Martin Luther King, Jr’s daughter Bernice King has thanked Justin Bieber for his support of the King Center and its Be Love campaign, amid backlash over the pop star’s use of samples the civil rights leader on his new album ‘Justice’.
Released Friday (March 19), the pop star’s latest record opens with a recognisable quote from the civil rights leader: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. It also features an ‘MLK Interlude’, using samples from King’s 1967 sermon, ‘But If Not’.
Hours before the album landed on streaming services, Bieber announced a campaign to raise awareness for social justice organisations, naming Anti Recidivism Coalition, Alexandria House, the Compton Pledge, Baby2Baby, the Equal Justice Initiative, LIFT, Self Help Graphics and Art, This Is About Humanity, the Poor People’s Campaign and the King Center as charities he’d be supporting.
“In honor of #Justice I’m supporting organizations that embody what justice looks like in action,” he wrote.
Bernice, the King Center’s CEO, responded to Bieber’s support on Twitter, sharing a public message of thanks for the singer.
“Each of us, including artists and entertainers, can do something,” she responded.
“Thank you, @justinbieber, for your support, in honor of #Justice, of @TheKingCenter’s work and of our #BeLove campaign, which is a part of our global movement for justice.”
Each of us, including artists and entertainers, can do something.
Thank you, @justinbieber, for your support, in honor of #Justice, of @TheKingCenter’s work and of our #BeLove campaign, which is a part of our global movement for justice. #MLK #EndRacism https://t.co/nTkR1XdcvW
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 18, 2021
With Martin Luther King, Jr listed as a songwriter on the album and the King estate having to approve and license any use of his papers or speeches, it would appear they supported Bieber’s inclusion of his work, however, listeners were critical of the samples.
“Who in the hell let Justin Bieber walk out the studio with an album called Justice w two samples of MLK and every track got him having a grand ol white ass time singin bout his wife over synthesized pop beats… my blood pressure gets higher every day, on god,” wrote Twitter user @greendrawblin, adding “idc if his daughter approved the samples lol”.
“I don’t know her & she don’t speak for all black people. I don’t gotta agree w her on how I feel about a clear reflection of big industries commodifying & commercializing the pain of our community.”
In an op-ed for Insider, write Callie Ahlgrim called Bieber’s sampling of King’s speeches “performative”.
“Instead of examining and engaging with King’s message, much less educating himself on the radical progress that King actually fought for, Bieber isolates and bastardizes his words,” she wrote. “He attempts to conflate them with his own personal views on romance, sex, and domesticity.”
Bieber’s new album ‘Justice’ received a four-star review from NME, who said “here he’s back at his best, tapping into his personal experiences – with powerful results”.
“’Justice’ is Bieber’s redemption song, and a more fitting follow-up to ‘Purpose’,” wrote NME’s Will Lavin.
“Armed with a newfound optimism borne from a dark place, he understands he’s better when he’s tapping into his own experiences, projecting relatable human emotion and working out why he’s here.”