Reverend Al Sharpton
Background and Early Years
Alfred Charles Sharpton Jr. was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on October 3, 1954, to Alfred Charles Sharpton Sr. and Ada. He preached his first sermon at the age of four and toured with gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.
In 1963, Sharpton's father abandoned his family. Ada took a job as a maid, but her income was so low that the family qualified for welfare and had to move from middle class Queens, N.Y., to the public housing projects of the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Sharpton graduated from Tilden High School in Brooklyn, and in 1975 he attended Brooklyn College, but dropped out after two years. From there, he became a tour manager for James Brown in 1971, where he met his future wife, Kathy Jordan, who was a backup singer. Sharpton and Kathy married in 1980, but they separated in 2004.
Sharpton was licensed and ordained a Pentecostal minister at the age of nine by Bishop F.D. Washington. After Washington's death in the late 1980s, Sharpton converted to Baptism; he was re-baptized as a member of the Bethany Baptist Church in 1994 by the Reverend William Jones, and he became a Baptist minister.
In 1969, Sharpton was appointed by Reverend Jesse Jackson to the position of youth director of Operation Breadbasket, a group that focused on the promotion of new and better jobs for Blacks. This is where Sharpton’s pangs of activism started. Then, in 1971, Sharpton founded the National Youth Movement to raise resources for impoverished youth.
The Activism Starts
On December 20, 1986, three Black men were assaulted in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens by a mob of White men. The three Black men were chased by their attackers onto the Belt Parkway, where one of them, Michael Griffith, was struck and killed by a passing motorist. A week later, on December 27, Sharpton led 1,200 demonstrators on a march through the streets of Howard Beach. Residents of the neighborhood, who were overwhelmingly White, screamed racial epithets at the protesters, who were largely Black. Sharpton's role in the case helped propel him to national prominence and led him to be appointed as special prosecutor mandated by New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Two of the surviving victims of the Howard Beach incident refused to co-operate with the Queens district attorney.
Then on August 23, 1989, four Black teenagers were beaten by a group of 10 to 30 White youths in Bensonhurst, a Brooklyn neighborhood. One Bensonhurst resident, armed with a handgun, shot and killed 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins. In the weeks following the assaults and murder, Sharpton led several marches through Bensonhurst. The first protest, just days after the incident, was greeted by neighborhood residents shouting "N***rs go home" and holding watermelons to mock the demonstrators.
Back on November 28, 1987, Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old Black girl, was found smeared with feces, lying in a garbage bag. Her clothing was torn and burned and various slurs and racist epithets were written on her body in charcoal. Brawley claimed she had been assaulted and raped by six White men, some of them police officers, in the town of Wappingers Falls, New York.
Attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason joined Sharpton in support of Brawley. A grand jury convened; after seven months of examining police and medical records, the jury determined that Brawley had fabricated her story. Sharpton, Maddox and Mason accused Steven Pagones, the Dutchess County prosecutor, of racism and of being one of the perpetrators of the alleged abduction and rape. The three were successfully sued by Pagones for slander and were ordered to pay $345,000 in damages. The jury found Sharpton liable for making seven defamatory statements about Pagones, Maddox liable for two statements, and Mason liable for one.
In May of 1990, when one of the two leaders of the mob was acquitted of the most serious charges brought against him, Sharpton led another protest through Bensonhurst. In January of 1991, when other members of the gang were given light sentences, Sharpton planned another march for January 12, 1991. Before that demonstration began, neighborhood resident Michael Riccardi tried to kill Sharpton by stabbing him in the chest. Sharpton recovered from his wounds and later asked the judge for leniency when Riccardi was sentenced. That year, Sharpton founded the National Action Network to increase voter education, poverty services and support small community businesses.
On January 12, 1991, Sharpton escaped serious injury when he was stabbed in the chest by a man named Michael Riccardi while preparing to lead a protest through. The intoxicated attacker was apprehended by Sharpton's aides and handed over to police who were present for the planned protest. Sharpton, although forgiving his attacker and pleading for leniency on his behalf, filed suit against New York City alleging that the many police present had failed to protect him from his attacker. In December of 2003, he finally reached a $200,000 settlement with the city.
In 1999, Sharpton led a protest to raise awareness about the death of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea who was shot to death by NYPD officers. Sharpton claimed that Diallo's death was the result of police brutality and racial profiling. Diallo's family was later awarded $3 million in a wrongful death suit filed against the city. But in 2001, Sharpton was jailed for 90 days for protesting near a United States Navy bombing site in Puerto Rico.
Sharpton has run, however unsuccessfully, for an elected office on multiple occasions. He ran for a New York seat on the United States Senate in 1988, 1992 and again in 1994. In 1997, he ran for Mayor of New York City.
On January 5, 2003, Sharpton announced his candidacy for the 2004 presidential election as a member of the Democratic Party. Then, on March 15, 2004, Sharpton announced his endorsement of leading Democratic candidate John Kerry.
On December 15, 2005, Sharpton agreed to repay $100,000 in public funds he received from the federal government for his 2004 presidential campaign. The repayment was required because Sharpton had exceeded federal limits on personal expenditures for his campaign. At that time, his most recent Federal Election Commission filings of January 1, 2005 stated that Sharpton's campaign still had debts of $479,050 and owed Sharpton himself $145,146 for an item listed as "Fundraising Letter Preparation — Kinko's." On April 2, 2007, Sharpton announced that he would not get into the 2008 presidential race.
The Crown Heights Riot began on August 19, 1991, after a car that was part of a procession led by an unmarked police car fell behind the rest of the motorcade and sped through a red light to catch up. The car, whose driver was Jewish, was struck by another vehicle and ran onto the sidewalk, where it struck and killed a 7-year-old Guyanese boy named Gavin Cato, and it severely injured his cousin Angela. A riot over the Cato’s death ensued. One of the factors that sparked the riot was the arrival of a private ambulance which, on the orders of a police officer worried for the Jewish driver's safety, removed the uninjured driver from the scene while Cato lay pinned under his car. Cato and his cousin were treated soon after by a city ambulance. Caribbean-American and Black American residents of the neighborhood rioted for four consecutive days fueled with rumors that the private ambulance had refused to treat Cato.
During the riot, groups of Blacks and Jews hurled rocks and bottles at one another, a few stores were looted and people were beaten in the street. Yankel Rosenbaum, a visiting student from Australia, was stabbed and killed by a member of a mob shouting "Kill the Jew." Sharpton arranged a rally in Crown Heights after Cato's death, as been seen by some commentators as inflaming tensions with acrid remarks. In spite of Mayor David Dinkins' attempts to keep the march from happening, Sharpton marched through Crown Heights with as many as 400 protesters chanting things such as, "whose streets? Our streets!" and "No justice, no peace!”
In 1995, Sharpton led a protest in Harlem against the plans of a Black Pentecostal Church called the United House of Prayer, which owned the retail property, to evict a long time subtenant, a Black-owed record store, called The Record Shack. Sharpton told the protesters, "We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some White interloper can expand his business." On December 8, 1999, Roland J. Smith Jr., one of the protesters, entered the store with a gun and flammable liquid, shot several customers and employees inside the store and burned it down. He then killed himself. Sharpton claimed that the perpetrator was an open critic of himself and his nonviolent tactics. Sharpton later expressed regret for making the racial remark, "White interloper," but denied responsibility for inflaming or provoking the violence.
At Kean College in 1994, Sharpton was quoted as saying to an audience that “White folks was in caves while we was building empires ... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” Sharpton defended his comments by noting that the term “homo” was not homophobic but added that he no longer uses the term. Sharpton has since called for an end to perceived homophobia in the Black community.
During 2007, Sharpton was accused of bigotry for comments he made on May 7, 2007, concerning presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his religion of Mormonism. In response, a representative for Romney told reporters that "bigotry toward anyone because of their beliefs is unacceptable." The Catholic League compared Sharpton to Don Imus and said that his remarks "should finish his career." But on May 10, Sharpton called two apostles of the Mormon Church and apologized to them for his remarks; he also asked to meet with them. A spokesman for the Church confirmed that Sharpton had called and said that "we appreciate it very much, Sharpton's call, and we consider the matter closed." He also apologized to "any member of the Mormon church" who was offended by his comments.
Wikipedia.com; “Al Sharpton On Ties To Sen. Thurmond.” Fox News, 2007; “Al Sharpton Talks with Bill O'Reilly.” The O'Reilly Factor, April 14, 2005; Bill O'Reilly Interview Al Sharpton. Ifilm, February 2, 2006; Taylor, Clarence, Black Religious Intellectuals: The Fight for Equality from Jim Crow to the 21st Century. New York: Routledge, 2002; William Addams Reitwiesner, Ancestry of Rev. Al Sharpton; Alexandra Marks “The Rev. Al Sharpton's latest crusade.” The Christian Science Monitor. December 3, 2003; Jack Newfield, “Rev Vs. Rev.” New York. January 7, 2001; Scott Sherman, “He Has a Dream.” The Nation, April 16, 2001; “Campaign 2004: Alfred Sharpton.” USAToday.com May 20, 2005; Rev. “Al Sharpton And Wife Kathy Renew Their Wedding Vows.” Jet, January 17, 2001; “Al Sharpton, wife announce separation.” Usa Today November 17, 2004; Morning Edition. National Public Radio, June 13, 2003; Stefan Friedman. “Reverend Al Sharpton's Bio<SPAN style="mso-bidi-
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Tuesday, December 4th 2007 at 1:28PM