The full-page advertisement in the February issue of Essence magazine features James Weldon Johnson and the words to his famous song, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," first performed in January 1900.
"Today, it still speaks so eloquently of hope, promise and perseverance," says the sponsor of the ad, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Black History Month is upon us, and R.J. Reynolds once again "salutes and supports African Americans in their quest for a brighter future."
In other words, hats off to black customers who did not die from smoking its products last year.
"During Black History Month and through the year, Coors Brewing Company will bring you messages about literacy . . . . " says another full-page ad. "When the true story of black history is written, will every black person be able to read it?"
After a keg of brew, who cares?
The Black History Month targeting of black consumers by cigarette and liquor manufacturers has become Scud-like in its crudity, with products that are the leading killers of black people being associated with great men such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass.
Many black-owned magazines and radio stations feature thinly veiled attempts to hide their dependency on this legalized drug money by co-sponsoring cultural events with liquor and tobacco dealers.
"Do the right thing during Black History Month," says the full-page ad in Ebony magazine, which features a drawing of Spike Lee. "Join the Miller Brewing company in our salute to independent black filmmakers."
Also pictured are three cans of beer, next to which is a tiny street sign that says, "Think when you drink." Not: Don't drink and drive.
Doing the right thing does have its limits, as a recently released report, "Marketing Booze to Blacks," makes clear.
"One consequence of these heavy advertising expenditures has been the unwillingness of revenue-dependent black publications to report on risks associated with alcohol use and abuse," concluded the report, published by the Washington- based Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"Major black magazines, including Jet, Black Enterprise, Modern Black Man and Dollars and Sense, have not published a single article or public service advertisement in recent years alerting blacks to the risks associated with alcohol use and abuse," the report said.
Meanwhile, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, death rates for alcohol-induced liver disease and cirrhosis are twice as high for blacks as for whites. According to the National Cancer Institute, blacks develop esophageal cancer, which has been linked to cigarettes and alcohol, at a rate 10 times higher than whites.
Blacks also suffer disproportionately from other health consequences of alcohol and tobacco consumption, including hypertension, heart disease, pancreatitis, lung cancer, severe malnutrition and birth defects.
The correlation between alcohol abuse and physical violence is extremly strong among black Americans, the report on marketing alcohol to blacks said. The problems include record numbers of homicides, accidents and criminal assaults.
This reality clashes with the myths perpetrated in alcohol and tobacco advertisements, which often imply that people who smoke are healthy and that alcohol consumption improves sex.
"Don't Forget The Drinks," headlines a story in the February Ebony Man magazine, which features recipes for mixing booze for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"Spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the one you love," it says. Judging from the potency of the concoctions, they mean more time retching over toilet bowls together.
One full-page advertisement features what at first glance looks like an artist's rendering of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. The caption, "The truth is marching on," adds to the perception that Coors wanted to create.
In fact, the picture is Ellis Wilson's "Funeral Procession," which is where more and more blacks who smoke cigarettes and drink liquor are ending up prematurely.
"Something is happpening in our world," King is quoted in a full-page ad in Jet, paid for by the Phillip Morris Co. "The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today . . . the cry is always the same . . . 'We want to be free.' "
Let that include freedom from tobacco and booze.