Kid Sharpton

Jarret Maupin is the reverend Al's handpicked protégé. Is Phoenix City Hall ready?

"No foolin', he got Jay-Z?" Jarrett Maupin II is hollering into his cell phone, pacing the hallway of the downtown office suite where the St. Mary's senior spends most of his time after school.

"Lord have mercy! That Rev is something else!"

It's the day before Maupin's big trip to the East Coast, where the 17-year-old national youth director for Reverend Al Sharpton's civil rights organization, the National Action Network, is set to speak at New York City's biggest MLK Day celebration and, later that same week, catch a train to Washington, D.C., to take part in an Inauguration Day protest organized by Sharpton and other black leaders.

Facing the future: Jarrett Maupin backed by friends and family.
Jeff Newton
Facing the future: Jarrett Maupin backed by friends and family.
Jarrett Maupin Sr. at the NAN offices: "When you get 
disrespected, all kinds of stuff that you've had to deal 
with your whole life crops up."
Jeff Newton
Jarrett Maupin Sr. at the NAN offices: "When you get disrespected, all kinds of stuff that you've had to deal with your whole life crops up."

And clearly, Maupin is stoked.

"On Monday, I'll be onstage at the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, and it's going to be remarkable," he says immediately after firming up his itinerary with Sharpton's secretary in New York, dropping into an office chair in the Phoenix chapter of the NAN, which Maupin runs along with his dad and a shoestring staff of employees and volunteers.

"The mayor's gonna be there, Foxy Brown's gonna be there, Jay-Z's gonna be there, Beyoncé's gonna be there. And I had a chance to talk with Rev today, and Hillary Clinton's gonna be there, too."

Maupin shakes his head and smiles broadly. "He's going to put me on 15 minutes after Clinton, and right before Jay-Z!"

With a time slot like that, he knows some classmates will be grilling him for backstage dirt on Jigga and Beyoncé when he gets back, and maybe even some anecdotes on the former first lady.

But Maupin, who divides his after-school hours among doing homework, fielding calls at the NAN offices, and gathering grassroots support for his own bid for a Phoenix City Council seat this coming November (if elected, he'll become the youngest councilman in state history), sees the opportunity differently.

"What that really means is I'll have all the cameras, all the news media there to hear what I have to say and what we're going to be doing with youth in terms of the movement," he says.

"The Rev is a very smart man."

Certainly Al Sharpton is smart enough to see the built-in media appeal of the young, charismatic Jarrett Maupin, who speaks with all the evangelical flair of his mentor and even bears a striking physical resemblance, around the eyes and particularly in the long, swept-back hair style he favors, to the iconic New York City politico renowned as either the civil rights movement's most tireless leader or a grandstanding racial agitator, depending on whom you talk to.

"Some people call me his 'Mini Me,'" Maupin says, laughing, standing in front of a series of photographs of himself with Sharpton framed in the NAN's Phoenix offices on 12th Street and Washington. "When we get our pictures taken together, people think I'm his son or nephew or something."

Actually, Maupin's permed 'do, which keeps him going twice a week to the barbershop to maintain, was inspired by vintage photos of his own dad, himself an old-school activist who styled his hair similar to Sharpton's before joining the military.

"People wonder, is he trying to be a Sharpton clone?" says Jarrett Sr., 42, who now keeps his own head clean-shaven. "And I say no, I had a perm and wore my hair like that before I got older and my hairline started to recede. And when Jarrett saw some of those old pictures, he was like, 'Wow, Dad, maybe I should grow my hair like that!'"

The younger Maupin came to the personal attention of Sharpton after organizing public protests against what Maupin believes were acts of racism at Valley schools. In an incident last March that made it to the Associated Press wire, Maupin, then 16, staged a march with 22 other students outside Scottsdale's Saguaro High School in support of a black student who was handcuffed by police in the school cafeteria for refusing to turn his sideways baseball cap around.

Administrators claimed that wearing a cap that way signaled gang affiliation, and was therefore a violation of district dress codes. Maupin, however, charged that the rule was selectively enforced on blacks, quoting several Saguaro students who said that a number of white kids were also seen wearing caps sideways the same day but weren't approached by security guards, who eventually called the cops on the black student when he refused to go to the principal.

Maupin's public protest helped prompt an investigation by the Scottsdale Unified School District that reduced the student's suspension from three days to one, and initiated a discussion over disciplinary practices between school administrators, the Scottsdale police chief and the Phoenix chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

"I met Reverend Sharpton, and he said, 'You never know what God's gonna put in front of you,'" Maupin says. "He said, 'I came down to Phoenix to meet this young man who's leading these marches, and goodness, Lord, if he doesn't look just like me!'"

Since then, the Rev has kept Maupin plenty busy, appointing the young activist president of the NAN's Phoenix chapter (Sharpton founded the nonprofit civil rights organization in 1991, which now has outposts in the capital cities of all 50 states) and naming him director of his National Youth Initiative, a program designed to bring conscious civil rights activism back to a blinged-out hip-hop generation. Maupin works without pay as chapter president, but pulls in $1,000 a month in his position as national youth director.

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