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Al Sharpton to christen a street in James Brown's honor

Pundit-preacher Al Sharpton is not letting a recent report that he owes $4.5 million in unpaid taxes keep him from public appearances, and on Saturday will help christen a street near Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater in honor of the late James Brown.

James Brown and the Rev. Al Sharpton listen to the soul singer's gospel record in Brown's Augusta office on April 25, 1991. Photo: Renee Hannans/AJC archive

Brown, who was born in South Carolina and raised in Augusta, died in Atlanta on Christmas Day 2006.

His life story was told in the movie "Get On Up," starring Chadwick Boseman, this summer.

He and Sharpton were close friends and teamed up many times over the years.

The two visited the Reagan White House together to support a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sharpton was in Augusta when the city unveiled a statue of Brown on its main thoroughfare downtown.

And Sharpton was a key figure at Brown's memorial services in Augusta.

"We come to thank God for James Brown, " Sharpton said during the memorial, held in the arena that bears Brown's name, "because only God could have made a James Brown possible, and only God can give James Brown rest."

Sharpton hasn't been getting much rest lately, though. He  has been the subject of news headlines since a recent New York Times article reported that the MSNBC host “has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills.”

According to the article:

"With the tax liability outstanding, Mr. Sharpton traveled first class and collected a sizable salary, the kind of practice by nonprofit groups that the United States Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration recently characterized as “abusive,” or “potentially criminal” if the failure to turn over or collect taxes is willful

Mr. Sharpton and the National Action Network have repeatedly failed to pay travel agencies, hotels and landlords. He has leaned on the generosity of friends and sometimes even the organization, intermingling its finances with his own to cover his daughters’ private school tuition."

In a press conference denouncing the article Sharpton called the $4.5 million figure inaccurate but did not supply another, CNN reported. He also said he is the victim of politics.

"Every time there's a Sean Bell or a Ferguson or a Trayvon Martin, we go through my taxes. It's the same agreement y'all. It's the same thing we announced in '09. It is the same thing we've been paying every month."

James Brown sang a few of his hits when Augusta unveiled a statue of him on Broad Street in 2005. His longtime friend Rev. Al Sharpton was there. Photo: KEITH HADLEY/AJC archive

A news release seeking media coverage of Saturday's event announced that "126th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr.  & Frederick Douglass Boulevards will now be named James Brown Way!!!" and said Sharpton will be among the figures on hand to mark the occasion.

Also scheduled to appear are U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and "James Brown Daughters & Family," the release said. It didn't specify which daughters.

Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Jackson and Jesse Jackson at James Brown's memorial service. Photo: W.A. BRIDGES JR. / AJC archive

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About the Author

Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for

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