit. To suppress expression is to reject the basic human desirefor recognition and affront the individuals worth and dignity.' My clientshave a First Amendment right to express themselves and Mrs. Parks' lawyerknow full well that these young men were absolutely allowed to use Mrs.Parks' name in their song. The attempt to separate the protected song fromthe CD cover is legally and metaphysically impossible. The United StatesSupreme Court has stated '(i)t is clear that speech does not lose its FirstAmendment protection because money is spent to project it."

LaFace general manager Dorsey James added, "Both the label and OutKast haveenormous respect for Ms. Parks and the accomplishments and contributions shehas made to the civil-rights movement." OutKast received their first Grammynomination for the hit single "Rosa Parks" and got nominated for BestR&B/Soul Album in the Soul Train Awards for the album, Aquemini.

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