In my humble opinion, there’s only thing better than reading about Rev. Al Sharpton’s incredible stories in our new book, “The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path to American Leadership,” chronicling his years of friendship with such legendary characters as Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali and James Brown.
That one better thing? Hearing these stories out of the mouth of the reverend himself, over a cozy dinner in his hometown of New York City.
That’s the prize being offered in a contest sponsored by dozens of radio stations across the land—in cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Philly, Dallas and Washington, DC—to help promote “The Rejected Stone.” Stations that broadcast one of Sharpton’s radio shows are holding a contest inviting listeners to send in a 100-word statement about why they or someone they know happens to be a “stone” in their community. (Click here to see if a station in your city is participating.) Rev. Al himself will select a winner, who will travel to New York with a guest for a two-day trip, including airfare, hotel accommodations and a private “power” dinner with Rev. Sharpton. In the contest, which ends on Oct. 31, there will be 165 second-place winners who will receive an autographed copy of the book. But for the grand prize winner, the Rev will use the dinner as an opportunity to thank the winner for the important work he/she is doing to uplift their community.
It’s an ideal way to honor individuals in our community who are selflessly giving of themselves, while also recognizing the courageous efforts of Rev. Sharpton over the years. During the course of working on the book, I had occasion to travel with Sharpton, to witness firsthand the astounding schedule this man keeps everyday. He wakes up at about 5 a.m., prays, reads the Bible, eats a tiny breakfast, then hits the treadmill. If he is in New York, he spends a few hours at his National Action Network headquarters in midtown Manhattan before going to the radio station to do his nationally syndicated three-hour, call-in talk show, “Keepin’ It Real.” If you’ve never worked in radio, you should know that a three-hour call-in talk show—with no long music breaks to give you a rest—is a LOOONG time. Right after the show is over, then he’s running to MSNBC to have a very quick meeting with his producers before he sits down to do his hour-long television show, PoliticsNation. If you’ve never done television, you should know that an hour on-air, talking all the while, is a LOOONG time.
After the live television show, Rev isn’t done yet. He might head over to the private cigar club to which he belongs, on top of a big skyscraper in Manhattan with fantastic views of the city, and enjoy a stogie or two with friends or dinner with his daughters. Then he’s often off to a church or a public event to speak, sometimes responding to some outrageous case of injustice. Many times, the speaking engagement is in another part of the country, requiring him to hop on a plane to get there.
When he wakes up in the morning, he’s at it again.
Through it all, he never complains. In fact, though many may think this sounds corny, it almost feels like he’s honored to have the chance to fight on behalf of the voiceless.
“I’m fifty-eight years old, as of this writing,” Sharpton says in the book. “I’ve been stabbed. I’ve spent months in jail. I’ve gone through all kinds of controversies over the years. There’s not much left you can do to me, except kill me.”
It was also important for me, as a former New York City newspaper reporter who first encountered Sharpton more than 20 years ago, to go on the road with Rev and see him interact with African Americans—and white people, too—outside of New York. These folks clearly revere him as a down-to-earth, tireless defender of the African-American community and a fighter against injustice everywhere. If they were going to get in a fight against the white establishment, there’s nobody else they’d want at their side.
The experience forced me to do some self-assessment, to realize that any negative feelings about Sharpton I might have harbored over the years were almost all put there by the white media in New York—my colleagues, who ridiculed him at every opportunity rather than deal with the troubling issues he raised. It was hard to see the man without the baggage the media had for years been draping over him. Anybody reading this who might also have some unexplored negative feelings about the Rev (yet has a political outlook similar to his), I would invite you to investigate their source.
Sharpton will be in Atlanta at 7 p.m. tomorrow, October 17, meeting the public and signing copies of “The Rejected Stone” at the Barnes & Noble in Buckhead, at 2900 Peachtree Road.
If you’re in the ATL, come out and grab a copy and have the Rev autograph it while he’s passing through our town.
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including the upcoming "The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path To American Leadership," which he co-authored with Al Sharpton.