Beacon update: Sylvester Brown is moving forward, working with Tavis Smiley
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 24, 2009 - When columnist Sylvester Brown and the Post-Dispatch parted company in April, the two questions that immediately came to mind were: What will you do next? And do you plan to sue?
To take the second one first, Brown says that after conferring with attorneys, he decided not to take his departure to court.
"It just didn't feel right," Brown said. "They were all pushing a discrimination lawsuit. I felt there was some bias involved, but I didn't want to put the energy or the money into a discrimination lawsuit. The biggest thing for me was defamation of character and slander of my name."
Since leaving the Post-Dispatch, Brown has spent time working on a project for Tavis Smiley's book company, examining racism from a marketing perspective. He noted that it's the same company that released a recent book by Cornel West, so he likes the atmosphere.
"Just being in the company of such big thinkers," he said, "it kind of solidifies the course I was on when I was let go from the Post-Dispatch."
Now, he wants to move forward on an effort to help African-Americans re-energize their lives and move forward in the so-called post-racial society.
As he plans his career from now on, Brown says he definitely misses having a regular forum and a regular audience to share his views of daily events.
"That really hurts a lot," he said about losing his column, "whenever an issue comes up that I would want to weigh in on. I was seen as the go-to guy. People -- whites, blacks and others -- whenever something happened, they came to me and said we need to talk about this. Why aren't you talking about this? Whenever something black happened, they came to me, and I got used to that.
"I really miss that part of it, and I really miss the interaction with the readers, especially those who didn't agree with me. I really learned to appreciate that whole process, no matter what. Even if they took the time to call and curse me out or they took the time to write me a vicious letter, I had reached them on a certain level."
Read the Beacon's original story below.
Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown Jr. today said he was leaving the newspaper and had rejected its offer "to exchange termination for resignation."
Brown called a news conference to address his absence from the newspaper. His last column appeared in the Post-Dispatch on March 26.
In a prepared statement on his blog, Brown said, "In short, management alleges that I took a plane trip to Washington DC on March 26 as a gift in return for a column I wrote on and turned in the day before about a renewable energy project in East St. Louis.
"I’m here to tell you that these charges are a gross distortion of the facts, which in my view, have been purposely manipulated to provide cover for far more desperate and nefarious acts within this once proud and honorable institution."
The Post-Dispatch released this statement from Editor Arnie Robbins: "Our integrity and our credibility with readers is of utmost importance to us. Our ethics policy clearly states the parameters regarding conflict of interest, and what our journalists can and cannot do."
In his statement, Brown said he was declining offers by the Newspaper Guild to fight for his job because he would not accept it back. He said, "I have no reason to be remorseful. The truth counters a need for remorse. I’m too stubborn to keep my mouth shut, too proud to cast down my eyes, and too old to shuffle."
Brown spoke at headquarters of the St. Louis Gateway Classic on Martin Luther King at 20th Street, eight blocks from the Post-Dispatch. Several dozen supporters were gathered in a gym. After making his statement, Brown said he hasn't been in the Post-Dispatch office since March 27, and that some of his personal belongings were still there.