October 2, 2017 Atlanta: Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Evans answers a debate question during a forum on Monday, October 2, 2017, at The Carter Center in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Greg Bluestein/Political Insider
Photo: Greg Bluestein/Political Insider

Georgia 2018: Evans faces criticism for ‘tone deaf’ MLK video

A now-deleted Instagram video posted by Democrat Stacey Evans’ campaign has sparked backlash because it ended by fading from her face to Martin Luther King Jr.’s image. 

The video was shot by the gubernatorial candidate’s campaign aides last week as she visited Ebenezer Baptist Church on MLK Day. The 43-second clip ends with an image of Evans clapping in slow-motion as her face fades out and a poster of King comes into focus, briefly juxtaposing the two. 

Though the video was made more than a week ago, it was met with fierce criticism online Wednesday. Bakari Sellers, the former South Carolina politician and CNN analyst, tweeted that it was a sign “you have no diversity on your team & apparently don’t understand its value.” 

And Anoa Changa, a progressive activist who has previously criticized Evans, penned a lengthy piece on the Peach Perspective calling the video “tone deaf” and contending it was a ploy by a white candidate to trade on a black civil rights icon’s image.

“Superimposing Dr. King’s face over your candidate’s does not move you closer to uniting us all,” wrote Changa. “Our legacy and struggle are not to be used as props to push people across the finish line.”

The Evans campaign said the criticism is an effort by her Democratic rival, ex-House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, to “distort” the meaning of the video and that Evans will “continue to seek the vote of every Georgian who wants to bring hope back to Georgia.”

“No matter how much others may seek division for political gain, we will remain focused on bringing Georgians together to win this election and accomplish those goals,” Evans’ campaign said in a statement. 

The video was created by Nick Nelson, an African-American video producer hired by the campaign who recently posted a series of comments about his work with Evans.

Evans and Abrams, who is vying to be the nation’s first black female governor, are locked in a fierce battle for the party’s nomination. The two have sharply competing strategies and differ on a range of policy debates, from the HOPE scholarship to Civil War monuments. 

The contest has also underscored racial tensions within the state’s Democratic coalition, an alliance of a growing bloc of black voters and a dwindling number of whites.

Those divisions were highlighted last year when Changa and others organized protesters at a progressive conference in Atlanta who chanted “support black women” and “trust black women” while Evans tried to speak. 

Watch the video here.

Here’s the full statement from Evans’ campaign:

Stacey Evans was honored to have had the opportunity to attend the King Day celebration at Ebenezer Baptist Church this year. She has publicly celebrated the King holiday every year of her public life, including at the Cobb County NAACP’s annual event and with service projects.

The Abrams campaign has decided to distort a video made by the campaign’s digital company. As is usual in modern campaigns, they accompany Stacey to events so that the campaign can share our activities with the public. The digital company’s camera was one of many cameras recording the service. All images and sounds come from what happened during the service, including the music and the speakers.

While the Abrams campaign is trying to divide our state, the Evans campaign will continue to seek the vote of every Georgian who wants to bring hope back to Georgia. Our campaign is about restoring the cuts to the HOPE Scholarship that were so harmful to so many working families, so that regular people have access to higher education. It is about providing universal access to early childhood education and expanding Medicaid so every Georgian has quality healthcare.

No matter how much others may seek division for political gain, we will remain focused on bringing Georgians together to win this election and accomplish those goals.


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.