Longform

Keith Clayborne in Black and White

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Lewis says Clayborne's approach wins readers, not friends. "I think Keith has courage. He wants black Broward County to aspire to higher standards of behavior or to broaden their perspectives. People say Keith's paper is The National Enquirer of the black community, but they read it. They may not like it, but they read it."

Kolo, the FAU professor and community activist, is less enthusiastic. "[Clayborne] has aired our dirty laundry in public, which a lot of people don't like," he says. "You have to have a free press, otherwise we might all as well pack our bags and leave. But sometimes Keith is a bit of a rabble-rouser."

He notes that Clayborne's confrontational approach has soured relationships with some organizations, including local chapters of national black fraternities and sororities. "I don't like the word destroying, but the fact that he is not apologetic has put a sour tinge on those relationships," he adds.


Clayborne's aggressiveness has not soured business; on the contrary, it may have saved it. Once he and his wife had to go door-to-door seeking corporate advertising. Clayborne recalls parking a beat-up old Dodge around the corner and wearing his only blue suit when visiting the front offices of wealthy businesses. Looking confident and moneyed, he would then convince them to purchase pages of advertising. The Claybornes no longer solicit. "Now the advertising just walks in the door," he says.

So does a lot of work. He handles the editorial side of the business from a spacious office at one end of the family's two-story house, and Bernadette manages the books and maintains circulation lists from an office -- which doubles as a laundry room -- at the other end.



State-of-the-art computers are the most costly tools the Claybornes own, except for two delivery trucks. The large rooms between the two offices are filled with paintings and pieces of sculpture: a four-foot watercolor of a buffalo soldier, mounted and riding at a gallop appears on one wall. A blue swimming pool gleams outside sliding glass doors.

For ten years the workaday rhythms of the Claybornes have remained unchanged. Monday and Tuesday are planning days. On Wednesday Clayborne writes a front-page opinion column and some news stories, using freelance writers to round out the news coverage; the paper is printed on Thursday. On Friday a crew delivers the paper with the trucks Clayborne parks in a garage off Commercial Boulevard. If the paper's delivery men don't show up, Clayborne can find himself delivering papers at 4 a.m.

Clayborne's family stands at the center of this work: Two of the children, Kendrick and Kendall, even appear on the masthead as "circulation assistants." Work merges seamlessly into family life. Occasionally it also springs from the public appearances Clayborne makes to encourage black entrepreneurs or children.

Four years ago, Clayborne recalls, he walked into Parkview Elementary School to talk to a class of youngsters. "I noticed most of them weren't interested in anything. Their heads were down, or they were looking out the window. Even the teacher, in back, looked bored. I thought, This is gonna be great, and I excused myself to use the restroom. When I got in there, there were no seats on the toilets. There was excrement and graffiti on the walls. I couldn't use it -- no one could use it. I certainly wouldn't want my kids to have to go in there. So I went down to the principal's office and threw a fit. I was black and he was black, and it made it easier for me to do, I think. He told me I had no right to complain."



So Clayborne used his paper to advocate for better conditions. "I got angry calls saying, "What right have you got to criticize our people in public? These are good people, caring people, and they run good schools. You're black, and you shouldn't be attacking black folk.'"

Clayborne decries that attitude as "mythmaking" that blacks too often exercise to protect their images. "There are historical reasons for that, you know, sticking together in the face of whites who discriminate, trying to present a positive face, but it's wrong now. If they aren't doing their jobs and demanding [better] conditions for black schoolchildren, they're not my people."

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Roger Williams