NEW YORK — PepsiCo Inc. officials will meet Wednesday with members of Emmett Till’s family and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sharpton continued to press for the meeting last week after the company’s partnerships with Lil Wayne and Tyler, the Creator, of Odd Future to promote Mountain Dew sparked controversies.
PepsiCo and Lil Wayne have since parted over creative differences after the rapper’s offensive lyrics related to the civil rights icon Till. The company also pulled a commercial directed by Tyler that angered anti-violence and civil rights advocates.
The meeting to be held at PepisCo headquarters in Purchase comes as an outcry over offensive lyrics increases. Reebok recently ended its partnership with Rick Ross for similar reasons.
Sharpton said last week that corporations have a civic responsibility when deciding who they partner with.
Wayne had sent the Till family a letter offering empathy and saying that he would not reference Till or the family in his music, particularly in an inappropriate manner.
But the Till family said the letter fell short of an apology.
“It’s mindboggling to me that they partnered with him in the first place,” said the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., a Till cousin and witness to his abduction. “Major corporations should scrutinize who they endorse, don’t let greed or money determine who you sponsor.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, who had been working with the Till family to arrange a meeting with Lil Wayne and PepsiCo officials, said in a telephone interview that he hopes the decision ultimately is less about punishing individual rappers and more a cultural “teaching moment.”
“Otherwise we’re just waiting on the next train crash instead of trying to really resolve our problem and learn from these experiences and set a tone in the country that’s healthy for everybody,” he said.
The controversy erupted after Wayne made the reference to Till on Future’s song “Karate Chop” earlier this year. He refers to a violent sexual act on a woman and says he wants to do as much damage as was done to Till.
The Black teen from Chicago was in Mississippi visiting family in 1955 when he was killed, allegedly for whistling at a white woman. He was beaten, had his eyes gouged out and was shot in the head before his assailants tied a cotton gin fan to his body with barbed wire and tossed it into a river.
Two white men, including the woman’s husband, were acquitted by an all-white jury.
Till’s body was recovered and returned to Chicago where his mother, Mamie Till, insisted on having an open casket at his funeral. The pictures of his battered body helped push civil rights into the cultural conversation.
Music and media industry executive Paul Porter, who comments on music issues on his website RapRehab.com, said he thought PepsiCo’s decision was an effort by the company “to do the right thing now.”