Daryl Davis keeps a “good luck” charm in his wallet that reads, “KKK member in good standing.”
The brass disc is an official Ku Klux Klan medallion given to him by friends who left the 132-year-old terrorist group after talking with Davis, a 39-year-old musician from Silver Spring who, by the way, is black.
Davis first encountered racism relatively late, having spent his early childhood in Africa; his parents worked for the U.S. Foreign Service. However, growing up in racially charged Boston and then moving to D.C., where he was attacked by Klan sympathizers and racist cops for being with a white woman, Davis learned that the Klan was as American as apple pie and something he needed to confront. His new book, Klan-Destine Relationships, is the product of six years of research, and it details the musician’s attempts to seek a racial catharsis with area Klan organizers and assorted racists.
“Who better to ask?” Davis says. “The guy next door who’s not a Klan member does not organize hate; he doesn’t live his whole life based on it according to his little Kloran [the KKK bible]. But the Klan does.”
Klan-Destine’s choppy and at times directionless narrative details Davis’ attempts to humanize Klansmen in such far-off regions as Rising Sun, Md., where he shoots pool, plays honky-tonk, and ultimately befriends the racist Knight Riders. Roger Kelly, imperial wizard of Maryland’s largest Klan group, the Invincible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, develops such a good relationship with Davis that he shouts at a crowd of protesters at a rally, “I have more respect for that black man than all of you white niggers.”
The book shows the Klan to be a bunch of shiftless, angry people who endlessly redefine the objects of their paranoia and hatred while always shying away from examining their sorry lives. Davis’ friends tell stories of how members constantly back-stab, lie, cheat, and politick one anotheractivities that have broken the grand old army of the South into countless splinter groups, which harbor as much vitriol for one another as for non-Anglo-Saxons.
Davis’ involvement proves fruitful. Several Klansmen and women he encounters wind up hanging up their robes in exchange for a less racially hostile life.
“We’re moving into the year 2000; we need to get rid of some of this baggage,” Davis says. “You try to ignore them, and they’re still here 132 years later. You try to fight them in the streets, and they’re still here. I did what I did, and I got a couple of robes and shirts and stickers and memorabilia I wouldn’t have gotten out of the dealand they gained as well.”Reginold Royston
Most of us spend Saturday mornings curled up in a warm, toasty bed, perhaps recovering from an end-of-the-workweek bender. Listening to the radio usually isn’t a priorityunless you’ve discovered radio commentator Andrew Campbell, a bright light in the otherwise dark gulch of WAMU (88.5 FM)’s Metro Connection. (The show is so hip that host Kathy Merritt, reporting on the death of Michael Hutchence, pronounced the name of the singer’s band “inks.”)
Campbell, a 26-year-old native New Yorker, has broadcast his observations on subjects as local as inane traffic reports and as universal as new love and what he calls Cupid’s Conundrum: how to behave on Valentine’s Day, “the holiday of obligatory romance.” (Campbell’s advice for the commitment poltroon? “Give lingerieit keeps things on a purely sexual level.”)
Campbell was a journalism major with a theater minor at Washington and Lee University, but he got his start as a performer as a child, when his father, a drama professor at State University of New York at Delhi, cast him in productions. “People would come up to my father and say, ‘I’ve noticed whenever there is a child in a play you direct, you always cast your children. Why is that?’” Campbell recalls. “And my dad would look at them and say, ‘Because they’re my children.’ The Campbell family has always been into nepotism.”
While his classmates were struggling through the post-graduation unemployment blues, Campbell weaseled his way into a job on the D.C. comedy scene before he’d even moved to the area. “On my graduation day, I got the call from Elaina Newport, the producer of the Capitol Steps, and she hired me.” Campbell began doing PR and marketing for the musical comedy troupe but soon stumbled into a writing position before making his way onto the air. (It turns out that Capitol Steps member Richard Paul is also the producer for Metro Connection. Naturally, Paul offered Campbell a job as a commentator.)
Though D.C. might be the breeding ground for farcical yahoos like Mark Russell, Campbell believes it truly is the comedy capital. “Look at Paula Jones,” he says. “She’s claimed Clinton’s only distinguishing feature is his crooked member. Historically speaking, he’ll be the second tricky dick in the White House.” Elisa Nader