Joe Parham Stands Up

Is the African-American psychologist and former Ev Mecham staffer incompetent--or just streetwise?

The way Joe Parham sees it, the Man finally got him. Joe had assimilated to white culture for a long time, but he knew sooner or later the System would take him down. He should have followed the advice he gave African-American students: Be vigilant. Be extra cautious.

"I hate to sound egotistical," he says, "but Arizona lost a damn good psychologist."

On Parham's wall in his tiny office at Glendale Community College, there is a painting of the Last Supper. The disciples are Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and other African-American heroes. Only the skin color of Jesus is unclear--the painting shows his halo and robed back.

On the other side of the cramped space, there is a bulletin board upon which is tacked an advertisement to consider a career in chiropractic.

Parham has counseled for the community-college system for more than two decades.

"Joe is a good counselor," his supervisor, Chuck Zontanos, says. "He's appropriate and very intuitive, and as far as I'm concerned he's qualified."

An evaluation form submitted by students in Parham's "Personal Development for African-American Students" class gives him superior ratings.

One of those students is Jevon, a 21-year-old emigre from the streets of Los Angeles. His brother, whom he loved, was recently murdered, shot twice in the chest in what Jevon calls a "walk by."

Jevon has other problems--a baby on the way, bleak employment opportunities unless he can get through Glendale and transfer to ASU.

Jevon asks Parham to explain why a reporter is sitting in the office. Parham leans forward and looks at Jevon. For the first time, he comes down off the pedestal.

"I used to be a licensed psychologist," he says. "And the System took away my license. And one of the problems now is that because I don't have my license, I am not able to deal with brothers in the System. I used to go to the jails to help the brothers, I used to go everywhere."

"The Man took that away from you, huh," Jevon says, staring at his hands. Then he looks up at his friend.

"You don't need that license, man," he says.
"You don't need that.

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