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Off Limits

Brotha Seku (né Stephen Evans) answers his telephone and signs his letters with "Ready for the Revolution."

But the revolution may be stuck in committee.

The fifty-year-old Metro State Student Government Assembly president cut an imposing figure last Friday as he entered his judicial hearing for school code-of-conduct violations. Flanked by two advisors and wearing a hoodie pulled over his head, eyes protected by dark sunglasses, he looked like a prizefighter striding into a ring. But then, fighting is nothing new for him.

Seku first attended Metro in the 1970s when, as chairman of the All-African Student Union, he brought leaders of South Africa's guerrilla movement to speak on campus. The vice president's office required security for such speakers, but when Seku approached the Metro bureaucrat about covering the bill, he says he was told that a check wouldn't be cut because the South Africans opposed a legitimate government. Seku insists he was then pelted with racial slurs; the veep said Seku attempted to choke him. Either way, the incident resulted in Seku's being expelled from campus.

Three decades later, Seku is back on campus after making a bet with his youngest daughter, Yasmeen Nkrumah, that he would finish a degree in international affairs, with an emphasis on trade and labor negotiations and African-American studies, before she completes her doctoral work. "My significant other thought I was having a midlife crisis," Seku says. "It was the difference between buying a sports car and going back to school."

He re-enrolled at Metro in 2001, and in the spring of 2002 ran for student body president on the Positive Action Coalition ticket. "When I came back, there were students who were having concerns about not being involved in the student life," he says. "There's not a very good out-of-class experience, and they felt alienated from the campus. So we got together and ran for Student Government Assembly."

Seku has a fiery, excitable personality. He's a grown-up version of "Boondocks" character Huey. And, like Huey, he can be militant, threatening -- and paranoid, some fellow students say.

Those traits have once again placed him at odds with Metro's administration. This past June, Seku faced his second judicial hearing in thirty years, this one requested by interim Assistant Dean of Student Life and SGA adviser Joanna Dueñas, for Seku's "disruptive and abusive behavior." He got off with probation, but the relationship between the two remained rocky.

"The administration started micromanaging student government and getting off into the affairs of how we operate and how we set our agenda," Seku says. "I came in under the impression that SGA was autonomous from the administration. It started in the second meeting that we had. Girlfriend was all up in our business."

So much so that Dueñas seized control of the SGA's finances in November for what she deemed was runaway spending. The student group found a private CPA to help sort through the finances, but not before it passed a formal vote of no confidence in Dueñas.

"This particular SGA has willingly defied their own internal policies and procedures. They have changed it in mid-course," she says. "My philosophy is to let students manage their own affairs. But I'm also the assistant dean for all students, so I have to see how the affairs of all students are being affected. I know there's tensions over being autonomous and co-governance, but they aren't even following their own procedures."

The SGA tried to impeach Dueñas after she spoke with the Metropolitan student newspaper about the group's $3,000 training retreat planned just three months before the end of the term -- and after the school's budget had been cut by $45.5 million for 2002-03. Although it didn't have the authority, the SGA voted to remove her anyway, with vice president of communications Julius Muhammad dissenting. "Julius Muhammad has not been hindered by Joanna," he said during that February 20 vote. "I think if we read between the lines, there's some personal issues going on there."

Dueñas intends to keep working with the SGA. "My role will continue to be advisor of SGA," she says. "I will continue to provide them with advice and insight into the college and college processes that they and everyone are mandated to follow."

And on February 28, Seku was headed toward yet another judicial hearing, accused by Muhammad of racial intolerance and harassment, among other things.

"What the whole trial went down over was a Saturday afternoon," says Chris "Che" Chandler, SGA vice president of administration and finance. "I come into the office to do some homework, whatever, and Seku is working on the budget proposal. Julius is in here, and he's trying to get Seku to put a Nation Islam proposal for funds on the SGA agenda. Seku was just basically like, you can't come ask for SGA funds for another club if you're not doing your own job here. And so he told Julius to leave him alone, but Julius kept urging him on. So eventually Seku raises his voice and then stands up and says we can do this. Then Julius went and filed a complaint."

Metropolitan reporters Noelle Leavitt and Lindsay Sandham were kicked out of Seku's hearing by judicial officer Elyse Yamauchi. "We go by school rules here, we're not governed by state law," Yamauchi said, threatening to take the journalists up on student code-of-conduct charges if they didn't leave. Since Seku had waived his rights to privacy, he ushered the reporters into his hearing -- but Yamauchi still called the campus police.

"I was getting ready to go through an administration lynching in the basement of the Tivoli," Seku recalls. "I'm like, if you're right and I'm wrong, then let's let the world see. I've got nothing to hide. Why are you so afraid of letting the truth be told? My real crime is that I protested too loudly."

The committee found him guilty and suspended him from school until 2004.

The revolution will have to wait.

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