As we reported last week, on November 25 the Seattle branch of the NAACP held its election for president. By the end of the night, members chose outspoken Carl Mack as their new leader ["Advancement," Amy Jenniges, Nov 28]. More exciting--we think--is the election of 1st Vice President Alfoster Garrett Jr. Garrett, a 32-year-old lawyer, has been involved with the local NAACP for the past year.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, and raised in Lynwood, California (outside of L.A.), Garrett moved to Seattle in October of 1999. He lived on Capitol Hill for a few years, and now lives in Shoreline.

The move to Seattle, however, wasn't an easy one. "Seattle is sort of different from other places I had been, where there's a lot more camaraderie in the African American community. I don't know why, but that wasn't the case here," he says. "I would go to predominately African American groups, just to get a feel for the city, to meet people. They weren't as welcoming as I would expect."

Garrett graduated from Portland's Lewis and Clark Law School in the late '90s. In Portland, he also volunteered at a halfway house for African American boys, and started a midnight basketball program. Now, he practices real estate law for Barker Martin Merchant downtown.

He got involved with the NAACP after last April's controversial Robert Thomas Sr. shooting. Garrett went to a Thomas rally at First AME church on 14th and Pine, and heard 41-year-old Carl Mack speak. After the rally, Garrett gave Mack a business card. "[Mack] said something that struck a cord with me, because it reminded me of something my grandfather had said," Garrett explains. "Mack said, 'You cannot reason with racism,' and my grandfather used to always say you can't reason with stupid."

But Mack didn't call Garrett back. (Many people approached Mack in the weeks after the shooting, saying they wanted to be involved, but wouldn't follow through.) Garrett, however, did follow through. He left another card for Mack at Mount Zion Church. "I wrote, 'I'm very serious about being involved. Let me know what kind of assistance I can provide,'" Garrett says. "He called me, and told me about a [labor] case he needed urgent help with on Monday, and this was on a Saturday."

Since winning that labor case in April--when Mack and Garrett helped a man who faced retaliation after reporting abuse against a co-worker--the two men have worked side by side on the NAACP's Labor and Industry committee. They've also paired up to lead marches downtown against the Thomas shooting--Garrett ended up leading an October 14 march after Mack was arrested. "We both see things the same way. If you play by the rules as defined by the people you're fighting against, you'll always lose, because they set the rules and the standards," Garrett says. "We can no longer sit back."

I had a chance to chat with Garrett--who seemed wiped out in an "I came straight from work" way--when we stood around in the lobby of the Urban League building at 14th and Yesler, while waiting for the NAACP election results. I wasn't the only one captivated by Garrett: People gathered near him while the votes were counted, just as they had rallied around him on the steps of the federal courthouse a few weeks earlier. Here's a few things on Garrett's agenda.

He wants to reform the county inquest process, which has a history of exonerating officers involved in shooting black men.

"Inquests do not determine guilt or innocence," he says. "But after the inquest the county prosecutor says the inquest has found [the officer] not guilty, so [they're] not going to go forward.' That's completely asinine. It needs to change."

He also wants the NAACP to have more of a voice in city politics.

"Another thing that we're trying to do is create a political action committee. They're going to be up to speed on these council members, we're going to grade them and get all that information out to people who vote."

amy@thestranger.com

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