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JERROLL’S BLOG: Exploitation of Aretha Franklin

Did Mary Kay Exploit “Queen Aretha” in Her Most Vulnerable Hour? 

Image result for crisette ellis aretha franklin funeral
Crisette Ellis–National Director at Mary Kay and Wife of the Pastor Who Hosted Aretha’s Funeral. Photo Taken Either Right Before or Right After Franklin’s Services. (Detroit News)

Aretha Franklin’s eight-hour memorial service on August 31, 2018, represented the culmination of a week-long memorial celebration in Detroit, MI. The memorial celebration included a public concert at Chene Park featuring local and national talent and a two-day public viewing of Franklin who laid in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum for African-American History.

Changes to the funeral services and planned tributes were announced as the week progressed. One such tribute would include pink Cadillacs converging on the City of Detroit from all over the country to pay mass respect to the Queen. The tribute was spearheaded by Crisette Michelle Ellis—a National Director for Mary Kay Corporation who is also wife of Charles H. Ellis, who pastors the Greater Grace Temple mega-church where the Queen’s funeral would be held. Mary Kay Corporation, a multi-level makeup marketing company,  is known for temporarily issuing custom-colored pink Cadillacs to high-revenue generating Mary Kay representatives such as Crisette Ellis. Ellis claimed the pink Cadillac tribute was intended to commemorate Aretha’s “Freeway of Love” song, which discussed riding down the freeway of love in a pink Cadillac.

Image result for Pink Cadillac ron mitchellVarious news outlets reported that Mary Kay, Inc. was somewhat leery of Ellis’s plan to host the pink Cadillac tribute. Nonetheless, Mary Kay aided Ellis by setting up a website so that owners of pink Cadillacs could register their intent to participate in the tribute and attend the Queen’s funeral. As one might expect—given the rarity of pink Cadillacs—almost all of the pink Cadillacs that participated in the tribute bore the Mary Kay insignia. There were a few exceptions such as the pink Cadillac driven by Ron Mitchell that was adorned with a badge that read “Aretha Franklin is a Queen.”

Near dusk on the day of the funeral, thousands of Detroiters lined streets to pay a final tribute to the Queen. Detroiters at the corner of 7 Mile and Livernois stood somber, poised with tributary banners and roses to toss in the path of the Queen’s hearse as it turned the corner.  The somber moment of planned respect was transformed into a parade of pink Cadillacs—most of which were devoid of African Americans. One by one, the 130 pink Cadillacs streamed by; the Queen’s hearse followed. Mary Kay reps shouted, “Thank you,”  waved through their car windows, and stood and greeted the crowd through their sunroofs while rocking to the  beat of Aretha’s songs playing on their automobile sound systems.

 Dangerous Precedent: Big Business and Funerals

The parade of pink Cadillacs arrive as people wait in line for a coveted spot inside Greater Grace.
Mary Kay Advertising Inscribed on Rear Window of Vehicle

According to Nielsen, a 30-second Super Bowl ad in 2018 cost an estimated $5 million dollars. While Nielson ratings on the viewership of Franklin’s week of funeral proceedings have yet to be revealed, Nielsen calculated that Michael Jackson’s one-day memorial service commanded about 31.14 million viewers; those totals did not include internet views. There can be no doubt that the Queen’s services commanded massive views. The plethora of articles and coverage Mary Kay received across the globe from its pink Cadillac tribute netted the corporation free advertising worth billions of dollars. For the remainder of history, an internet search of Aretha Franklin’s  name will forever return a sea of images showing Mary Kay pink Cadillacs.

Injecting a corporation into sacred memorial services establishes a dangerous precedent.  While Crisette Ellis asserts that Franklin’s young heirs approved the tribute, Aretha’s heirs could have never imagined in their hour of grief that the pink Cadillac tribute would evolve into a massive Mary Kay advertising event. No pastor or pastor’s wife should involve a company, especially one with which they are personally affiliated, in sacred funeral proceedings.

Many may have been awestruck by the visual, specifically, rows upon rows of rows and rows of shiny pink Cadillacs, which the funeral home seemed to oppose lining up in the processional. But the staging of the Cadillacs at the beginning of the processional route allowed the drivers to enter the processional with ease ahead of the Queen’s hearse.

Corporations, including Mary Kay, are wholly responsible for actions carried out in their name. Mary Kay, Inc. executives cannot be allowed to hide their hands when they leveraged for their benefit the unique brand and legacy Aretha Franklin tirelessly built over decades. According to an intellectual property attorney, who asked to remain nameless, the heirs of Aretha Franklin may have a significant legal cause of action due to Mary Kay’s infringement upon Aretha’s private processional.  While many embraced the pink Cadillac tribute, a deeper look  might reveal the tragic exploitation of our “Queen” during her final hours.

Note: A call was placed to Mary Kay, Inc. for comment. The call was not returned.

Too Much at Stake to Allow the 2016 Elections to Stand

We now know beyond all doubt that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections to help Donald J. Trump and certain Republican congressional candidates win.

Although almost a year has passed since Trump and newly-elected congressional leaders took office, it’s still not too late for a revote. Redoing 2016 federal elections is the only way to make things right for the American people.

There is nothing unique about my call for a revote of the 2016 primary and general elections. It is customary for contest winners such as athletes who are victorious due to fraud or doping to relinquish their title and metals. Why shouldn’t we expect the same of politicians?

If the U.S. Supreme Court were to declare the 2016 federal elections unconstitutional, President Trump and newly elected congressional leaders would be forced to vacate their office. The ruling would also lead to an undoing of all federal laws, policies and judicial appointments accomplished during theTrump Administration.

Some view the call for a revote as wishful thinking. Others have taken a wait-and-see position, hoping that President Trump will be impeached and removed or will succumb to defeat in 2020—as might be suggested by recent democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama. But the Revote Coalition’s goal is not to remove President Trump from office but to ensure that the American people, not a foreign enemy, determine who our elected officials are.

Congressional and presidential actions undertaken during the Trump administration will change this nation for generations to come. Citizens, particularly minorities, will continue to rely heavily upon the federal judiciary to enforce laws and rights. Getting federal judges to rule favorably on discrimination claims and social injustices has been difficult in the past. But securing fair and balanced rulings in the future may prove far more difficult in federal courts stacked by Trump with judges who stand ready to rollback social and racial advancements and short-circuit policing and other protective reforms.

The Revote Coalition’s quest for a revote began days following the 2016 Presidential Election when I published a YouTube video calling for a new election and shared my first revote legal brief with 2016 Virginia Congressional Candidate Shaun Brown. Brown circulated the brief to various political camps. Soon, others joined our nationwide effort to find an attorney who would usher a constitutionally sound revote case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unable to find an attorney, I—a non-lawyer—put pen to paper and drafted a legal brief based upon my newly devised legal argument, which asserts:

The United States has many territories, including a cyber territory.
Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion. . . “
The U.S. Government failed to protect each state’s cyber territory against invasion in 2016.
Because of Russia’s invasion, states do not know the source of winning votes, and consequently, do not know if they seated the right party’s electors to cast electoral votes.
Members of the former congress violated their oath of office when they swore into office candidates who were helped by Russia.
I provided my legal brief to three groups of citizens who filed the revote brief in three different federal courts. I was a named petitioner on the Colorado case. The Massachusetts Appeals Court quickly rendered a decision that labeled the case “novel,” since no one had ever made the argument before. I then drafted an appeals brief to advance the revote case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the Supreme Court opted to not review our citizen case, members of the Revote Coalition are convinced the Supreme Court will entertain the revote case if it is filed by a State Attorney General (AG), since our legal argument hinges on the federal government’s obligation to protect states from invasion. In the end, the actions of the American public will determine whether we get a revote. Make noise in the streets. Call, visit and email AGs listed at www.revote.info; insist the AGs work to have the 2016 federal elections declared null and void.

Erase Putin’s Handprint

Op-ed by Jerroll M. Sanders, originator of the Revote Project

When top brass at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) called upon me to retool the complicated taxpayer notices sent to hundreds of millions of taxpayers annually, I initiated the mammoth task by launching an enterprise-wide review of IRS processes and notices. Months later, I stood before then Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti who asked, “Do you have any idea what you have accomplished?” For years, I have engaged in the practice of process reengineering and innovative problem solving for America’s largest corporations and governmental entities. Never was my penchant for problem solving more peaked than on the eve of November 8, 2016—as election results streamed across my television screen. I was convinced that, like thieves in the night, Russia had invaded our election system with precision and purpose and we will never know conclusively what they did while they were there.    

While pollsters scratched their heads, and broadcast commentators debated the wisdom of campaign strategies, I launched a revote campaign. A congressional candidate who had lost her congressional race joined me. While she shopped the skeletal revote legal brief I had drafted to various political camps, I posted a YouTube video calling for a revote and created an online revote petition at Change.org. During a broadcast of The Carl Nelson Show on WOL-AM 1450, I argued for a revote. Supporters of Clinton and Trump argued in favor of their candidate.

For weeks, the people who joined my effort and I were voices in the wilderness. On December 10, 2016, that changed when Former CIA Agent and CNN Commentator Robert Baer called for a revote during a CNN appearance. Baer said, “The Russians, it looks like to me, did interfere in our elections. We’ll never be able to decide whether they changed the outcomes; but I’ll tell you, having worked in the CIA, if we had been caught interfering in European elections or Asian elections, or anywhere in the world, those countries would call for new elections. Any democracy would.”

CNN Host and Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber responded to Baer with the same questions I have been forced to confront countless times when arguing on behalf of a revote. Melber said, “Bob, if I hear you correctly, are you saying we should have a new election? How would that work?” Baer explained that constitutional lawyers were better poised to answer Melber’s questions, but stood steadfast in his call for a revote.

My hopes that Baer’s appearance would give rise to a national discussion on a revote were quickly dashed. Major broadcast stations, media commentators and election officials have shown no interest in discussing a revote. Democrats—who were the targets of Russian hacking—have also remained largely silent on the subject, perhaps to avoid impugning the Obama Administration for an epic miscalculation. Silence on the part of Republicans, however, is more easily understood and undoubtedly emanates from their desire to retain the spoils of Putin’s hacking. After all, Putin handed them a clean sweep. They now control Congress and the Executive Branch and have the votes needed to reconstitute the U.S. Supreme Court and enact sweeping policies changes that will shape America’s destiny for the next 100 years.

Convinced Russia had determined election outcomes, I took note of a seldom-used provision in the U.S. Constitution known as the Guarantee Clause (Article 4, Section 4) and used it to formulate a legal argument that I shared with attorneys from esteemed law institutions and lawyer friends skilled in the practice of law. All advised me—a non-attorney—that the clause I had chosen was a “dead” clause; they emphasized there was no constitutional provision or law that could be used to secure a revote. I was convinced otherwise. So, I wrote the now infamous revote writ of mandamus and handed it to citizens in Denver, California and  Massachusetts to file in federal district courts on behalf of the people. I too was a Petitioner.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court was first to rule and cited the revote writ of mandamus as containing “novel constitutional claims.” I then commenced writing a revote appeals writ for citizen litigants to file at the U.S. Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court failed to assert jurisdiction over the revote case that listed the names of three women from Massachusetts, I remain convinced that the writ’s argument is spot on. It is irrefutable that:

  1. The United States has many territories, including a cyber territory.
  2. Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion .  . . “
  3. The U.S. Government failed to protect States’ cyber territories against invasion during the 2016 election cycle.
  4. The 114thCongress violated their constitutionally-mandated Oath of Office when they helped swear into office candidates who were materially determined by Russia.

Investigations to determine if Trump Administration officials or associates colluded with Russia to influence 2016 U.S. elections are ongoing. But little has been done to safeguard future elections or provide redress to the American people who are the victims of Russian hacking.

The people of this great nation must reject the notion that a national revote is impossible because the U.S. has never held a federal revote. We must insist upon our right to elect officials to the highest offices in our land by appealing to State Attorneys General to file an original jurisdiction revote case at the U.S. Supreme Court on citizens’ behalf. State Attorneys General have perfect legal standing to bring such a case, since the writ argues that the U.S. Government failed to protect States against invasion during the 2016 U.S. elections. An affirmative ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court declaring the 2016 elections unconstitutional would accomplish an unprecedented reset by nullifying all actions taken by the Trump Administration. It would also compel Congress to quickly enact revote legislation, hold a revote to erase Putin’s handprint from the 2016 elections and install national election safeguards that prevent unauthorized encroachments into U.S. election systems in the future.

Note: Sanders has a lawsuit pending against petitioners named on the original revote writ and members of Revote2017 for claiming they helped write the revote writ and devise the Article IV, Section 4, legal strategy. Revote2017 has returned to the U.S. Supreme Court with a citizen case that violates Sanders’ derivative rights as a copyright holder.