I’m on the one mission
To get a politician
To honor or he’s a gonner
By the time I get to Arizona”
In this song, featured on the album ‘Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black’, the rappers of Public Enemy denounce the racist attitude of Evan Mecham, Governor of Arizona. During his short time in office in the second half of the 1980s, Mecham succeeded in canceling the paid Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, which led to a great deal of opposition.
Public Enemy could not comprehend that someone would disregard Martin Luther King’s memorial day just like that. ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona’ was their response. Their very controversial music clip staged the assassination of King and ended with the bombing of Governor Mecham’s limousine. Not exactly the kind of non-violent protest Martin Luther King always had in mind.
Mecham was suspended as Governor before the song was released. His position had become intolerable and after a little over a year he stepped down. Shortly after, Martin Luther King Day again became an official memorial and paid holiday in Arizona. But Arizona was not the last state to observe Martin Luther King Day. In New Hampshire and Utah, it was not official until the year 2000.
For the controversial video clip of ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona’ click here.