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Nate Hightower II, a friend of Jarrett's who was at the appearance, recalls a few of the students played hardball in the Q&A portion, grilling Sharpton on past controversial alliances like the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which the black teenager from upstate New York accused six white men (including a county assistant DA) of brutally raping and torturing her. A grand jury concluded that Brawley made up the story, and Sharpton, who was one of Brawley's advisers (and still stands by her story), suffered a credibility beating that still dogs him today. "They were tough on him," Hightower says, "but he held his ground well."
Among students, Sharpton's appearance at Brophy on Maupin's behalf boosted the then-junior's profile around campus. But his newfound fame as a fledgling black activist also prompted a bit of hostile shoulder-bumping in the hallways from students eager to take him down a peg.
When, a week after the Sharpton visit, Maupin showed up at a dance held at neighboring private girls' high school Xavier, he says the janitor there began taunting him with outwardly racist remarks, claiming Maupin looked like a "nigger criminal" who was rumored to be robbing homes in the area. Maupin says the school employee then followed him up to the ticket booth, where Maupin produced a $50 bill to pay for his admission into the dance. At that point, he says the janitor questioned where the cash came from, adding, "You people don't have that kind of money." (Renke, citing student confidentiality protocol, declined to comment on the incident.)
Soon after, Maupin withdrew from Brophy -- followed by nine other black students, many of whom transferred to St. Mary's. When two of the students, who'd previously played basketball for Brophy, attempted to join St. Mary's team, Maupin says Brophy brought in the Arizona Interscholastic Association to block them on the AIA's de rigueur rule that students who transfer from one school to another in the same attendance zone are not eligible to join that school's team for 12 months.
Maupin went to bat for the two students and won them a hardship waiver granting them the opportunity to try out for St. Mary's team, based on the "extenuating circumstances" that they had transferred not by choice, but because of a pattern of racial harassment at Brophy. Devon Whyte, father of Thaddeus Whyte, one of the players, concurs his son complained of "repeated unfair treatment" at the school. (Mark Mignella, attorney for the AIA, also declined comment because of student confidentiality.)
As evidence of Brophy's not-quite-zero tolerance regarding hate-crime issues, Maupin brought up a cartoon he'd seen on one of the restroom walls.
"The first year I got there, somebody drew something called 'The Niggler,' which was a machine that had black people going in on one side and coming out all chopped up on the other," Maupin says. "And they caught the kid who did it. [Assistant principal] Mr. Kopis caught him.
"But because the kid was a championship swimmer" -- Maupin names a student who was one of the school's top sprinters in 2003 -- "nothing happened to him. He was told to pray about it and take a few days to 'cleanse himself' of those kinds of racist thoughts. But he came back and -- guess what? He was the same guy." Hightower, who temporarily transferred to St. Mary's but recently returned to Brophy, says he still sees and hears the occasional derogatory racial comments around the school. "I just try to forget about it and keep going," he says.
By all accounts, Maupin was welcomed without reservation by St. Mary's, where every one of his teachers praises his rare ability to balance academics (his grade point average is in the low A's) with student-inspiring activism.
Of course, the school -- Brophy's archrival since the late 1950s -- was also thrilled by the addition of the two star athletes Maupin was able to win for its basketball team. In its first game against Brophy with the addition of transferees Whyte and Rodney Brown, St. Mary's was able to roundly defeat the players' former school -- quickly silencing the cheers of "We don't want 'em, you can have 'em!" that students say made for a particularly high-powered game.
But St. Mary's athletic director Jim Sanford, who attended the eligibility appeal session before the AIA, was even more impressed by the performance of Jarrett, whom he'd previously never heard speak, before the AIA executive board.
"They did the hearings separately for the two players," Sanford says. "First it was Thaddeus, his parents, myself, and then Jarrett spoke last. And he was by far the most dynamic and articulate -- more than the rest of us put together. It clearly was the turning point, and made the difference in the board's decision to grant Thaddeus his eligibility."
Jarrett was also there for Brown's hearing, but this time, Sanford says, Maupin didn't even have to say a word. "They knew by his presence that he was supporting Rodney. So they granted Rodney eligibility as well. His testimony was absolutely key to the whole thing.
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