Rosa Parks and rap duo OutKast have settled a lawsuit in which the civil rights pioneer accused the group of wrongly using her name in a song title, her guardian said yesterday (April 14).
OutKast, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and two of the company’s units admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to work on projects “to enlighten today’s youth about the significant role Rosa Parks played in making America a better place for all races,” Parks’ guardian Dennis Archer said in a statement.
Sony BMG attorney Joe Beck said the defendants were pleased with the settlement. “We think it will go a long way towards teaching a new generation about Rosa Parks and her accomplishments, and we appreciate Mrs. Parks’ and her attorneys’ acknowledgment of the First Amendment in protecting artistic freedom,” he said from Los Angeles.
Parks, 92, was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. The incident triggered one of the modern civil rights movement’s earliest landmark events, a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
She has suffered from dementia since at least 2002, and has rarely been seen in public since 2001.
The settlement ends a legal dispute that some of Parks’ own relatives had criticized, saying she wouldn’t have minded the use of her name in the song “Rosa Parks” had she not been mentally impaired.
Parks filed a lawsuit in 1999 alleging defamation and trademark infringement because OutKast used her name without permission in the song, which is about the entertainment industry. It includes the chorus: “Ah-ha, hush that fuss. Everybody move to the back of the bus.”
A judge dismissed OutKast from the suit and Parks’ lawyers filed a second suit in August 2004, naming BMG, Arista Records LLC and LaFace Records. They sought more than $5 billion.
After that lawsuit was filed, some of Parks’ relatives began questioning her well-being and the actions of her caretaker and the lawyers who filed the suit, and alleged she is probably unaware of the lawsuits.
Archer, a former Detroit mayor and Michigan Supreme Court justice, was named Parks’ guardian in October. “The sacrifices and work that Mrs. Parks has made during her life to ensure that all people are treated fairly under the law is acknowledged and appreciated by both sides,” Archer said.
Under the settlement, OutKast and the other defendants agreed to work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development to develop educational programs.
OutKast and other contemporary artists also will perform on a tribute CD to be produced by Sony BMG, and the parties will collaborate on an educational television program about Parks’ life and legacy that will be distributed on DVDs to thousands of public schools nationwide.
Details of the CD and television program “will be worked out in the months ahead,” Beck said.
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