Sinclair Skinner is many things: a former Advisory Neighborhood Commission member, an engineer, an entrepreneur, an activist.
Two years ago, he became a public face of everything that many argued was wrong with former Mayor Adrian Fenty: that the mayor favored his fraternity brothers and friends for contracts and jobs.
Skinner, who is one of the fraternity brothers, was called to testify before the city council in 2010 because his engineering company made about $900,000 for work on city parks and recreation centers, an arrangement many people said smacked of cronyism.
An 18-month investigation found that Skinner, along with another Fenty friend may have overcharged the city for work and had unexplained financial ties to each other and to subcontractors. Skinner has denied the allegations saying there was no connection between theses financial ties and the contracts he received.
Since Fenty’s departure from office last year, Skinner has continued to defend Fenty’s legacy. Now comes a 12-part animated biography of Fenty that was written and produced by the former mayor’s friend. The series, called “Courage of Conviction,” takes us through the young mayor’s time in college, law school and his days in politics.
We are publishing the series on our site, one segment each week, and hope to get your feedback.
For more on Skinner’s motivation for the series, The RootDC sat down with sat down with Skinner.
Why did you decide to tell this story now?
I love what Adrian has done and I love what he represents. We [as black people] should be able to tell our own stories: Adrian was like any other person, born to regular parents, a product of public schools. When you tell his story, people can say: ‘I can do what he did.’
What do you want people to take away from this?
I’m trying to tell a human story that people can relate to. I want them to see Adrian in a more human approachable view.... I wanted to take the mystery away. Let me show you how he met his wife. I wanted to show how he started out as a young guy with dreams, a little unsure and how he started getting his footing.
I’m sure many in the city who didn’t vote for Fenty might say we don’t need to revisit those four years. What would you say to them about why you’re doing this?
It’s something for people to study, to analyze and disagree with. The disagreement part is fine. It’s reasonable. What could he have done differently. That’s fair. The thing that was different about Adrian is that he did things for a reason. His perception of the public good. A lot of these guys, they’re doing things for their own personal gain. And that’s problematic. Looking at what Adrian did for 10 years, it’s phenomenal.
I thought it was a good way to introduce it to regular folks. I think there are those who are weekend commentators, armchair commentators they read the Politcos, the Washington Post, all these serious essays. I wanted to make sure it was a format that was approachable to people who might not usually pick up that information. And I wanted it to speak in ways that didn’t require a Ph.D. in political theory. I wanted to do i in a way that politics is supposed to be done - to affect the masses. Even if someone wasn’t interested in Adrian Fenty they might be interested in the animation. And for a more serious person, they’ll look at something like this too and have a comment about it.
Do you think your public association with Adrian, which some people in this city didn’t see as positive, will turn some people off to your message?
There might be people like that. Everyone is going to have their own perspective. That’s part of the debate. What I don’t want as part of the debate is to doubt that this is sincere. I’m clearly someone who admires him. Clearly. Unapologeticly. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement. If some people say: “I don’t like Sinclair Skinner”, I have fun with them and say- ‘You’re not supposed to be liked by everybody’.
Does Adrian know you’re doing this?
Not really, no. (Laughs) I told him I was doing a biography of something.
So if Adrian called after the second episode and said ‘tell the Post to forget it...’
He doesn’t do that. Adrian’s not that type of person. Adrian would never do an animated piece about himself. Ever! Or a formal piece. Or an article. He hasn’t! It’s obvious! So I’m not waiting for him to say it’s okay.
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