Back in black

Former militant M.T. A'Vant has a new object of scorn: the black leadership he once supported

As for the 90 percent, he has a simple solution. "Don't give them money. Let them support their selves."

"What did integration accomplish?" shouts A'Vant, a six-times-married father of seven whose trimmed beard makes him look a lot like a musical favorite of his, Barry White. "Not a damn thing."

Not surprisingly, A'Vant has few friends, or as he says it: "I don't have no close friends. I don't let people get that close."

M.T. A'Vant once sought enlistees in his black militia. The initiation rite was suppose to involve chopping off a joint of one's little finger. Now, fingers intact, A'Vant says he's become a social conservative.
Mark Graham
M.T. A'Vant once sought enlistees in his black militia. The initiation rite was suppose to involve chopping off a joint of one's little finger. Now, fingers intact, A'Vant says he's become a social conservative.

Once again, he's succeeding.

What black friends he does have don't mind bashing him.

"M.T. A'Vant is a fucked-up, dysfunctional demon straight from hell," says 46-year-old Mary Pitts, saying the words slowly, as if she's relishing each one. She says she has told him to his face: "The only thing M.T. has to offer are negative misconceptions." In the 20 years since she met him at a school board meeting, she says that she has become his "mother, sister, lawyer, psychiatrist, you name it." Often, when A'Vant begs her long enough, she'll stop by his home and fix a dinner of green beans and turkey legs for him and his 11-year-old son, whom he's raising alone.

There's a barbershop a few miles from A'Vant's home where similar feelings erupt every few weeks. Owner Craig White, 28, met A'Vant 10 years ago. He hears the talk.

"One customer, a truck driver, will come in and ask, 'Anyone hear from M.T.?' And there it goes," says White, shaking his head. "M.T. doesn't need matches because he's fire all by his self.

"You should have been in here earlier," he says, referring to the talk about A'Vant that erupted hours before.

By late afternoon, though, the few customers in the shop don't know A'Vant by name. Still, all A'Vant needs by way of introduction is his inflammatory quote about "90 percent of black men" to get the conversation rolling.

"That's ignorant to say that," says a 31-year-old man at the shop. "That's not even true. What he's saying is that he hate his self," he adds angrily, declining to give his name. "I'm not important just like he's not important."

He has these parting words: "Tell his mama I said to whup him with a hot chain."

Seventy-five-year-old Dora A'Vant has been told that before. "That's his problem," she says of her son. "He wants attention. That's one of his big problems."

A'Vant has always known how to get a reaction. He proudly recalls the moment when, as a teenager, an Italian neighbor told him that if he ever learned how to use his mouth, it would be worth a million. These days, A'Vant supports himself with the retirement check he gets every month.

"I try hard not to be normal," A'Vant says. "Who wants to be normal?"

His transformation to social conservative began in the early 1990s.

Back then, A'Vant had another battle he was waging. For nearly two years, he had written letters to Garland's elected officials, demanding that they paint over a mural at South Garland High School that included the image of a Confederate flag. When after two years no one listened to him, he took to the street outside the school wearing a sign, "The Good Ole South Is Over!"

"No! No! No!" he often shouted.

Onlookers were less than pleased. "That would drive them fuckers crazy," he says. Some of them, A'Vant alleges, shot at his home.

In the end, after several months of protests outside the school, the board reached an agreement not with him but with the local NAACP chapter to modify the flag, not paint over it. For A'Vant, the NAACP hadn't gone far enough. It's an experience that left A'Vant feeling disillusioned with black leadership.

Concurrent with the South Garland issue, A'Vant had another experience that disillusioned him. In 1991, he joined the hundreds who picketed with John Wiley Price to bring more minorities to Channel 5 News. But soon, A'Vant concluded that Price was "pimping the black community," recruiting them in his effort to bring minorities to the station who would be sympathetic to Price.

Still, he told Price and other protesters about a militia he wanted to organize. A'Vant says that he later met with Price and some 30 others at Lincoln High School to discuss the group. To this day, A'Vant says that Price pledged his support, as long as he could stay anonymous. A'Vant knew then: "I wasn't going to be putting my ass on the line while he hit and run with the opposition." (Commissioner Price did not respond to repeated calls from the Dallas Observer for comment.) He dropped Price and the militia. A conservative A'Vant was born.

"They're poverty pimps," he now says. "Black leaders beg. That's all they do."

He tried to change that leadership, he says, when in 1993 he ran for president of the Dallas chapter of the NAACP. But he generated news not for the issues, but for getting into a brawl with another candidate who had insulted A'Vant's mother.

Undeterred, in 1994 he ran for a Garland school board seat. He called for an end to integration and busing. He lost.

Then in 1995, A'Vant (who says that his father, Jimmy A'Vant, was the first black radio host in Dallas for a religious station, KNOK) had another platform -- his own radio program. "The M.T. Show," according to A'Vant, was masterminded by conservative loudmouth Morton Downey, Jr., who had arranged for A'Vant to get the show on KGBS-AM 1190.

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