Situational Ethics

As Jew Don Boney has moved upward in public life, have his values changed to meet his needs rather than those of his constituents?

The night before the December 1995 runoff election for the District D position on Houston City Council, Jew Don Boney was on the verge of finally winning elected office.

The race against opponent Saundra Chase Gray was close, however, and only hours before ballots were cast, Boney --who had lost several previous political campaigns -- probably should have been courting voters in Montrose, Sunnyside, the Third Ward and the other neighborhoods in the district.

Instead, the candidate was in Denver Harbor, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood on the eastside, trolling for campaign contributions among the friends and associates of Ben Reyes, whose long political career, including eight terms on City Council, would end later that month. Until then, the opportunistic instincts that had earned Reyes a reputation as ethically challenged were working on one last inside play: a piece of the $150 million contract to build a hotel next to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Toward that end, Reyes introduced Boney to Carlos Montero, a Latin American businessman representing an investment outfit called the Cayman Group. A week before, Montero had allegedly paid Reyes $50,000 in cash to secure the Cayman Group's interest in the hotel development project being proposed by Wayne Duddlesten. Reyes had reportedly assured Montero that with the right number of cash incentives, he could convince a majority of councilmembers to vote for Duddlesten's proposal. Reyes introduced Boney to Montero as someone who, should he be elected to City Council, could be a key vote on the hotel deal.

Boney did, in fact, beat Gray to replace the term-limited Al Calloway as District D councilman. To some, it was an upset: At the time, Boney was a staunch antiestablishmentarian, an outsider whose chief constituency was the city's poor, particularly those African-Americans who were rarely heard over the clamor of Houston's capitalist vigor. An ordained minister and peace activist, Boney was committed to various leftist causes. His manner was characterized by a militant severity that did not invite false alliances.

The long-awaited affirmation by voters seemed to humble Boney, who attributed his victory to "the vision of new politics" promised by his campaign. He thanked God, his family and his supporters, and vowed to be "the conscience at City Hall."

Meanwhile, as contents of a surveillance tape would ultimately reveal, Reyes had arranged another meeting with Montero, apparently to discuss how Boney might be persuaded to vote for the Duddlesten hotel proposal.

"I'm going to tell him, 'Look, [we've] got to have your help,' " Reyes told Montero. " 'I'm going to give $1,000, so you can buy a suit, some clothes -- not for the campaign. No, this is ... to take care of yourself.' It'll make him feel good."

"Good idea," Montero replied.
On December 21, 1995, less than two weeks before he would be sworn into office, Boney met Reyes for breakfast. According to an affidavit filed in federal court by an FBI special agent, the councilman-elect accepted from Reyes an envelope that contained $5,000 in cash. Also present at the meeting was Carlos Montero, who, as it turned out, is not a Latin American businessman with the Cayman Group but an undercover FBI operative whose real name is Julio Molineiro.

Molineiro was a central figure in Operation Parallax, an FBI sting operation that led to the indictment of six City Hall insiders: Ben Reyes, councilmembers John Castillo and Michael Yarbrough, former councilman John Peavy, former port commissioner Betti Maldonado and lobbyist Ross Allyn.

The trial of the so-called Hotel Six is currently under way in U.S. District Court. All are accused of bribery and conspiracy in an attempt to secure the convention-center hotel contract for Duddlesten and the fictitious Cayman Group. If convicted, they could get jail terms ranging from 15 to 50 years and fines ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million.

No such burden weighs heavy on the mind of Jew Don Boney. Now in his second term as the District D representative, Boney was never indicted for his alleged involvement in the bribery scandal. Last year, he vehemently denied that Reyes even offered him the money, though he did acknowledge having "some discussions" with Montero and another undercover FBI agent who participated in the covert operation.

"If there was anything to prove that I took any money from anybody," Boney told the Press, "I certainly would have been indicted."

However, audio tapes made by a federal undercover agent have Reyes claiming to have given Boney the $5,000. Investigatory sources say Boney walked away with the money. But the case against the councilman was never pursued because, as one source put it, "he didn't come back to the table" -- meaning that, unlike those indicted, Boney never incriminated himself in a way that prosecutors felt would hold up in court. And, of course, Boney's campaign-finance reports do not show a $5,000 cash contribution, which would be illegal under state law.

"We were going back to these people to confirm that they got [the money] on tape, because we knew we were going to be faced with just Ben saying he gave it to them," says one source, suggesting that Reyes's credibility with a jury might be weak. "Jew Don is pretty slick. We didn't get back to him to confirm it, so we just let it go. Jew Don got $5,000 and never reported it -- oh yeah."

In a recent interview at City Hall, Boney refused to discuss the FBI sting or the trial, saying only that he is "prayerful and hopeful" for the defendants. When asked to respond to the allegations that he took money from Ben Reyes, Boney paused for a long moment before offering this cryptic assessment:

"Basically," he replied in a flat tone, "there is nothing to respond to, because I was told I was not a target."

A similar ambiguity has beset Boney's political life since his election in December 1995. Just as the questions raised by the FBI affidavit remain unanswered, so does the question of his once-unimpeachable dedication to justice and equality for the city's poor minorities.

Today, Jew Don Boney is perhaps the most powerful figure in the administration of Mayor Lee P. Brown, who appointed Boney his mayor pro tem in early January. But that doesn't begin to explain Boney's apparent conversion from an advocate for black political self-reliance to an apologist for Houston's elite establishment, which, despite the election of Brown as the city's first black mayor, remains dominated by whites.

Indeed, Boney's praise for former mayors Kathy Whitmire and Bob Lanier couldn't sound more genuine if it were uttered by a card-carrying sycophant like, say, Billy Burge, a former METRO chairman who was an omnipresent figure during Lanier's tenure.

"I think Whitmire, Lanier and Brown have exemplified what we have wanted and appreciated [as leaders]," Boney says. "Brown as police chief, Whitmire as a strong female mayor and [Lanier], a business developer rebuilding the infrastructure and bringing some clear business principles to government."

This, from the radical-left street activist who protested the brutality of the Houston Police Department, whose chief in the mid-1980s was Whitmire-appointee Lee Brown. This, from the rhetorical bomb-thrower who was arrested while marching on Houston companies that did business with the racist government of South Africa.

There are other signs of capitulation. Three years ago, Boney joined other black leaders at a press conference to accuse former city controller George Greanias of "plantation politics" for investigating one of the city's minority subcontractors. Today, Boney defends the "economic realities" that have all but assured the destruction of Freedmen's Town, the city's most sacred black neighborhood.

While running for City Council in 1995, Boney promised he would bring "accountability" to his poor, disenfranchised constituents. But, shortly after winning a second term last fall, Boney helped convince a skeptical City Council to award a 15-year contract to upgrade and manage the inner-city golf course at Hermann Park, despite the fact that the contractor, BSL Corporation, planned a 70-percent increase in greens fees.

A couple of months later, Boney was feted at a fundraiser hosted by several BSL supporters and the Friends of Hermann Park, whose board includes Lanier's wife, Elyse, and Barbara Hurwitz, wife of "Chainsaw" Charlie Hurwitz, accused savings-and-loan bandit and industrialist scourge of California's precious Headwaters reserve. (BSL had won the Friends' support with a proposal that included a $250,000 payment to the park's board that could be used for "general purposes.")

Boney denies the fundraiser was linked to his success as BSL's water boy, just as he denies that he acted in anything but the best interests of the poor and the elderly who will soon be evicted from their homes in the Fourth Ward. Anyone disappointed in the positions he's taken does not really know him, Boney says, or they simply do not understand that he's matured into a new role.

But, while no one can argue with personal growth, it is not as if Boney had to learn how government -- the "system" -- works in Houston. He is someone who spent time battling back from the lunatic fringe, where, historically, the voices of dissent in this city, along with its weakest citizens, have been banished.

So, when Jew Don Boney talks about the difficult art of compromise that politics demands--when he stresses the importance of negotiation and consensus building --it sounds less like someone who's merely learning the rules of the game; if you listen closely, it's the voice of someone determined to do what's necessary to remain a player.

"I've been very careful to make sure that I can justify my position on each and every issue," he says. "One of the things that I learned in kinda being mentored by Bob Lanier's methodology: You can always negotiate and work things down, so [whatever] is put on the table, what comes off the table may be almost night-and-day different."

In 1980, Jew Don Boney was as deep into what he still calls "the struggle" as a black man could be. That year he spoke at the National Black Political Assembly convention in New Orleans, an event attended by the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, at the time the relatively unknown successor to Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

The NBPA's primary objective was to establish a nationwide African-American political agenda, cultivate a large block of black voters and use it to leverage power with national candidates. Interestingly, at the time, the NBPA was somewhat torn over the issue of creating an independent political party: The assembly's northern chapters wanted to do it; those in the South were hesitant.

Amilcar Shabazz, a historian and professor of American studies at the University of Alabama, remembers attending the NBPA convention as an activist and student at the University of Texas, where Boney was educated and hosted the school's first black talk-radio show.

"I remember being quite impressed," recalls Shabazz, a native of Texas who lived in Houston from 1991 until last year. "We were a community organization in Austin at the time, and Brother Jew Don was telling us what the black agenda was, what it meant and how we could go about building an assembly in Austin."

The son of educators-- his father, J. Don Boney, was the first black chancellor at the University of Houston-Downtown; his mother was a high school teacher -- Boney came naturally to social awareness. Invariably, he is linked with the Free Clarence Brantley movement, a three-year effort that saved an innocent man from being executed.

For the spiritual Boney, saving Brantley is understandably his most cherished accomplishment. But he is just as proud of his work with groups few people have heard of: The Peace Farm, the Austin Peace and Justice Coalition, the Red River Peace Network, the War Resistance League and Houston Non-Violent Action, to name a few.

"You gotta remember, I was deeply involved in the negotiations that resulted in the only out-of-court settlement for desegregation of the school district," adds Boney, who produced a 350-page study for the Houston Urban League that outlined the city's shortage of educational opportunities for minorities. "I've organized and sustained volunteer organizations over decades that were involved in social change.... I mean it goes on and on. I've forgotten some of the stuff that I've been involved in."

Influenced in equal parts by the '60s counterculture and the black-nationalist movement, Boney has always exuded a barely contained rage against the machinations of power. But those who know him say his intense physical presence -- that subtle aura of impending violence that scares the bejesus out of middle-class white folk -- was merely a tool.

"Everything about Jew Don was very calculated," says Rick Lowe, director of Project Rowhouses, a Third Ward art and culture center from which Boney announced his 1995 Council candidacy. "When he would get up and do his strong black-nationalist rhetoric, it wasn't because he couldn't tone it down or redirect it in some other way. He was dealing with a constituency that demanded that."

Says Lowe, who counts Boney among his role models for community activists, "I think he's in a different arena now. His constituency is broader than it was on the grassroots level, so automatically there's a certain amount of tradeoff and compromise. I think that people who know Jew Don and his work understand that he's always been extremely capable, and I think he's now in a position where he's forced to have to show it."

But even supporters find themselves scratching their heads over some of Boney's positions. Lowe, for one, is willing to give Boney the benefit of the doubt on most issues, such as the increased fees at the Hermann Park golf course. But, two years ago, Lowe was troubled by Boney's failure to come to the aid of small, community-based arts groups such as Project Rowhouses, when a dispute over how city grants were doled out threatened their funding.

"I just thought Jew Don would side with us small guys," Lowe recalls. "It turned out to be that he was not necessarily against us, but trying to approach it from a broader perspective that was not divisive for himself. I have mixed feelings about that. If Jew Don was not in office during that time period, he could have articulated the position that was needed for the small to mid-sized groups better than anyone involved at that time. But since he was on Council, he articulated something that was a compromise. It was a show of his diplomatic skills, but I also felt he was compromising us, and he was."

However, confront Boney with even that measured bit of criticism, and he unleashes a crisp assessment of the constituent services he's provided District D. Among the accomplishments he points to are tax-increment financing zones in the midtown and South Post Oak areas and along the Almeda-Old Spanish Trail corridor; 450 affordable-housing units near Windsor Village; the Renaissance Shopping Center, which was built with the help of federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

Boney flatly disputes the notion, held by many, that he cut a bad deal for the golfers who play the course at Hermann Park. Moreover, he says, he negotiated with BSL to freeze the greens fees for juniors and seniors, who, he says, are least able to afford an increase. Sure, the fees will unavoidably rise for everyone else, he acknowledges, but they will still be below the city average.

"There was an opportunity to bring the Hermann golf course up to first-class standards, comparable to Memorial, which is considered the Cadillac, the finest municipal golf course, without using city money," says Boney, whose command of political rhetoric can be persuasive. "I tend to take the position that every good thing, I want in District D. I want my constituents to have the very best, comparable to anything else in the city."

Boney is also quick to point out his hard work beyond District D. The best known of those efforts came during his first term, when Boney and former councilmember Helen Huey pushed through a new ordinance that restricts how and where topless bars and other adult businesses operate. While critics, and even a few supporters, think the new ordinance will never pass constitutional muster, Boney is nonetheless proud.

"Here's a freshman writing new legislation and chairing the committee," he says. "That doesn't happen."

But some of those who voted for Boney in District D could care less about topless clubs when they can't get the councilman to respond to their needs. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the loudest complaints come from Montrose, an eclectic, largely white area that attracts both the city's bohemian element and young, upscale professionals in droves. Most people, particularly longtime residents, like it that way, but are wary of the acres of new townhomes being constructed in the central and northern portions of the rambling Montrose. Meanwhile, the less affluent areas are receiving little or no attention from the city.

"I think he's been a huge disappointment," says a Montrose activist who supported Boney as a member of the Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. "We don't need speed humps, because the potholes are so big."

According to other Montrose residents, Boney hasn't even tried to reach out to them since he was elected. Last year, for instance, Montrose celebrated the formation of its first-ever Little League baseball competition. Though he was sent an invitation, neither Boney nor anyone from his office bothered to attend opening-day ceremonies at Dunlavy Park.

"We tried to get portable toilets for Dunlavy Park for months," says one parent active in the league. "We ended up going through [at-large Councilman] Chris Bell's office."

By far the most widespread discontent, however, is in regard to Boney's approach to the upcoming redevelopment of the Fourth Ward and Freedmen's Town areas, just west of downtown. The area was settled almost 150 years ago by freed slaves and grew to be the jewel among Houston's black, inner-city neighborhoods. The emergence of a black middle-class in the 1950s and '60s sent many residents to places like Missouri City, leaving the poor who remained to watch helplessly as the once-vibrant area decayed around them.

In the past year, a massive redevelopment plan proposed by the nonprofit Houston Renaissance has placed Freedmen's Town on the endangered species list. The plan calls for the demolition of hundreds of shotgun shacks and bungalows in the Freedmen's Town National Historic District, to be replaced by a densely packed settlement of upscale townhomes and commercial development.

Aside from the destruction of one of Houston's few truly historic neighborhoods, there is the sad, but inevitable displacement of several hundred poor, minority households, many of which settled in Freedmen's Town decades ago. While their prospects have improved some under Lee Brown, the future of these residents was blatantly ignored by the administration of Bob Lanier.

To the Fourth Ward's guardians, Jew Don Boney's failure to protect the area's heritage and its residents is the clearest signal yet that the onetime champion of the poor has been co-opted by the city's establishment. His harshest critic has been Lenwood Johnson, president of the Allen Parkway Village Residents' Council. No surprise there -- for almost 20 years, Johnson has lived, and he will probably die, with the Fourth Ward on his mind. He says Boney began selling out the residents in 1983, when, as a community representative on a committee analyzing the area's viability, he signed off on a final document that called for wholesale demolition.

"In our population," Johnson says, speaking of the African-American community, "there has always been a group of us willing to sacrifice everyone else for their own benefit. Even during slavery, they'd trade us off for beads and trinkets. I think that maybe Jew Don is a descendant of that tradition."

The historian and professor Amilcar Shabazz says that Boney has always been "defeatist" about the possibility that the Fourth Ward could be saved. More troubling to Shabazz is that he says Boney has let down the larger African-American community by failing to show what's called "elite commitment."

"If your black elite has a commitment to the black community, you might see some progress for everyone, all down the line," Shabazz says. "If there isn't that elite commitment, and they simply thrust the big fist in the air, black power and all that, it's all for naught. That's where the co-optation will lead to nothing but more regression for the community."

Boney, of course, strongly disagrees with the notion that he's somehow less committed to the principles on which he built his reputation. He is satisfied that the Fourth Ward Community Coalition, a group of local ministers, was able to participate in the redevelopment's master-planning process. (Actually, the preachers didn't do much more than help pay the planner's bill.)

As for the fate of historic Freedmen's Town, the cost of the housing that will be built there and the lack of inexpensive housing for its displaced residents, Boney backpedals noticeably.

"The Fourth Ward is a continually large and challenging issue," he argues. "You cannot address all of the issues at one time at the same time. The master-planning process was an attempt to develop a vision, with input from the public and the community, for redevelopment that would take into account economic and fiscal reality, historic principles, community concerns and institutional concerns.

"How do you balance all of those issues when 1 percent of the land in Fourth Ward is owned by African-Americans? That's a financial fact, that's reality."

In Shabazz's mind, talk like that reflects the almost perverse idolization Boney feels for Bob Lanier -- a white developer who used his political muscle to repair the city's neighborhoods and build ballparks, but did little to improve the lot of African-Americans in the Fourth Ward and beyond.

"He extols Bob Lanier as the last great white liberal of Houston politics, probably the most liberal and wonderful mayor in 20th-century Houston history," says Shabazz, who worries that Boney may be throwing away his grassroots political influence. "So, when I hear Jew Don give this old Economics 101 rhetoric about Freedmen's Town, I just sort of shake my head and look away, because he knows better.

"My concern is, because I go back 18 years with Jew Don talking about building a black agenda and how we must make politicians accountable to that agenda, how are we planning for the least fortunate in terms of housing, city services and treating them like human beings?

"I really hoped Jew Don would come into office as someone who would read the issues of the day through the prism of commitment and concern for the grassroots, working-class culture and community. But he's filtering things through this grab bag of how it will play with this constituency, how it will play with downtown.... For some of us, we thought of him as something quite different."

It's almost noon at the Greater Houston Partnership offices on the seventh floor of Two Allen Center, and Jew Don Boney, seated at one of several tables arranged in a boardroom off the main hallway, is confronted with a question he doesn't often hear these days.

"And who are you with?" asks a woman attending the Partnership's monthly corporate ambassadors luncheon.

"I'm a city councilman," Boney replies with kindly patience.
The woman grins broadly, but is clearly unsure of what to do with the information.

"You know who the mayor is, don't you?" Boney asks gently. "Well, I work for him."

Boney has been invited to speak to a group of young corporate types from around the city on the role of the mayor pro tem and anything else that comes to mind during his 20 minutes. After a brief overview of his priorities as a district councilman (constituent services) and his responsibilities as mayor pro tem (ceremonial, with a little strategic guidance thrown in when needed), he begins talking about his personal vision for Houston.

At times, Boney is so downright boosterish, he sounds like an amalgamated caricature of George Babbitt and Elyse Lanier: "Outside the city, people don't understand the greatness and power of Houston," he gushes from behind a podium, the silver bracelets on his wrists clicking in time with his dancing hands. "It's a world-class city with the highest quality of life and the lowest cost of living of any major city in the country."

This isn't exactly news to anyone associated with the Greater Houston Partnership, but the corporate ambassadors seem to appreciate the affirmation. And, if they paid any attention at all during the six years Bob Lanier was in office, they're familiar with the term "economic diversity" -- a topic Boney leaps into next.

"I met with some downtown folks, and they said District D, your district -- your people -- need jobs, they need housing, they need services, they need role models," Boney said. "I said, 'You're right, we need all that. But we don't just want jobs. We want business opportunities and economic development. We want businesses we can own ourselves.' "

Certainly, this, as well, is familiar rhetoric. A few years back, in the wake of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Bob Lanier proposed something similar to the Marshall Plan to funnel money and resources into urban areas. But the more equitable distribution of wealth is a conversation to which Jew Don Boney can contribute something that, while not exactly new, is more credible than Lanier's squishy paternalism toward people of color.

He can talk about how the wealthy just keep getting wealthier without sounding guilty. He can point out, without sounding like a cheap poseur, that poor neighborhoods keep getting poorer because no one starts a business in a poor neighborhood.

After a few minutes of this, Boney takes his audience somewhere it hadn't expected to go: Africa. Next year, he explains, the Corporate Councils of Africa will hold their biannual conference in Houston. That's why it's important to deepen the Port of Houston, he says. That's why we need to improve mobility and, most of all, why we need to continue "stimulating diverse economic growth."

As a woman observes when he's finished, Boney's enthusiasm is contagious. And for a moment, you forget the accusations that he's sold out, and begin to think maybe Jew Don Boney's commitment hasn't really disappeared, but has simply moved from the grassroots to the global.

"We'll have 150 CEOs of American corporations meeting with officials of African governments," he says excitedly. "There'll be six to ten African heads of state, 40 or 50 nations represented."

Sounds like fun -- until you start calculating the odds that those Africans who are not government officials or heads of state (those squalid souls hunkered down miserably in the slums of, say, Kinshasa) will ever see the spoils from such a grand and important occasion as the biannual conference of the Corporate Councils of Africa. And what of those American executives: Will they share Africa's riches with the black and brown people in their own communities? Are they enlightened believers in affirmative action, like Bob Lanier and Jew Don Boney?

When that thought lands, you're no longer in Africa. You're at 5445 Almeda -- the law offices of Zinetta Burney and Peggy Foreman and the center of Houston's black political universe. It's also the address from which Jew Don Boney ran his political campaign; where, right now, Boney operates BSR Consulting, which specializes in "voter contact services"; and where Innovative Strategies, yet another voter-contact enterprise, is headquartered. It's also the address for Dogone Enterprises, a -- go figure -- popcorn concessionaire.

All this business activity out of the same office is interesting only in that a not-insignificant amount of money made at 5445 Almeda comes at the taxpayer's expense. Burney and Foreman have several contracts with the city of Houston, including lucrative deals to collect delinquent taxes and help sell bonds. Dogone Enterprises was set to make a killing on the recently awarded $200 million concession contract at Bush International Airport. That was scuttled at the last minute when the company that was going to hire the firm, Host Marriott, was dumped from consideration by the city.

The two women then began lobbying City Council members in earnest on behalf of CA One, a New York company. That seemed strange until it was learned Zinetta Burney is in business with Anna Vienn, who runs Classy Cakes & Catering, CA One's choice to make the popcorn at Bush International. Burney insists she has no connection to Classy Cakes, and lobbied Council simply because CA One's proposal was the best deal for the city.

So did Jew Don Boney, which is why he spent several weeks lobbying his Council colleagues like a madman for CA One, too. He insists it didn't have anything to do with his long friendship and deep affection for Zinetta Burney and Peggy Foreman, who at this year's inaugural festivities, were introduced by Boney as "my sisters in the struggle."

As for BSR Consulting, Boney's get-out-the-vote operation, it has capitalized on its proprietor's position on the City Council in several ways. First, BSR was paid $12,000 to round up the black vote in favor of two issues that Boney votes on as a member of Council: the city's affirmative action program and a $500 million bond issue.

BSR was also hired by at least two Council candidates in the last election, both of whom won. How much Boney was paid for that work will not be known until this summer, when he files his next campaign-finance report. Also unknown is Boney's compensation for efforts in behalf of Lee Brown, who was the biggest benefactor of the large black turnout at the polls. In a form of rationalization that's become second nature to him, Boney sees no conflict in his being paid to support issues on which he will vote as a member of Council.

"In no way does any work that I do here or there, publicly or privately, conflict with what my personal values are," he says, perhaps forgetting that his personal values are not what he's being paid to advance as a city councilman. "I was definitely involved in the get-out-the-vote effort in November, and in no way has it any impact on anything that I have or will do on Council. I just thought it was awfully important for the African-American community to get out and protect their interests in the November election."

Apparently, Boney thought it was just as important that he be paid for that thoughtfulness.

Nonetheless, people like Amilcar Shabazz find much about Boney to appreciate, such as his interest in expanding business opportunities for minorities and reaching out to Africa. Others are unwilling to begrudge Boney the opportunity to make some extra money after years of foregoing creature comforts while he fought the good fight.

Indeed, Ben Reyes understood the value of a little supplemental income. As he told Julio Molineiro, the undercover FBI operative in the Operation Parallax sting: "Why not? That's what people need. Work your fucking ass off, getting nothing -- for what?"

Though the criticism surprises him, Boney isn't completely out of touch with the notion that he is, as one person described him, "a good activist gone bad." Then again, he no longer seems to recognize his former persona.

"I think that people who are public figures are often stereotyped," he says of his activist past. "And I think that sometimes we're ill served by trying to reduce people to sound bites and phrases to sum them up as to what they are."

Contact Brian Wallstin at brian_wallstin@houstonpress.com.

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