Longform

Keith Clayborne in Black and White

Page 4 of 8

From a map the couple picked Fort Lauderdale as their next destination. It was close enough to get to the Bahamas easily, and the city and surrounding county had a reputation for growth and opportunity. They arrived in 1989 with money and expectations. After a year of struggling to find a niche, they had run through most of their savings, Clayborne recalls grimly. He had to start earning a living, so he decided to kick off The Broward Times.

"I'd gone from six figures, a house on Long Island, and all the trimmings to a small two-bedroom apartment in Pompano Beach," he says. "I even considered getting back to corporate life, and one Christmas [1991] it got so bad we didn't even have a place to live. We were in a motel between places. I felt like crying. I told Bernadette, "Maybe you should think about taking the kids and finding something better.'"

She recalls that time with laughter. "Yes, he told me that, but I knew Keith, and I knew he would make it. Besides, he's my husband. I'd live with Keith if we had to live in a cardboard box." While Keith struggled to build the paper, Bernadette went down the street from their apartment and took a job selling used cars.

Clayborne's editorial philosophy, he says, proved simple from the start. "We wanted something that would make us a living and something that would do some good for the black community, too."

Jerry Kolo, a professor of urban studies at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, watched The Broward Times emerge. "I'm fascinated by the foresight he had, that "I'm going to focus on political issues [that] tend to be explosive, divisive,'" Kolo says. "Nobody was doing that, because the black press doesn't do that, and he carved out a niche. He's done well from an economic standpoint. He's moved from a dingy two-bedroom apartment to a mansion in Coral Springs, but his continued involvement in the community is demonstrative: You don't have to live in the blighted area to stay involved."


On election night, only days after the NAACP meeting, Clayborne plunges into the excited crowd of supporters at Josephus Eggelletion's campaign headquarters in Lauderhill. Here, unlike at the NAACP meeting, Clayborne is on friendly turf.

On the previous Friday, his front page had blasted Carlton Moore, Eggelletion's opponent in the race for the District 9 seat on the Broward County Commission. Clayborne weighed in with the heaviest fusillades he could fire, above the fold on the front page. "THE MAN'S PAWN," screamed the headline of a story that explored campaign donations to Moore from wealthy white businessmen. Under a photograph of Moore, the caption read: "FOR SALE: Will help white folks keep blacks in check and away from the money. Can give good speeches too."

The story appeared side by side with the same column that attacked not only Roosevelt Walters but the NAACP itself. "The shame of this whole NAACP fiasco is that the NAACP we remember in our hearts and minds is no longer that NAACP," he wrote. "Part of that is our fault for having gone our merry way as freedom and opportunity developed for the black middle class. We have left the organization to the devices of those who have turned it into a self-serving club for their own personal gain and fundraising tool. Today its major events include a Freedom Fund gala selling tables of 10 to corporate Broward, and raising monies for members to attend its national shindig. Very little else is done to enrich or improve the lot of black folks in Broward County."

Clayborne even criticized Eggelletion for having "shied away from the "hot potato' of racism at [Fort Lauderdale] City Hall and the NAACP issue." Neither Moore nor Eggelletion has "been able to summon the courage against these travesties," he wrote. "They're scared, and like the movie, In Too Deep."



The newsman is just as bold in person as he is in print, moving enthusiastically from one campaigner to another. People welcome him with smiles, backslaps, and warm handshakes; although he criticized Eggelletion, he reserved the greater part of his wrath for Moore, a fact everybody here appreciates. Men and women move back and forth from a table of barbecued chicken and potato salad to the television screens, one of which is tuned to the first presidential debate. An outside balcony is crowded with people huddled in close conversations.

An anxious Eggelletion nods and waves at Clayborne but manages to keep his distance. Clayborne is at ease in this setting and clearly loves being a player on the political scene. "I'd never be a politician like that, though," he says, nodding at Eggelletion. "No way. Not enough time for the family."

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Roger Williams