Darryl Rouson: "From the crack house to the floor of the House."

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And the struggle was a struggle. Nobody would invest with us. The banks blew smoke up our butts. A national chain that was first going to come in danced with us for 18 months and dropped out at the last minute. It was not a project we could profit from.

But there are people outside the Uhurus that say you have used high-profile stunts to funnel business to things like your law firm. How do you respond?

Prove it.

And the fact of the matter is, at the end of the day I have to eat, too, like everybody else. I certainly have not become enriched by my public service. In fact, I lost a ton of money being president of the NAACP for five years. I could no longer afford financially to be president of the NAACP. Half the white folks wouldn't hire me because they said I was racist, radical and exclusionary and not a good "fit" for their business clientele. Half the black folks wouldn't hire me because they said I was the white man's bootlicker, an Uncle Tom and a sellout Judas for wanting to cooperate and collaborate as I confronted. If I did my job, and I think I did, I pissed off half the population by getting up and doing my job — half the white folks, half the black folks.

It was a thankless job for which my enrichment came through having an organization that was vibrant and growing and a force in the community. And it meant something when people would say, "Well, you better be careful. Rouson might show up." In fact, there was a joke going around. A wealthy white guy in St. Pete said, "You know Rouson, you know what they're saying about you? You know you're having a bad day if you go to work and Rouson is sitting in the lobby waiting for you."

Where do you think the media is right now with diversity?

I think they're doing a good job. I've seen some balance that was not here during the mid to late '90s. During that period of time there was a lot of emphasis on violence and black crime and things like that. I'm seeing some good stories that talk about African-Americans in a positive light. I'm seeing a better balance than I have.

How did your first few weeks as a state representative go?

It was a very humbling process. It was a very challenging process. It was very exciting to realize I had gone from the crack house to the floor of the House for the state of Florida. When I raised my hand and accepted the oath, I got goosebumps. It was a tough time for me, because I have never held public office. To realize that there were 2,500 bills that were filed, about 315 that actually got passed and maybe 80 percent of the 315 were done in the last two weeks — the time I was there. So I was having to read staff analysis, summaries of bills, watch others who I believed were aligned philosophically with me to see how they were voting, including those in my area. Knowing that any vote I made could be the vote someone hangs around my neck as the noose, but wanting to be there and do a good job because that's what the people elected me for. It's prepared me. And I'm very excited now about the potential of winning and serving the full two-year term. There are few greater honors to be a member of the House of Representative and realize your vote can change statewide issues.

What was the best bill that came out of last session?

I don't know what the best bill was.

What about the most ridiculous?

The Truck Nutz bill. Also, the debate on Darwinism and creationism. To me those were not things that should be debated. Although I learned a phrase: someone said to me that the house floor is the place for free and open political and philosophical debate on issues that affect the citizenry of the state of Florida. Maybe that is the place.

The most poignant bill, the one I saw evoke emotion and tears, was the very last one that dealt with autism and children. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering and negotiating that was taking place [while] the clock was winding down. Ten minutes, five minutes left in session. And then the speaker of the House talking about the bill and urging its passage as the last thing that they do, and looking at Rep. Loranne Ausley just cry. That was very poignant.

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