Kid Sharpton

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

"I do know it would be a very difficult task to be a student and be a city councilperson at the same time," Johnson says. "But I don't know him well enough to know what he's capable of."

Maupin's dad believes the significance of his son's becoming what would be, he claims, the youngest African American ever appointed to an elected office in the history of the U.S. is enough of a reason to vote in a young leader with no special interests other than those of the community where he was raised.

"Mike Johnson ought to be getting out of the way just so he can get that!" he says, with typical candor. "Honestly! Why don't you groom yourself to take [Democratic Representative] Leah Landrum Taylor's place, Mike? Because she can't run for another term. It's called progress. Move out the way!"

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."

Landrum Taylor, who'll run for the Senate after her term is up, says she'll be endorsing Johnson for his final term, but says, "I'd be happy to support Jarrett in the election after that, absolutely."

Landrum Taylor says she first met Jarrett three years ago, when he participated in her first Arizona African-American Legislative Days event to encourage young black leaders, and was "blown away" by his focus and determination.

"He truly is one of our future leaders," she says. "I see him as having some future role in our government, I really do. We can't have young people like Jarrett get away from us. It's up to us to make sure they have a good place here."

St. Mary's coach Sanford is even more optimistic in his predictions.

"I think you'll hear lots about him in the coming years -- and I'm talking the coming decades," he says. "I can see him hooking up with Barack Obama, running with him as vice president if and when Obama runs for president. Or vice versa. He is that dynamic."

For several weeks, Maupin Jr. has been promising to get the busy Reverend Sharpton on the phone for an interview. On the Sunday following the week of MLK Day and the presidential inauguration, while Jarrett is still stranded in New York by the East Coast's record-setting blizzard, the call finally comes through.

"This is Reverend Sharpton," rings the familiar, booming voice. "What can I tell you about Jarrett?"

Sharpton is ebullient in his praise for Maupin, who he says reminds him of himself at that age, only even more disciplined and focused.

"When you've been out in the trenches as long as I have, you can recognize the character of people," he says. "It's one thing to have command of the stage -- and when Jarrett spoke in front of all the important people who showed up in New York for King Day, he had a command that was awe-inspiring, even for the political leaders who are far more advanced than him in age and experience.

"But I've met a lot of gifted people who couldn't get past themselves," he continues, sounding for a moment like he's reciting a criticism often thrown his way. "At the end of the day, you are who you are, and sometimes your true character can undermine your gift. But Jarrett is one of those rare people who has balanced out his character with his gift. He doesn't even have to think about it. And that's the makings of a great leader."

A few moments after Sharpton's call, Maupin is on the phone again, this time calling to address the disturbances he viewed on the New York news channels that occurred after the King Day celebration in Phoenix.

"People all over the country took notice of what happened there," he says, referring to the fights that broke out as the crowd of nearly 25,000 people was dispersing, prompting a curiously well-prepared force of 75 police officers to use pepper spray on the offenders and a good number of innocent bystanders.

"It looked like Birmingham to me," Maupin fumes. "The Mace cans were spraying like water hoses, stores had to shut down, people were falling out into the street. And they used the excuse that they always have to be ready on King Day -- which just tells me they already plan on horrible things happening when black people get together."

While Maupin is infuriated at the Phoenix police for their extreme actions (police spokesman Randy Force maintains, "Good preparation is key to good response in large crowd situations"), he's equally outraged by the actions of the handfuls of black teenagers who started the fights.

"When we leave our homes and go into the streets on that day to publicly celebrate the teachings of our hero, our champion, it's important for us to embody those characteristics that set him apart from every other American of his time," he says. "We are the living representations of Dr. King on that day -- and should be on all days."

Maupin agrees with Bill Cosby that there are a lot of ills in the black community that need to be fixed from within. "I think the word for today in civil rights is accountability," he says. "Bill Cosby didn't tell us we should stop holding white America accountable for what happened to us. But he did say that we have to start holding ourselves accountable for the things we do to ourselves."

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