Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012
By Leiloni De Gruy, Staff Writer
When Compton Unified School District board member Skyy Fisher caught wind of the backlash being leashed by angry citizens, parents and activists who were shocked into action after the elected official called the deceased Trayvon Martin a “faggot,” the district superintendent a “bitch” and mocked a Davis Middle School student’s molestation assertions, he was flabbergasted.
Claiming to be in character — the Compton Martian, he said, is a Larry Elder-type persona he’s played on air for the past two years — on the Pigzradio podcast interview, Fisher contends his comments were none that he meant; rather, they fit in line with what his “self-hating Black man character” would say.
Eager to regain the confidence of his constituents during his 60 day leave of absence, 28-year-old Fisher spoke to The Wave in a one-on-one interview Wednesday afternoon about his point of view.
What was your reaction when the interview came out?
I was a little bit confused as to the magnitude that this was blown up to be, considering what it was. It’s a radio show, one of a few shows that I’ve done over the past two to three years where I play the Compton Martian. Just like when I did the Hub radio, I was Skyy the Compton Martian. We talked about a lot of entertainment things on there. So, when the video first came out I said ‘Well, it’s not really a big deal because that’s Skyy the Compton Martian.’ And then when I saw it in the newspaper, I said ‘Wow.’ I was just a little bit in shock that it’s been blown up to be this big. I’m a little bit taken back by the huge communication gap between the generations. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from both. The older generation, they’re really mad about this. But my peers, they understand. And so I think this will be a good opportunity for us to have that platform, that dialogue so we can both understand. … There needs to be more communication.
But, could you understand where the frustration and anger was coming from?
I could definitely understand that. I’ve been apologizing for it. I think the frustration is because people are looking at and listening to directly that person is saying on the video, not understanding the bigger picture about it.
So those statements that were made, did you mean any of it?
No, definitely not. The Compton Martian is this loud, obnoxious political character. Like Sen. Al Franken, when he was elected, I should have done the same thing that he did. He stepped away from ‘Saturday Night Live,’ because I’m sure that if he continued to do that show, he would be in the same situation that I’m in — because he plays a character on that show.
Let’s say you were in character, do you still think that it was right to make those comments especially with the Trayvon Martin incident being a sensitive issue for communities around the world and sexual molestation cases being a sensitive issue for a lot of school districts today?
Once again, that’s the Compton Martian. The Compton Martian character touches on a wide arrange of hot, sensitive topics on that show. I think you were around when Compton Martian made some other comments in regards to some shootings that happened in the bay area, and it drew a lot of attention. And then Skyy Fisher had to come out and do a show and explain what Compton Martian was talking about. I had professors on the show from Cal State Dominguez Hills and I had police officers to get everybody’s perspective. That’s just who the Compton Martian is. The Compton Martian is not a real person, just a character.
Do you think this is the end of your political career?
I’m taking it day by day. Like I said, I’ve gotten a lot of support from community members, community members that know who Skyy Fisher is. A lot of my peers, a lot of community members that I had not ever met have reached out in support of Skyy Fisher, not the Compton Martian. So as long as I’m on the board, I will continue to work diligently for the students in the district.
You recently took a leave of absence in order to address some health and personal issues. What is that about?
I think a combination of things — a combination of the election and what I went through in the election. As you know, I got attacked from the election. Um, just a lot of health issues that I had during the election and stepping into another dynamic of an elected official and having to deal with the politics of the board, the politics of the community and still try to rebuild the life that was snatched away from me during the election. There needed to be some time to recuperate, and also for some healing for the community. A lot of the community does not agree, some of the community do agree. I think that during my leave some healing needs to happen; that’s what I will be working on.
You also talked about redeeming yourself. How do you hope or plan to do that?
I plan to work extremely hard, work harder than I’ve ever had to work before. I’m looking at the positive in this. My fellow board colleagues have all called for my resignation and I think this will give me a chance to prove myself to the community now that I am standing alone. I believe I still will be successful, but I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work. I’m up for that challenge.
What do you think it’s going to take to regain the confidence of the community and a board that seems to be against you right now?
I think that I can show people better than I can tell them.
How did it feel getting opposed by the board and having them call for your resignation?
Well, I thought about it. And then I thought deeper about it. I had to remember that the board didn’t put me in office, the community put me in office. The community members that did put me in office, they know who Skyy Fisher is and that’s why they put me in office — because they wanted to see some changes in the district, and I’m committed to delivering on those changes.
How do you win back those voters that are upset and want a recall?
I think it’s important that I at least have the opportunity to meet with them. They have yet to reach out, even when they first discovered this radio interview. I thought it would be different because of the type of community that Compton is. We’re very close knit and we kind of reach out. But that didn’t happen. It was just ‘Oh we found a video, let’s send it to Washington, D.C. or something’ without even picking up the phone as though they didn’t have my number. Everybody has my number. I wish that they would have at least reached out and said ‘you know what? You really need to rethink doing this show. We are very disappointed; you don’t need to do it again. Remember who you are.’ They could have taken that route, but don’t just take the video and say ‘Oh, let’s slam our own.’ It’s sort of like some older elected officials have said in the past: The old community has a habit of eating their young. They say they want to see them progress but then when they start progressing, they kick them back down.
What impact has the controversy had on your personal life? How has your personal life been affected by the interview coming out, the media attention and, of course, the attention from the community and various activists?
There are some activists that are very mad at the video; there’s a lot of activists that know who I am. And there are a lot of activists that are going to the city of Compton, that are not from the city of Compton. The community needs to be aware and cautious about allowing people to come in and divide the family. This has never happened like this before. Well, it happened one time. It’s not something that we see in the community. And it’s important for the community to know that when they see the news and they see these activists, they need to ask themselves ‘have we ever seen them hear before?’ I’m very fortunate to have a close-knit family at home and a lot of friends that really care about me. They’ve tried to shield me from the negative. They are on my Facebook defending me. … They are very defensive, and I’m luck to have that where I wouldn’t have to keep explaining myself over and over. They are passing the message throughout our mutual friends and to their family members, letting them know who I really am.
You talked about a division in the community that has resulted from the controversy. Do you think you played a part in that division?
Yeah. I think that interview did play a part in dividing the community.
So how do you feel about that?
I feel awful about it, but it’s happened. The only thing I can do is try to help rebuild it.
From the sounds of it, you don’t have any intention on resigning. Is that correct? Or, is that an option on the table?
That’s not an option. The community members used their voice during election time and they vote. They voted me in. So, resigning is not an option for me. Resigning is taking the easy way out. … During my campaign, I did a huge field operation where I really got out there to talk to voters. The ones that voted for me took a chance. They realized they were taking a chance, but they said ‘the education in Compton is really in need of some transformation. We believe, even though he’s young, he has the experience and the background to be effective. I let them down. So, now I have to go back to them and reassure them. That is my plan.
Would you say that your remarks were unbecoming of an elected official?
Definitely. It was definitely unbecoming of an elected official. When I won office, I received a lot of phone calls from a lot of elected leaders and a lot of past elected leaders saying ‘you need to do this, you need to do that.’ I said ‘yeah, I really do but the community wants someone that is transparent. I can’t hide out. I can’t say that I live some place where I really don’t.’ I tried to leave my life open and transparent so the community would see that I’m able to create and be effective in my policy making as a board member, but also see that I’m a person that has friends. And I have fun with my friends. I see now that I have to leave my personal life away from the community.
Some have speculated that you may have mental health issues or that alcohol or drugs were involved. Can you speak to that?
Sure. There are definitely no issues with mental health. I do consume alcohol. I started consuming alcohol in college like most people my age — the college parties and things like that. Maybe I do drink a little too much. But, once again, it’s all a character. I’m on a show that acts like that, and the community members and different people around the country that know Skyy, know Skyy has been that way. He has always had a streak in him where he goes against the grain. But I’m able to be effective because I’m effective in writing policies and transforming organizations.
So just to clear things up, that interview had nothing to do with mental health issues, or even consuming alcohol? Some have suggested that maybe you were drunk or hung over and unaware of the statements you were making.
If you go back throughout the two years with Pigzradio and you look at this Compton Martian character, he’s always been the same. He’s been the same crazy — probably say anything just to get people calling in. And he kind of plays the devil’s advocate all of the time. He’s out there talking about sensitive issues.
What impact do you think this incident will have on the district and student achievement? I ask that because it is well known that there is a lot of infighting among the board, so much so that often times student needs take a back seat to personal vendettas.
I’m going to work diligently to introduce some transformations in the district, and I would hope that although my fellow board members have called for my resignation that they would see the benefit of these creative policies and realize that you can’t be in that seat just to get to the next level. You need to be there to be effective and to be a role model to the students. One of the reasons the district has — in a lot of folks eyes — not moved forward is because a lot of board members have considered it be a stepping stone. That’s not me. If you look at the policies and the things that I’ve advocated for while on the board, it had nothing to do with faculty, it had nothing to do with teachers, it’s always been about students. That’s why I sit next to the student trustee. I don’t care about their issues. Well, I care about their issues, but I’m not there to advocate for faculty and staff members, I am there to advocate for the students. Sometimes when I advocate for the students, I have to make sure that we have an effective staff in the district. It all plays together. The faculty and staff are always involved in the plans in regards to transforming, and I’ve spent a lot of time — although I’ve only been there for five months. I’ve been walking campuses and eating lunch on the campuses; I’ve been eating breakfast. I realize that the food is horrible and it’s not because of the staff, it’s because of the upper management, the executive cabinet. I’ve realized that secondary education needs a huge transformation. Compton Unified is an elementary school district. That’s why we have California distinguished schools popping all over the place, but yet our secondary is failing. Then when you look at the experience of the executive cabinet, and it’s all elementary school education. And the board can’t figure out why we have horrible secondary schools. I came in saying it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to find that out. Get some folks in here with secondary experience. Get a curriculum department. Talk to the students. A lot of the board members, they focus on curriculum and when we talk about retention they always go to curriculum. I’ve been out of high school for 10 years. It’s not curriculum. I didn’t go to Lynwood High School because I thought they had a great curriculum and thought I was going to get into a prestigious university. I went to Lynwood High because it was a brand new campus and I wanted bragging rights with my friends. We have to face the fact that it’s 2012. When you get to high school most parents allow their children to pick out what high school they want to go to. They are looking for facilities, athletics, extra curricular activities, technology. So, if you don’t have the appropriate curb appeal of your district, students will continue to leave. That’s what I’ve been fighting for the entire time. Let’s put more money in facilities. Let’s put more money in technology. And then once we get those students there, our curriculum will keep them. They can take advantage of the curriculum.
Do you see any need to make amends with the board in order to get those initiatives through?
I see where you are coming from, but I asked myself when board members have been caught and elected officials in the community have been caught stealing, have been caught for sexual harassment, have been indicted, what did they do? Did they come out and say I need to make an apology to the City Council or to the school district? No, because it’s not about them. There’s board members sitting up there now with bigger scandals than this; they haven’t apologized to me for that. But, I hear about it when I go out of state. I hear about the deranged board member at Compton Unified. Or, I hear about the conniving board member you can’t trust because they are always working against you to boost themselves up. They haven’t apologized to me that I have to carry that around. So, why should I apologize to them? When I got on the board I should have called for at least four of their resignations because some of them have been sitting up there and the district hasn’t moved anywhere. Yes, we have California distinguished schools but the drop-out rate is still high. We still don’t have a superintendent. … Going against the grain gets you in this type of trouble, and I believe that because of the things that I was advocating for that political opposition has been determined to get me out by all means necessary. I was prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for this to be the topic. I was prepared to get shot at or something. Being in politics I learned that you can expect a lot, but you always have to remain prepared. I am very hopeful that when I get back this will just be a small detour. I am going to keep moving forward because the work that needs to be done in the district is way too important than some radio interview or some Compton Martian character.
You mentioned earlier that some board members are there in order to boost themselves to higher office. Now, in the podcast interview you urged the hosts to attend a meeting where you would be wearing a hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin. There, you said news organizations would show up and that it would be the perfect platform for you to announce your ambitions to get on the City Council. Was there any truth to that statement?
No. Why would I? Compton Unified has a $20 million general fund shortfall that we are about to go into. We are in a mess. Why would I want to go to a bigger mess? No.