Kid Sharpton

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

"He's an extremely intelligent and articulate kid," Sanford says. "He puts things in such a way that you listen, and you respect what he's saying. You can't help but listen."

There are days when Jarrett Maupin would surely prefer to just take out his frustration over racial indignities by going home to the PlayStation and blasting a few bad guys in GTA: San Andreas.

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."

But then, he's always got his dad to contend with.

Jarrett admits that after his run-in with the janitor at the Brophy-Xavier dance, he initially went back to the parking lot to tell his dad, who had driven him to the school, that he'd just been called the N-word, but was too tired to go back in there.

Jarrett Maupin Sr., at the tail end of his own trying day, was in no mood for confrontation, either. "I was starting to tell him, 'Son, you know how it is. It'll be your word against his. Sometimes, you just gotta blow 'em off.'"

But then Jarrett told him the rest of the story -- how the man had continued to harass him at the ticket booth with the "you people" comments.

"Then I had to turn the car around," says Maupin Sr., his voice rising with a familiar agitation, "and go up in the parking lot, and go find out what the haail is going on here!"

If Jarrett Jr. speaks with the stirring articulation of a young Sharpton or even occasionally a Martin Luther King Jr., his dad tends to go for the incendiary directness of a wizened Chris Rock.

"Whenever a black person pulls out a $50 bill at the register, it always goes right up in the air," he says, miming a clerk holding a note to the light to check for watermarks. "Ask for change for a $100 bill. She just might not be able to get it for you!"

Maupin Sr., who served 10 years in the Army's airborne ranger unit as the only black in his platoon ("They didn't think I knew how to swim!" he quips), says the posttraumatic stress he suffered after a horrific tour of duty in Grenada (bad enough to qualify him for a disability, for which he remains on medication) is nothing compared to the recurring stress black people deal with every time racism rears its ugly head.

"When you get disrespected like that, all kinds of stuff that you've had to deal with your whole life crops up," he says. "It crops up, and it stays there. Sometimes you don't wanna eat, because somebody brought that crap up."

On a Thursday in early January, with young Jarrett in tow, Maupin Sr. is meeting with lawyer Mohammd Riyad to discuss taking action against the Phoenix Police Department for an incident that occurred one afternoon last September, when an officer followed Maupin Sr. to his house and shouted, "Hey, you looked at me back there like you got something you want to say to me!", which Maupin (who'd been wearing sunglasses) felt was meant to provoke a reaction the cop could turn into a call and smacked of racial profiling.

When he demanded the officer apologize for the unwarranted questioning in front of his own house, and in full view of his family and neighbors, Officer J.T. Ring, a Hispanic, dug an even deeper hole by trying to address Maupin in black slang.

"First he turned to my wife [Rita -- who is half white and very light-skinned] and says, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused,'" Maupin says. "Then he turned to me and said, 'And to you, bro: Mah bad!'"

In the lawyer's office, Maupin Sr. becomes hyped up when recounting the case -- at one point even exclaiming, "Next time they come to my house disrespecting me like that, there's gonna be a man down!" The older Maupin says he's aware that kind of talk usually only makes things worse for blacks -- "Showing your emotions is a strike against you," he says -- but is often at a loss when trying to find another way to get non-blacks to really "feel it" when those familiar tensions are brought to the surface.

His son, however, is gifted with a much cooler head. He proposes the lawyer pursue a constitutional law case to push for policy changes in the Phoenix Police Department's "diversity training" program, which police spokesman Randy Force says is currently in discussion.

"Do they not understand that by talking down to us that way, they're intimidating individuals and getting them to break their conduct, in an effort to control the situation?" he says, eloquently. "By treating people on a separate level, by setting a lower standard for those who are different than you. It's the everyday things that happen to a person of color that can really bring your spirits down, and break your hope, and make you feel like a second-class American citizen."

Jim Sanford, still reeling from Jarrett's testimony before the AIA executive board, best describes what he feels is the younger Maupin's unique gift.

"His manner of presentation is totally understandable and powerful, but not confrontational," he says. "I don't think he hurts people's feelings in saying what he has to say. He puts things in terms that you sympathize with, and that are really not offensive to anybody.

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