Denver Public Schools Sorry For 'Insensitive' MLK Jr. Lunch

School Lunch Would Have Included Chicken, Collard Greens

Denver Public School officials are apologizing after a parent complained that a school lunch meant to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was stereotypical and offensive.

The lunch, planned for Friday, was to include southern-style chicken, collard greens and a biscuit in honor of King.

D.P.S. spokesman Michael Vaughn released a statement that said:

“The plan to serve a Southern-style meal in recognition of Martin Luther King Day was well intentioned but highly insensitive in light of certain hurtful cultural stereotypes still harbored in parts of our society.”

Organizers of Denver’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Marade, a combination march and parade which honors King every January, did not consider the menu inappropriate, considering that King came from a southern background, but said there are other, more meaningful ways of honoring him.

“When you reduce it to the 'I have a dream’'speech and a fried chicken and collared green lunch, you have just destroyed everything that Dr. King stood for,” said Vern Howard, Chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission.

But in barber shops and soul food restaurants in Denver’s historic Five Points district, the tone was decidedly more relaxed.

“To me, I don't see that much wrong with this,” said Franklin Stigal, owner of the Afro-Styling Barber Shop. “A lot of people are just griping to be griping.”

Chereka Dickerson, who helps run the soul food restaurant Welton Street Café said the criticisms were over-the-top.

“If that's the food that's really associated with black people in America, why not celebrate it instead of trying to make everything negative?” she said.

D.P.S. changed the Friday meal to the manager’s choice for Friday. Jennifer Holladay, the parent who originally complained about the menu e-mailed 7NEWS a statement that said:

“I'm confident we'll see stereotype-free menus in the future.”

Howard said the incident is an opportunity for the school system to become more involved in the annual Marade. Howard said the Denver Public School district has shown disappointingly low interest in the festivities year after year and it’s time for them to get involved.

The Houston School District has offered fried chicken and collard greens on Martin Luther King's birthday for years. Last year, in response to questons, they issued the following statement:

"The Food Service Department often runs a promotion in celebration of his birthday. The promotion includes posters and public-address announcements promoting the special meal served in the cafeterias, as well as his message of remembering to celebrate with the spirit of giving back to the community ...... ' a day on, not a day off.' A menu committee researches all promotions and has utilized the MLK Center of Atlanta as a resource for information about this famous leader. Elaine Hall, from the Archives Department at the King Center in Atlanta, has informed the committee that Dr. King's favorite meal includes fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and sweet potato pie."