Civil Rights, 1990's Style

This is our generation. We need to take a stand," declared student Leisha Weeks to a packed auditorium at Brevard High School in North Carolina. Facing the members of the Board of Education, she pleaded, "Please listen to the students of Transylvania County. We need Mal Crite to teach us."

Weeks' compelling testimony was one of 11 offered the evening of April 5, 1993, on behalf of Marion "Mal" Crite. Crite, a young former Brevard High School and North Carolina State University star athlete, had been hired by the school superintendent six weeks earlier as home-school coordinator for "at risk" students.

One after another, pastors, parents, community leaders, counselors, and friends rose to speak on behalf of Crite's integrity and compassion for youth. Referring to his conversion to Christ following a drug conviction nine months before, they spoke of forgiveness and the grace of God. And they stated their belief that Crite's profile in Brevard--as well as the turnaround he has made in his life--uniquely positioned him to serve the students. Spontaneous applause and tears flowed in response to many of the poignant testimonies.

Only three people spoke against Crite, on the grounds that he was on probation; two had never met him. The audience sat in stunned silence as the school board voted 3-1 to fire him.

Perhaps it was not coincidence that, the day before, the nation commemorated the 25th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The firing of Mal Crite initiated in Brevard what came to be called by the local press "a mini-civil rights movement--1990s style."

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Sojourners Magazine July 1993
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