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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December, 2003, 11:23 GMT
Profile: Al Sharpton
The Reverend Al Sharpton
A grassroots activists, Sharpton is aiming for the White House
Fiery New York preacher the Reverend Al Sharpton is counting on the support of black Americans to win the Democrat nomination for the 2004 US presidential election.

He says as president he would enshrine education as a constitutional right and would fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act which requires schools to make progress.

He also supports legislation calling for funding to improve neglected inner city and rural school buildings.

KEY FACTS
Born 3 October 1954 in Brooklyn, NY
Ordained a Pentecostal minister at the age of 10
Brooklyn College (no degree)
Founder and president of the National Youth Movement
Ran for Senate in 1992 and 1994
Ran for mayor of New York in 1997
Married to Kathy Jordan with two daughters
But with few concrete policies on other election issues he is unlikely to generate mainstream support or win the backing of the black establishment.

Even his supporters say they do not expect him to win but they do think he will raise issues of concern to black Americans which they feel many in the party are ignoring.

Mr Sharpton wrote of his bid for the presidency in his book Al on America: "If I lose, I have the option to negotiate points with the Democratic Party."

He has run unsuccessfully in the New York mayoral race and twice for the Senate.

Campaigner

Immortalised in Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities as the Reverend Bacon, Al Sharpton has become embroiled in a number of racial controversies.

He organised sit-ins to protest at the death of Amadou Diallo, a young West African immigrant, who was shot 41 times by police officers on the doorstep of his New York home in 1999.

SHARPTON IN QUOTES
I would bring a perfect mixture of the urban north and the southern gospel to the White House - a mixture of [hip-hop producer] Russell Simmons and a good plate of fried chicken while I discuss how we get clean water in underdeveloped countries
Even if I lose, I have the option to negotiate points with the Democratic Party
Take the war in Vietnam out and Lyndon Johnson is my favourite president

He backed Tawana Brawley, the black 15-year-old, who falsely alleged that she had been raped and abused by six white men.

He has campaigned for black Americans to be compensated for slavery, as well as for affirmative action and the abolition of the death penalty.

He also served a jail sentence for protesting against the US navy's use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for bombing exercises and says he would proudly marry same-sex couples.

A mesmerising public speaker, the "Rev" as he is known, started preaching at four-years-old, and by the age of 10 was ordained a Pentecostal minister.

As a child he formed a strong relationship with soul star James Brown, and years later married one of his backing singers, Kathy Jordan.

"It would probably be a very actively social White House because my wife comes out of entertainment," he said.

Mr Sharpton has told reporters he does not yet have a vice-presidential candidate in mind, although he would prefer to choose a woman.

Breaking up the chummy "good ole white guys" presidential club is one of his key aims.


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