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Kwame Kilpatrick: The rise and fall of Detroits hip-hop mayor

admin | 7/12/2012, 6:30 a.m.

In 2008, Kwame Kilpatrick, 42, pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges after lying under oath about an affair he had with his longtime gay-pal and chief of staff, Christine Beatty. It was a sad day for the economically-troubled city that had chosen Kilpatrick, the son of former Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, in a hard-fought election in 2001 the youngest mayor ever elected in Detroits history. Many here in South Florida remember the gregarious Kilpatrick because of his skills on the football field. His connection to Florida was formed after he attended Florida A&M [FAMU], starring on its football team while also crossing the burning sands of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. In fact, many young men from Detroit took the long drive from the Motor City to Tallahassee eager to escape the cold weather and to be part of the FAMU legacy. Blinded by the bling-bling Kilpatricks greatest asset was his charisma. It would catapult him to the Michigan State House of Representatives and eventually the Mayors office. But along the way, perhaps indicative of his age, Kwame almost immediately began to be make poor decisions including excessive use of city funds charging thousands of dollars on city-issued credit cards for spa massages, extravagant dining and expensive wines. As he hob-knobbed with celebrities and became a frequent visitor at White House, even addressing both the 2000 and 2004 Democratic National Conventions, he became almost larger than life. But the hip-hop mayor, as his critics began to call him, was also surrounding himself with more and more celebrities and fewer political allies. Kilpatrick has since been stripped of his right to practice law, sentenced to prison and incarcerated twice. Now, out of jail and on parole, he faces new felony corruption charges. But as he says in his recently-released autobiography, Surrendered: The Rise, Fall & Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick, I dont know how all of this will end, or why I had to come this way. Its sad that in adversity, there are no problems to face, just choices to make. I choose to remain surrendered, to feed my soul faith, hope and love, even while I am doing time [the words were written before his parole] because there is one thing I do know. Time will tell all. And all is well. Sexting brings more troubles for Kilpatrick As he prepares for a federal racketeering trial that is set to begin in September, reports indicate that the prosecution has a list of 500 witnesses prepared to testify. But his greatest hurdle may be the 370,000 text messages from his city-issued cell phone that will be used as evidence. It will not be the first time that text messages were used against him. Texts between Kilpatrick and his former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, proved that they had been in an affair [his lying under oath lost him his job and landed him in jail] and that the two had conspired to fire then-deputy police chief Gary Brown. But Detroiters have not totally abandoned their former mayor. Many have remained loyal, showing up en masse at book signings and sending him notes of encouragement. Kilpatrick, along with his wife Carlita and their three sons have now relocated to Dallas, Texas. He attributes his spiritual growth and ability to survive so much adversity to T.D. Jakes and his church family at Potters House Church in Dallas. Words from his mother on the night that he was first elected mayor have stayed with him, proving to be, as he says, prophetic. Leadership is a very lonely position, she said. The higher you go, son, the fewer friends youre going to have. Remember this. It might sound harsh, but I want you to understand. Right now, while you have this position, you have all the friends youre going to have. And youre going to lose some of them. His thoughts afterwards are telling: In those few words, she emphasized the loneliness, the realization that the buck stopped with me and even the sense of alienation that the position [mayor] creates. Public humiliation, private damnation and the sensationalized series of events that led to Kilpatricks fall are shared in their full detail in this book that features one of the most talked-about Black politicians of the century. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com