DETROIT – Grammy-nominated artist Kid Rock told nearly 10,000 people at the Detroit NAACP branch’s annual fundraising dinner that his use of the Confederate flag during on-stage performances has nothing to do with how he feels about blacks.
“I love America. I love Detroit, and I love black people,” the musician said Sunday night during the annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner at Cobo Center.
Kid Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, used the event to diffuse criticism aimed at the Detroit NAACP branch which honored him with its Great Expectations Award.
The Macomb County, Mich., native said his use of the flag derives from a popular song by legendary Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Earlier, a group of about 50 people picketed outside Cobo Center in protest of the decision to honor Ritchie. The group also burned a replica of the flag, considered a symbol of racism and oppression to blacks in the South. It was carried by secessionist Southern troops in the American Civil War.
The dinner is the largest fundraiser for the Detroit NAACP branch. Civil rights pioneer John Lewis gave the dinner’s keynote speech.
Others also were honored Sunday night, but most of the attention was focused on Ritchie.
Detroit NAACP President Wendell Anthony said Ritchie was being honored for his advocacy of the city.
“We’re not lifting up the flag,” Anthony said earlier Sunday. “We’re lifting up a gentleman who has worked very hard to be a booster for Detroit.”