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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Whatever happened to . . . the local couple on 'Trading Spouses'
By Eric Deggans, Times TV/Media Critic
Published July 15, 2007
THE STORY: St. Petersburg residents LaToya Brown and Abasi Baruti (given name, Jameel Rashad Malone) hoped to explore their life of black-focused activism on the Fox network's wife-swapping reality TV show Trading Spouses, appearing with the program's most notorious participant, self-described "God warrior" Marguerite Perrin. Instead, Baruti looked combative and petulant in his constant conflicts with Perrin, a wealthy white woman from Ponchatoula, La., known for her pointed religious views. The two-episode event also strained the couple's relationship with local activist group the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, which denounced the series.
FROM THE STORY: Turns out, Baruti and Perrin were like oil and water - an opinionated black activist preaching to an outspoken white woman uncomfortable with heated conversations about race.
"I wish you could be black for a week," Baruti told Perrin in an exchange Fox put in commercials for the show. "You'd probably kill yourself."
Perrin's response: "I'd be hip-hopping around, having a good old time and eatin' gizzard." Later, she took issue with Baruti's statements that he was "prejudiced for black people" and "not interested in what white people have to say."
THE REST OF THE STORY: Brown admitted feeling a little stung by the show's conclusion, aired after publication of the initial St. Petersburg Times story, which depicted Baruti driving Perrin to tears during a cookout (local activist firebrand Connie Burton actually persuaded him to ease up). Because each mother determines how the other family can spend the show's $50,000 prize, Perrin retaliated by requiring that the money be given to the couple's daughter, Shachaamah Brown, when she turns 18 - 11 years from now.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The family hopes to invest the $50,000 so it can grow until Shachaamah's 18th birthday. Brown is developing a business selling all-natural dog collars and preparing to self-publish a picture book written by her daughter. And though she doesn't regret the appearance, Brown said Baruti feels differently, even promising to pass up a spot on Oprah Winfrey's popular talk show when producers there considered featuring the family in a segment.