DETROIT — Kid Rock is known as a champion for Detroit — proudly displaying the Motor City in music videos, jumping in when an area summer festival fell on hard times and using money from his “Made in Detroit” clothing line to help start a college fund for local music students.
His work as a regional booster behind the scenes and in front of the camera has garnered him many accolades, including a Spirit of Detroit award at his 40th birthday bash in January. So recognition from the local branch of the NAACP should come as no surprise — except that Kid Rock, a longtime aficionado of Southern rock, also is known for using the Confederate flag in his on-stage act.
The Rev. Wendell Anthony, branch president for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, stands by the group’s decision to give Kid Rock its Great Expectations Award during the civil rights organization’s annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner, though to many, the Confederate flag remains a symbol of racism and oppression of blacks in the South. The NAACP in South Carolina has fought against a public display of the flag on statehouse grounds.
For Kid Rock, born Robert Ritchie and raised in a small rural community northeast of Detroit, it’s all part of his hard-partying, bad-boy stage persona. He declined to talk about it ahead of Sunday’s dinner, telling The Associated Press in a March interview that he would save his comments for the event, which typically attracts 10,000 people and is the Detroit NAACP chapter’s largest fundraiser.
“It’s a better audience and kind of a place to say how I feel about the whole thing, maybe to explain some things to some people,” Kid Rock said. “I think that will be a more appropriate place to speak my truth.”
One local gadfly, political consultant Adolph Mongo, said he will protest the dinner. He expects others to join him, though he says there is no concerted effort.
“I’m going to be there voicing my displeasure,” Mongo said. “There is no organized effort. If you have to organize to get mad at the Confederate flag, then you have a problem.”
Anthony defended the group’s decision to give Kid Rock the award and said the Grammy-nominated musician isn’t a racist.
“The NAACP in Detroit does not support no Confederate anything,” Anthony said, offering no apologies for Kid Rock and his performances that include the Confederate flag. “We don’t support the Confederacy, the Confederate flag, racism or any of those things. Neither do any of the folks we associate ourselves with.”