Advertisements

The Crack Epidemic: How Will I Make It in Harlem? (Hood Series)

 

bigl43In the Post-Civil Rights Era, African-Americans are said to be progressing in society; institutional racism is written off as a sad social reality of the past, but now it is claimed that a window of opportunity is available for blacks. During Dr. Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month, Americans reminisce over how racist America used to be as King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech is routinely read and heard.  Society then reflects upon prominent African-American figures such as Barack Obama, and thinks to themselves how far America has come. In a song entitled “How Will I Make It?” Lamont Colemon gives narratives that profoundly challenge the sociological myth of black progress in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Coleman, who went by the name Big L, was not a politically conscious rapper like Tupac Shakur (who routinely drew links between capitalism and the plight of black Americans) or Nas (who constantly discusses fratricidal ghetto life and routinely draws links to the roots of institutional racism). As such, Coleman is free of all of the biases that may come from a formal study of Critical Race Theory and thus provides an organic insight on the status of black youth that disrupts the myth of steady progress.

Lamont Coleman in describing his upbringing states that, “I’m only at the age of 10 and life already seems to me like it’s heading for a dead end. Cause my Moms be smoking mad crack. My dad went out for a fast streetstruck34snack and never brought his a** back.” Coleman grew up fatherless and with a mother who was addicted to crack; the crack epidemic led to an uprising in violent crime as unemployed black youth who were discriminated against in the job market resorted to selling the cost-efficient cocaine derivative to move up the social economic ladder. This era produced an entire generation of neglected children subjected to pre-natal cocaine exposure (often referred to in the streets as “crack babies”), mass incarceration, and social decay in the black community. For Coleman in particular, at only ten years old, he states that, “Nobody knows how I feel, it’s quite ill Cause I had to steal to fill my stomach with a nice meal.” Reading this, one would think he grew up in a third world country, but in reality he was growing up in the heart of America. Heading into his teenage years, Coleman states, “Now I’m at the age of 15, no more fun and games it’s time to get cream… Now every day I creep with the heat, ain’t nothing sweet, I rob for meat. If I don’t steal, I don’t eat.” In such economically oppressive social conditions, Coleman had to resort to crime merely for food. As he lives a life of crime for mere survival, he laments that he may end up in jail but that he is forced into such activities through economic necessity. Nonetheless, he makes a very revealing statement:

“Where I grew up it was a living hell. Then I started to realize – I’m better off in a prison cell. Now I can sleep, now I can eat.” Being born into yk54poverty in the street of Harlem and realizing that being in prison actually makes it easier to eat regular meals is a serious indictment of the socio-economic system of America in the Post-Civil Rights Era. One in three black males can be expected to be under the tutelage of the criminal justice system either through prison time or parole throughout their lives. As prisons become increasingly privatized, rich white CEOS have begun profiting from the mass-incarceration of black youth who are funneled into a life of crime due to the economic conditions that they live in. Eventually, Coleman, after carrying out a robbery, was convicted; however, upon getting out, he quickly finds himself in the same social situation

“It’s getting crazy hectic

Cause I’m broke and can’t get a job cause of my jail record

Before you know it, I was robbing them same ducks”

From growing up in a poor black household, Coleman’s criminal pursuits to begin with had nothing to do with wanting to choose a life a crime, but rather it materialized from economic necessity to survive. Upon leaving jail, Coleman quickly finds himself in the same social situation. Prisons are less about reform, and even after leaving jail there have been no job training programs to steer him in the right direction. Coleman states, ”Either I’mma go to jail or get murdered, but do I deserve it? All I tried to do was live the one life that I got but it seems like I can’t get a fair shot.” Coleman was never given a fair shot due to one basic fact: he was born black in a white supremacist system and, like so many other black youth, either felt he was going to be killed xewk23at a young age or go back to jail.

When it comes to black-on-black crime, the conservative media often attributes it to bad behavior, a lack of morals, or the influence of Hip-Hop. They call for self-responsibility and simply saying blacks need to will themselves into doing the “right” thing. In his song ”Street Struck,” Coleman advocates self-responsibility for black youth in an interesting manner, stating, ”Some of my peeps are still in the game sellin ‘caine. If that’s what you gotta do to maintain, go ‘head and do your thang. But with the cash profit make an investment. And try not to go to the grave like the rest went.” Essentially, he recognized the inevitability of black youth turning to the drug market for survival, but encourages them to use profits from drugs and to turn it into a legitimate enterprise.

 

Tbig4544he real question is: when will whites began to take responsibility for the unjust social system their forefathers created that has resulted in the drug economy being the only way for black youth to have basic needs? When will whites take responsibility for having created the unjust prison industrial complex, partaking in redlining, and the discriminatory loans that targeted blacks and led to the subprime mortgage crisis and causing a crisis in the black community. The calls for “self-responsibility” among blacks by whites is a way in which they can absolve themselves from having to challenge the white supremacist power structure that they continue to benefit from; essentially, blacks must exercise supreme levels of discipline and responsibility, as they pull themselves out the hood by their boot-straps. Such a discourse also neglects that fact that due to institutional racism, whites who partake in self-destructive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, etc.) are less likely to be harmed by it than blacks due to their extensive social safety network developed from institutional racism.

In the midst of oppression and white scapegoating, Coleman – with no formal study of sociological issues, critical race theory, etc. makes a profound statement:
“In the ghetto, all you can wish for is a better tomorrow. It ain’t getting no better, it’s only getting worse, word up.”

Effectively refuting the myth of black progress in the Post-Civil Rights Era, for black youth, the conditions are only becoming worse.

 

 

 

 

 

All Hail Chief Keef, Public Enemy #1

 

Chief Keef is America’s Nightmare.  When I say America’s nightmare I’m talking about white and Black America.   This guy is a live and breathing  monster stereotype that absolutely scares  anyone who catches a glimpse of him and his GBE crew on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.  Did I say that Chief Keef don’t has no care?  Ask Hip Hop’s bad boy 50 Cent, recently at a planned Las Vegas video shoot with 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa,   Chief Keef blew off the video shoot and never showed up.  Ask socially conscious rapper Lupe Fiasco, he and Chief Keef got into a verbal war and the results went something like this,  “Lupe Fiasco is a H– O—E—, When I see him I’ma smack him like da lil b-tch he is”, responded Chief Keef.   His record label Interscope Records is betting millions that Chief Keef’s “I Don’t give a CARE attitude pays off big time in digital sales, concert fee’s, cd sales, etc.  Chief Keef is set to release his debut CD, “Finally Rich” on December 18.   In his gritty low budget video’s, you see a young black man , half-naked, dreadlocked hair, frequently surrounded by a mob of look-a-likes, smoking blunts and brandishing weapons.  His current single “Love Sosa” is another urban tale that’s not only playing across the country in heavy rotation on American radio stations , but the video has been seen by over 14 million viewers since the time of this writing.  Born Keith Cozart, and raised in the South Side of Chicago, he was constantly surrounded by horrifying homicides that rival war-town Iraq.
“Fucking with those O boys, you gon’ get fucked over, Rari’s and Rovers, these hoes love Chief Sosa, hit him with that cobra, now that boy slumped over, they do it all for Sosa” are the words of Chief Keef, a Chicago based

rapper allegedly affiliated with the Black Disciples gang and who has already faced incarceration for brandishing a gun at a Chicago Police Officer during his teenage years.   Lt. John Andrews, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department, writes that, “Chicago’s homicide rate this year currently stands toe-to-toe with the total number of military forces killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq.” This rising epidemic has resulted in Chicago being the nicknamed, ‘Chiraq’ by urban youth.  Chief Keef and many others like him has embraced this image, taking pride in representing the strength of his block and crew by stating very clearly and plainly,  You wanna call the cops? You gonna get a cop dropped.” The Chicago Police Department should have heeded this black man’s words. Lt John Andrew further writes that, “Chicago has lost 3 of its police officers, killed by gunfire as victims of robberies.  It seems no one is safe in our city anymore.” This Chicago based rapper like so many hip hop stars, embrace the Italian and Latin gangsters influence on American culture

 Chief Keef  AKA Sosa,  represents the mentality that many gang-bangers uphold in the Southside of Chicago; a mentality that has no regard for human life, no respect for authority, little aspirations beyond the nearest street corner. And because of this, Chief Keef’ is absolutely necessary in the rap-game. Album’s like ‘KRS-One’s Criminal Minded and 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying’ all represent the mentalities born and bred from a life of oppression. This mentality has thrived and even grown due to state-sanctioned institutionalized racism, inequalities, and poverty that continue to be passed on through particular ethnic groups. Watch a Chief Keef music video; view members of his crew. Look past all of the macho-posturing and you will see people who are profoundly oppressed, faces that are downtrodden, faces that rarely smile and people whom have lived life in utter poverty, violence, and hardships. The South Side of Chicago is home to some of the lowest income communities in America. The area is, and has been, facing chronic unemployment, run-down schools, substandard housing, and a whole host of related social problems. Chicago Gang researcher, John M. Hagedorn writes that “The conditions in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods resemble impoverished Third World countries.” These are the social conditions that Chief Keef to no fault of his own was born in and his mentality and lyrics are simply a response to this. Chief Keef, represents this ostracized generation, his music represents this mentality and as long as oppression exists so too will Chief Keef and others like him.

“300 bitch don’t make me bring them killers out. Real shit, free all my hitters out.”

When Chief Keef calls for the freeing of all of his ‘hitters,’ he is referring to members of his crew that are incarcerated, victims of the prison-industrial complex. Chicago Gangs primarily consist of black youth who have been systematically excluded from the legal economy and have been forced to sell drugs, pimp, and steal as the only mechanisms to survive and aspire towards life goals. Many manufacturing jobs that were once located in black communities have now been outsourced to China. Indeed, African-Americans without criminal records are less likely to be hired than whites with criminal records. African Americans with “black sounding” names are less likely to be called back for job interviews.  than those with “white sounding” names, even when the qualifications are identical.  As black youth becomes accustomed to the street market, competition is not carried out in the form of price cuts and ad campaigns.  Gang members compete over territory to sell their products and services. With no other source of income, protecting ones block or corner becomes a matter of life and death. When Chief Keef states “don’t make me bring those killers out,” he is issuing a warning to rival gangs to not set up shop on his block. Of course, the conservative argument is for one to simply “pull up their boot straps.”
A commonly held belief by those untouched by the issues that blacks deal with from birth is that “just because someone is born into poverty does not mean one has resort to the drug trade.” And this is true.  However, using common sense, how likely is it for a white man raised in middle to upper class, whose peers are largely composed of other whites raised in the same socioeconomic environment, to set up shop on a street corner ready to begin selling crack cocaine? How likely is it for an impoverished black man to make it a primary goal to impress his school teachers or job supervisor when the strongest influences around him are those who’ve already been shunned by white society? Indeed, the black community has routinely overcome overwhelming odds to create prosperous communities.  African-Americans seeking to escape southern racism came to Chicago during the “Great Migration.” Blacks were forced to live mostly in the Southside of Chicago and a legislation known as the “Neighborhood Composition Rule” mandated housing segregation for Blacks. The housing that the Chicago Housing Authority created for blacks in these Southside neighborhoods lacked basic plumbing and would not even receive the benefits of garbage disposable services.  Despite the overwhelming odds, black people were able to establish their own businesses and create flourishing community centers. However, after the Neighborhood Composition Act legally enforcing residential segregation was struck down due to the Civil Rights Movements, white vigilantes responded with savage violence.

Mobs of whites invaded the South Side of Chicago, setting fire to houses and businesses, finding and beating innocent black citizens and other brutal, barbaric acts. Even as the South Side of Chicago was being set ablaze, the Chicago Fire Department refused to put out the flames and the Chicago Police Department put in no effort in to protect these innocent people who were being terrorized. Many African-Americans in the South Side subsequently became homeless and lost all that they had—from these ashes and social conditions are what gave birth to Chief Keef and his peers. The Irish terrorists that attacked the black community were rewarded by Chicago’s governmental system by recruiting the young energetic whites into the Chicago Police Department; it should be no great surprise that future Mayor, Richard Daley, participated in these attacks on the black community.

“Bang, Bang, Bang” is Chief Keef’s catch phrase, his mantra in the rap game. It’s an onomonopia representing gunshots.  Chicago’s babies do not fall asleep to lullabies; rather to gunshots.  Day by day, it is a never-ending cycle all rooted in economic deprivation and oppression.  Hip Hop’s culture historically have identified with youth that have been systematically excluded from the legal economy, the explicit and often times provocative lyrics of Chief Keef results.  His lyrics,  his words, and the images of his videos represent an ostracized generation of America- a generation bearing the brunt of years of racial apartheid and economic discrimination in which all opportunities for social-economic advancement were blocked, halted, and destroyed by whites. American capitalism and the inequalities it produces are responsible for the content, as vulgar as it may be, in his lyrics, “I’mma make bullets rain all on your block, your bitch all on my cock”.  He is describing what it takes fo hisr crew and himself to eat, to be clothed and have shelter.

Chief Keef represents hip hop, from the bodacious, self-assured, get money to big pimping mentality.  However before one judge and castes “Chief Keef” as a misfit, hoodlum or savage, recognize that faces like Chief Keef don’t die, they multiply and he is simply a by-product of his environment, just like you.

Sources

Third World America, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janet-tavakoli/third-world-america-2012_b_1653745.html

http://scholar.harvard.edu/mullainathan/files/emilygreg.pdf

Arnold Richard Hirsch, “Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960″, University of Chicago,1998,http://books.google.com/books?

http://www.princeton.edu/~pager/pager_ajs.pdf

http://www.princeton.edu/~pager/pager_ajs.pdfid=px0PuO7GWhsC&pg=PP1&ots=9I1rYsYyNh&dq=%22Making+the+Second+Ghetto%22+hirsch&sig=IPgKY-xgpCRZwpCsboI_rk0UPgc#PPA18,M1

RACE NOT SPACE: A REVISIONIST HISTORY OFGANGS IN CHICAGO John M. Hagedorn* gangresearch.net/Archives/hagedorn/articles/racenotspace.pdf

Housing: “A Short History,” http://southside.uchicago.edu/History/Housing.html

Tuttle, William. Race Riot Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Urbana, IL; University of Illinois Press, 1970)

RACE NOT SPACE: A REVISIONIST HISTORY OFGANGS IN CHICAGO John M. Hagedorn* gangresearch.net/Archives/hagedorn/articles/racenotspace.pdf

The Saga Continues: Lil Jojo, The Hate that Hate Produced

“Killing is the solution.”These were the blunt words of a Chicago Englewood Gang-Banger. White middle-class news reporters had the audacity to bombard these oppressed youth with a variety of questions that demonstrated the fact that  they were totally ignorant to the concept of racial based inequality and the behavior it breeds; it proved they really were totally clueless about the upbringing and oppression that these youth were facing.
Questions like, “What makes you guys tick?” were brought up by “reputable” news sources, obviously employed by those lacking even a basic grasp of sociology.The young Chicagoan responded, “We’ve got to eat.,,, We want to. We want money. Rob, steal and kill. That’s the only way. We didn’t grow up in Beverly Hills. We don’t get it handed to us.” Indeed, these youth engage in this anti-social behavior for pure survival, to be able to have food and basicnecessities of life.
Tupac Shakur once asked us, “How many brothers fell victim to the streets? Rest in peace young niggas, is there a heaven for a G.”
One of the recent tragedies of Chicago’s streets was the death of an aspiring rapping ‘Lil Jojo’—yet another victim of the streets. He can be seen in his music videos armed with automatic weapons and making threats to his rivals. If you let the mainstream media tell it, ‘JoJo’ was just an ignorant hoodlum savage.  However, one must look at the environment that produced Jojo.
Jojo was from Englewood, one of the lowest income communities in America, and like many that grow up in this community, parents often have drug addictions, are unemployed, and are unable to provide food, shelter, clothes and other basic necessities of life.  As rapper Nas once told us, “Tell me what’s the reason. That your kid is hungry you ain’t got no money, what’s the reason?
  
The legacy of Jim crow and systemic racism is the reason.   Of course, America is often proclaimed to be the land of democracy and equality. We are further told that America is a place where anybody can make it with determination and hard work.
Unfortunately, for right-wing mythology, these perceptions of America are solidly founded upon mistruths, fabrications, distortions, and out-right lies. The fact is that America is a colonial corporate enterprise built on genocide, rape, theft, exploitation and slavery. As the Star-Spangled Banner was being written, African-Americans were out in fields performing slave labor. America has never been the “land of liberty” for the mass amounts of oppressed people;  instead the “land of misery”.   As rapper Nas Informs us, “They call it Thanksgiving, I call your holiday Hellday, ‘cause I’m from poverty; neglected by the wealthy.”

America is not the land of “equality” for African-Americans suffering in internally-destructive colonies, or “ghettos,“ where gangs terrorize the streets and the police “stop and frisk” law is a prerequisite for jail time. The drug economy is the number one employer of the youth in these areas. America is not the land of “equality” for that black single mother who works multiple jobs and is still unable to provide for her children. America is not the land of “equality” for impoverished black teen who participate in an illegal drug economy due to the lack of opportunities in his community.
What options for social mobility were there really ? Sure, Jojo could have sought a job, but since brothers without criminal records are less likely to be hired than whites with criminal records, Jojo (who, in fact, had a criminal history) would have an extremely difficult time finding employment. Plus, what jobs are there really in his community? Millions black workers lose their jobs because their labor is no longer valued. The jobs of the lower-class are now outsourced to the third world. Capitalists want to make more money and the jobs African-Americans need to provide for their families does not matter to them; it’s not even a remote thought when it comes to their business strategy.
Moreover,  even if Jojo had found a job, his labor would be exploited by capitalists while he made minimum wage, still unable earn enough to have the basic necessities in life. As Big L, an urban rapper informs us, “:”How the hell I’m gonna make end’s meet, makin about $120 dollars a week? Man, I’d rather do another hit; I want clean clothes, mean hos and all that other shit.”.
Jojo could have gone to school, but Chicago’s educational system is in an absolute state of apartheid in which Selective Enrollment schools (which are disproptionetly white) receive more funding and resources while neighborhood schools are neglected, given old textbooks, and broken down supplies. What reason is there to go to school on an empty stomach to receive a lackluster education? More than half of black youth drop out of these neighborhood schools..Dead Prez once told us, “They schools can’t teach us shit. My people trynna get all we can get. All my high school teachers can suck my dick. Telling me white man’s lies straight bullshit.”
Thus, one day, a hungry Jojo made the decisions to go along with his peers who were making fast money via an underground illegal drug economy having the latest clothes, women, and an excess money. Plus they were well respected and feared on a dangerous block (thus adding a sense of security). Why not join a gang?
 Gangs are a way in which oppressed youth experience a bond . They come together and form a connection. This replaces the needs to climb  up the socio-economic ladder the legal way. Most African Americans live in isolated ghettos struggling for basic human necessities such as housing, health care, food and clothing. Joining a gang is the only hope for some people to have access to those things.
 White folk’s “recession” translated to African-Americans depression.  Whites have 20 times the wealth of African Americans, and the average white newlywed couple has 12 times the net-worth of African American families. While white folks were facing job insecurity for the first time and worried that they would be unable to pay the mortgage, African-Americans like Jojo and his family were had no job or house to lose. Thus, Jojo joined a gang. After, Chief Keef signed a record deal and went from rags to riches in no time, many other Englewood natives wanted to aspire to be like him, following in his foot-steps.
Jojo was one of these people, and he was motivated by his hatred of the ‘Black Disciples,” Chief Keef’s gang, which wars with Jojo’s gang over control of drug blocks. Thus, Jojo made videos dissing the Black Disciples and can be seen in his rap videos brandishing guns. Jojo’s older brother had this to say about the videos:
“It was a character and just an image that he was giving, because that image is hot. We’re not from the North Side. We’re not from the nice community. We’re from the ’hood. We’re from where mothafuckas are hungry and ain’t got shit and it’s a matter of whether you’re a nigga that do eat or don’t. The nigga that eat do negative things to get it.”
Jojo, was hoping that he would be signed to a major record deal like Chief Keef by his music recordings that he uploaded to YouTube.
Chief Keef represents ‘300’ and Lamron in his songs which represents Englewood’s Normal Ave-  the Englewood faction of the Black Disciples.  Chief Keef and Jojo belonged to two different, warring gangs that competed for drug blocks. In response to Jojo’s death, Chief Keef stated that, ““Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga jojo Wanted to Be Jus Like Us #LMAO.” Chief Keef’s account was apparently hacked when this statement was made but it still was made by someone and as disgusting as this response is, both him and Jojo are victims of a centuries-long cycle of racial oppression which allows for mentalities like this to flourish
Sources
Interview Quotations are from http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/09/27/killing-is-the-solution-gang-member-tells-walter-jacobson/