A BC Green candidate saw his provincial election campaign take a turn on Wednesday, after he impersonated Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech at the Victoria Convention Centre.
Mark Neufeld — who is running in the Saanich South riding for the BC Greens — has since apologized for replacing certain words and phrases in the civil rights leader's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.
Neufeld's version is a partisan rallying cry, complete with references to local landmarks.
Neufeld took his impression one step further, and parroted King's cadence and Southern accent while noting he "went to the mountaintop." He also shouted out the Salish name of Mount Douglas, Pkols, and adds that the "promised land" is in British Columbia.
The aspiring politician's speech got a few laughs from the crowd, and CHEK News reports environmental activist David Suzuki was in the front row. However, the backlash to Neufeld's reference was swift.
VICE notes the original speech was delivered the night before King's assassination, and includes mentions of death threats on his life, and how he does not "[fear] any man." It was King's final address. Neufeld reinterpreted this and said he's "not fearing anyone" as a message to his political rivals, because his "eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Greens."
YouTube user Frank Johns edited the two speeches together:
In his apology on Friday, Neufeld said King is "one of the biggest inspirations in my life,"
"At no time did I mean to be disrespectful to the work and memory of Dr. King, nor did I ever mean to equate the civil rights movement with the green movement," Neufeld wrote.
"It’s really hard for me to think that I’ve offended someone least of all those who share the deep respect for Dr. King. To anyone who I’ve offended, I sincerely apologize."
Provincial Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is standing by his candidate, and told CHEK News that he does not intend to ask Neufeld to resign.
“Mark isn’t a seasoned politician," said Weaver. "Mark ... has not been doing this for a long time. He got inspired by the audience.” In a posting on the B.C. Greens website, Weaver dubbed the speech "inappropriate" and said he is, "glad that Mark has taken responsibility for his mistake and apologized."
Neufeld also added to his apology on Vancouver radio station AM 730.
“I’m a high school teacher, and even from that perspective I should’ve known better," said Neufeld. "I’ll never go into another speech not having written something down. I knew what my thoughts were, and I should’ve just taken the time.”
The candidate has since made another statement on his Facebook page, where he wrote that instead of honouring Dr. King, "I hurt many people."
"I have to own my white privilege and my station in society. As a teacher of 25 years, I have no excuse. And intention is not enough."
British Columbia residents go to the polls on May 9.
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"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."
"I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."
"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'"
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies."
“Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”
"You know my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression ... If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." Address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) Mass Meeting, at Holt Street Baptist Church, 1955
“It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart.”
“The end of life is not to be happy, nor to achieve pleasure and avoid pain, but to do the will of God, come what may.”
“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
“When I took up the cross I recognized it's meaning. The cross is something that you bear, and ultimately, that you die on.”
"The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial." Pilgrimage to Non-Violence, 1960