By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Young Jarrett Jr. staged his first protest in elementary school at age 7 -- to demand better milk containers in the lunchroom for all of the students.
"We went to Ocotillo Elementary School, and we had to have milk in these, like, bags," says Jarrett's 16-year-old sister, Marissa, who is also an honor student at St. Mary's and, her mom says, an accomplished singer and part-time model. "And he led this protest with all the little kids -- it was so funny -- where they kept chanting, 'No more bags! We want the cartons!' Next thing you knew, we had the milk cartons."
Jarrett's mother, Renee (his parents divorced in the mid-'90s but remain close friends), says she nurtured Jarrett's and Marissa's intellects by never treating them as babies. "I read the newspaper to them, and their dad and I always informed them of worldly things," she says. "By the time he finished fourth grade, they wanted to put him into seventh grade. His knowledge was that strong."
Renee, who is half black and half Hispanic, did her best to educate Jarrett on the struggles of the Hispanic people as well, while his father clued him in to black history. The combination of heritages, Renee feels, has made him the perfect champion for minorities in Arizona.
His grandmother has her own feelings about Hispanics joining in today on the civil rights battle she feels her people pioneered.
"When we were out there bleeding, the Hispanics were saying, 'Well, I'm white, because it says so on my driver's license,'" she says, while both Renee and Jarrett stand nearby in awkward silence. "They did nothing until we got it, with our blood and tears. And then they said, 'I'm a minority.'"
Jarrett speaks up. "We differ greatly on our opinions on that," he says. "I understand what she's saying, and there is truth to that. But to say that the Hispanics weren't on the forefront at all, I think is incorrect. We have to work together, and we'll have a brighter future if we can consolidate and learn to respect each other. We've lost the respect issue, on both sides."
Jarrett likens the strain between the black and Hispanic communities to two birds in a nest, always competing for the same worm dangled by the larger white mother. "What we should be asking is, 'Why is there only one worm?'"
"Obviously, there are some good, spirited debates in our family!" Jarrett says at last, breaking the tension, always the politician. "It's never dull around the Maupin home!"
A week before he leaves for New York City, Maupin is checking his messages at his other office -- a small conference room in the St. Mary's school library, which the administration has given him permission to use pretty much whenever he feels the need.
"This is his area, so whenever anybody wants Jarrett, they come here to look for him," says school librarian Cathy Clark. Maupin says he gets paged in his classrooms whenever Reverend Sharpton calls, and he'll often have to excuse himself from class to confer with the Rev on the library's phone.
He's also used the conference room to paint signs for protest marches -- slogans like "No Justice, No Peace" and "Stop Classroom Racism Today!" sprawled in red and blue paint on giant poster boards.
Around St. Mary's, a small (825 enrollment) parochial school in south central Phoenix with a nearly even split of whites and Hispanics but only 6.5 percent blacks, Maupin is clearly the big man on campus.
"He has something to do every minute of the day," says secretary Christine Gore, who keeps a calendar of Jarrett's extracurricular activities in her office datebook. "And his teachers let him out of class when he needs to do something -- 'cause I see him walking around a lot. But his grades are good, and the teachers know: He's got to do this work."
For a pricey ($7,980 a year) private school with what is -- given its urban location -- a top-heavy white enrollment of 44 percent, it's somewhat surprising how much leeway St. Mary's gives Maupin to pursue his work for minority causes. Maupin says he's even used the school bus to cart as many as 100 students to race-related protests around the city.
"His heritage and where he's headed are very well-defined," explains Clark. "And I don't think many of our other students have that. His grandmother is well-known within the community. And Jarrett's very clear on where he's going."
High school life hasn't always been this sweet for Maupin. For his first two and a half years of higher education, Maupin attended Brophy Prep, an even more expensive and exclusive Jesuit-run boys' school in central Phoenix notorious for its low representation of minorities. When Sharpton scheduled a stop in Phoenix along his presidential campaign trail in October of 2003, Maupin made sure his mentor arranged a detour at Brophy to speak to the students in the school chapel.
Brophy's vice president, Adria Renke, says Sharpton's appearance was arranged quickly but was very well attended. "At the time, we looked at it as, 'Well, this guy's running for the president of the United States. Let's hear what he has to say.'"