Monday, October 23, 2006


TORONTO, CANADA…Police brutality, according to the numbers, is becoming rampant in Toronto. And now American tourists seem to also be susceptible.

On October 16, about approximately 1:40 pm in front of the Econolodge Hotel ( 335 Jarvis Street ) in downtown Toronto , Tonye Allen and his fiancée, Ann Brown, having just checked out of the hotel, were at the curb attempting to hail a cab. While in the process, a police car from the 51 st Division pulled over at started asking questions of the two. When they answered, the officer said he didn't like their attitude, especially after they sought to find out why they were being questioned. Enraged the officer, jumped out of the car, grabbed Mr. Allen and called for backup. When backup came, there was no questioning. They immediately all descended upon Mr. Allen pepper sprayed him, knocked him to the floor, hit and kicked him. Someone on the street was videotaping the incident as onlookers were appalled. The person videotaping was told he too would be arrested. They also told Ms. Brown she was going to be arrested for disturbing the peace when she sought to see what was happening to Mr. Allen and when she went to seek help from bystanders. She was pushed, grabbed by the throat and also subdued by another police officer. The police refused to tell her or Mr. Allen the arrest charges. They refused to tell Ms. Brown their names or badge numbers. They refused to tell Ms. Brown what division they were taking Mr. Allen to. One of the witnesses on the street told her what division the police were from.

After arriving at the police station Ms. Brown spoke with a Det. Moyer who informed her: "We get all kinds of crap from the public everyday and we don't have to take it," he told her. When she said they within their rights to question the officer as to his reason for singling them out, and that we were in a free country, Det. Moyer said, "This ( Canada) is not a free country."

Mr. Allen and Ms. Brown are both African American. According to a former officer, the problem of police brutality has gotten worse in Toronto. Sgt. Jim Cassells told CBC News. "police brass have covered up, refused to investigate or buried cases of alleged police brutality, public complaints and internal corruption for years." ( )

Racial profiling in the city has also become a problem, according to recent studies by the University of Toronto. "I wholeheartedly believe we were victims of racial profiling and Mr. Allen a victim of Toronto police brutality. We were in front of a hotel, with several large bags as well as our pet in a pet travel bag. We were not suspicious. There was no other reason to question us other than we were black," says Ms. Brown, a respected freelance journalist. "As such, I am reaching out to the local community activists. I will also contact the NAACP and Jesse Jackson's Operation Push to encourage a boycott of the City of Toronto by African American tourists and conventioneers." Ms. Brown has written several glowing articles about Toronto and was in fact working on another piece during this visit.

Mr. Allen is a photographer whose work has appeared in L.A. Weekly, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Vibe Magazine, The Source , among other publications. An avid traveler, he has never experienced anything like this incident. In his 45 years, he has never once been arrested.

Ms. Brown is a freelance writer whose work as appeared in Black Enterprise Magazine, Essence Magazine, Upscale Magazine, Playboy Magazine, The Source , and various other publications.

I’m on the phone with Jane Higgins, a publicist in St Louis.

Ali was stopped by Hazelwood, MO police at 4:30 in the afternoon last Saturday (October 14) for a traffic violation. Somehow between the time they cuffed him and threw him in the back of the patrol car and took him in to the station, he was tazed 35 times (while in cuffs) for ‘”resisting arrest.” There are burn marks all over his back.

Tased 35 times? So after the first 6 or 7, he was still fully functional and resisting arrest? C’mon now… 35 times.

Hazelwood is the same town where Ali is opening his restaurant (is he nuts?) and a suburb of St Louis (it’s near the airport, actually).

Someone driving by HAD to have seen his. 5-0 did NOT call for backup (since when do they arrest a young Black male without scores of other cops coming by?), and they were on Lindbergh Blvd long enough to wait for a tow truck to come and tow Ali's corvette.

The newspaper reports that Ali was tased until he “soiled himself.”

It’s time to stand up, St Louis.

Friday, October 20, 2006

THE BRIDGE: Gangs and Street Power, Part 1
By Darryl James

*Say the word "gang" to nearly anyone in America today, and visions of groups of violent young Black men will be conjured up. Racism? Perhaps. But undoubtedly, the marketing of the urban lifestyle via rap music has given the face of gangs an ebony hue.

Some of the crews and gangs in Urban America were also young and Latin. Yet, thanks to Gangsta Rap, America still merges the idea of gangs and gangsters with Black youth. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, while gangs in New York City morphed into graffiti crews and rhyme posses, the music went straight to the streets when it hit the West Coast, and the content was mostly about the avocation of gangsters and the gangster mentality.

Many of the rap artists who represent the lifestyle in their music have more than likely never been gangsters. Haha Loco, a professed Crip gangster from 357 (named for the weapon of choice), a sect called Pomona Sin-Town, on the West Side of Pomona, California, says that the marketing of rap music has painted an unrealistic portrait of life on the streets.

"We don't just ride down the street and shoot people sitting on the bus stop," he says. "It has happened, but it was blown out of proportion. It might not be a gang member who shot someone or who got shot--it could be completely unrelated.

Let's make it clear before we get too far: Blacks did not invent gangs. And, no matter how much we love Tupac, the word thug is older than he, his parents or even his grandparents.

The word thug was found in India as early as 1200 AD, referring to a gang of criminals plundering villages across the countryside. What was their motivation? Money and power, of course.

And when we think of the gangster lifestyle, it too has been around for a very long time. In fact, the most popular aspect of gang activity ascribed to modern urban gangs--the driveby--was popularized in Chicago during the heyday of Al Capone.

For Capone and his gang, control of the streets meant controlling the cash and power that flowed from illegal alcohol during Prohibition. The use of weapons such as the machine gun allowed them to keep an upper hand on the community and a level hand with law enforcement.

In fact, law enforcement as we know it today came into existence to combat crime and to abate the street power of gangs. In every corner of the world, where there are gangs, there are police and some say their interaction isn’t always based on friction.

Haha Loco also illustrates that there is a very thin line between the street gangs and what Tupac Shakur labeled as a legal gang--the police. Sometimes, he says, the police create gang friction and/or even participate in street crime to their benefit and to the detriment of the gangs.

"That's why the gangs will always take an opportunity to strike back at law enforcement, whether it's through rioting or whatever," says Haha.

Throughout history, the gang lifestyle has revolved around grouping up to obtain power.

On the high seas, for example, pirates terrorized sea-faring travelers, robbing them of precious cargo, including jewels and valuable metals.

In the Wild, Wild, West, Jesse James and his gang reigned terror through towns both small and large as they robbed banks to become powerful outlaws--the stuff of which legends were made.

By the time the West was calming down at the turn of the twentieth century, gangs began roaming the streets of big cities, including New York City. These gangs were Irish and even Jewish, but were eclipsed by Italian gangs such as the Five Points Gang--extensions of the Sicilian Mafia--which included the notorious Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, who later moved to Chicago and into gangster infamy.

Throughout the first half of the century, new immigrants and existing ethnic groups were forming gangs in depressed urban areas.

During the 1940's and 1950's, Asian and Hispanic gangs were emerging on the West Coast, and the powerful Latin Kings and Vice Lords were founded in Chicago.

And while the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950's and 1960's was moving between Dr. King's nonviolent movement and Malcolm X's message of empowerment, the streets were forming factions of an entirely different type.

Black gangs called the Savage Skulls formed in New York, while in Chicago, the Black Gangster Disciples and the Blackstone Rangers moved through the streets.

Black gangs began to take on new forms, but their existence certainly wasn't new.

Following slavery, when Blacks were shuttled from free labor to cheap labor in burgeoning towns, their housing would be confined to one area of each city, usually the south side. When street commerce ran through the Black community, it did so with the assistance of gangs and gangsters—white, Black and otherwise.

From bootleg alcohol to the numbers game and from marijuana to heroin, gangs have existed in one form or another, surrounding the street commerce of the day. Gangs also served as the catch-all for the bottom of society, as well as a form of mentoring for fatherless sons--role models for strength when there was no strength in the family. The pecking order of a gang provides strength and power for the person on top in each segment, whether divided by Block or neighborhood.

Gangs were already strong within the Black community in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, but when crack cocaine and high-powered automatic weaponry hit the streets, the game was officially changed. These two symbols of power (crack = cash and guns = strength) became the order of the day.

Loco, who entered the game as a teenager and spent nearly ten years behind bars because of it, got into the game because of the money and the power.

"It's a powerful movement," he said. "The gang life allowed me to get out and make money and drive cars even when I wasn't supposed to be driving. But it's also how I ended up in prison--I got caught with kilos of crack and had to do time. I was about the money, but the violence and the territory came with it.”

Because the game was elevated, gangs began to operate like businesses in many ways. Some even began to franchise.

Go West, Young Gangster

Perhaps the most powerful national street gang, The Bloods, stems from a gang founded in Chicago in the 1960s, the Blackstone Rangers, a.k.a. The Black P Stone Rangers, a.k.a. The Black P Stone Nation (BPSN). By the time crack cocaine became an urban street staple, The BPSN was spreading westward.

And, outside of Chicago, the most notorious location for gangs has been Los Angeles, a city many people think of synonymously with The Bloods as well as The Crips, a gang founded in the 1970s by Raymond Washington and the late Nobel Prize Nominee Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

The Crips were the dominant street gang in Los Angeles until the late 1970s/early 1980s when smaller gangs such as the LA Brims came together under the title Black P Stone Bloods.

During the 1980s, the Crips and the Bloods formed national networks, fueled by crack cocaine sales, which some say were even connected to Central American gangs. There were specific aspects of the gang lifestyle that remained consistent from city to city, including the money and the power, but also, according to the self-professed Crip Gangster from Pomona, California, Haha Loco--the respect.

Respect is everything," he says. "You have to keep your respect and hold on to it. You can't take any crap from anybody."

Two years ago, Haha saw the pursuit of respect in the game come too close for comfort. He and his twenty-nine year-old brother-in-law were at a party when a fight broke out. His brother-in-law stopped the fight and one of the youngsters fighting pulled out a gun and shot him dead.

"That's how it is," says Loco. "The youngsters are trying to get respect, so they can become OGs. You're fortunate if you make it past twenty-five."

But, contrary to popular myths, there are many like Haha Loco, who find a way out of gang life.

"I've been living it out for twenty years, but I've become a father and a husband and I'm working now," he says. "The story of my life isn't what I'm doing now, it's what I lived through. I'm not worried about the streets coming back to claim me, because you have to get yourself right spiritually. You learn to fear God and you fear no man."

Loco knew that he had to change, especially when he saw the changes in the laws surrounding street commerce. Those changes in laws included the stiffer sentences garnered from crack cocaine as opposed to equal amounts of the less potent version of cocaine.

And, California's "Three Strikes" laws allowed judges to send repeat offenders to prison for life after their third felony, no matter how minor the final offense.

"I knew I had to change," he says, "because based on the laws, people are getting the same time a murderer would get, just for dealing in the drug game. I had to learn the game all over again and re-socialize."

Haha transferred his game to rhyming, reversing the trend of Rappers claiming to be gangsters. Haha is a gangster who is now a Rapper.

"Whatever I say is indisputable, because the streets will vouch for me," he says. "They know Haha's an OG from 357."

"I've got over thirty dead homies over the years," he says. "I've done over ten years in lockup. I know people from every gang--Watts, Compton, LA, and Pasadena. Hoover Crips, East Coast Crips, Main Street, Nutty Block Compton, Sin-Town, Bounty Hunter Watts, 97 Gangsters, 190's--they all know me."

The crime rates across the nation began to fall sharply by the mid-1990s, but gang activity continues to rise--curiously in suburban areas more than urban areas.

The popularity given to gangs by rap music, according to Haha Loco, has lead to an unrealistic view of gang life.

"To me, rap music exploited what the gangs were doing," says Haha. "I see it as a lot of guys trying to step up as if they did dirt, but the real guys are doing time in penitentiaries somewhere. It made the people who had nothing to do with the lifestyle more aware of the power in the streets.

"I won't take away from them, but when it comes time to show what is being said, they will move away from it. Gangsterism is marketing."

And the overblown marketing of gang life has lead many citizens to harden their view of even the most reformed gangsters, including Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder of the infamous LA gang, the Crips, who turned humanitarian while behind bars, denouncing gang violence, helping to turn lives around.

Even though Williams contributed greatly to society, some pressed vehemently for his death, citing the violence wreaked by gangs, tacitly ignoring the peace he brought after being jailed.

"He changed his life around," says Loco. "That man was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Is that (The Death Penalty) how you reward a person who turned his life around? He spent more than twenty years locked up, but he did more good in there than many people out here."

Even behind bars, Tookie Williams remained about the power. The power he focused on was the power to change lives and to save lives, steering youth away from the hazards of gang life.

Once in--for life--gang life is about the power. But it is not about some of the things that people publicize-being forced to join, for example.

"You can be born into it, but one thing that is a myth is that people are forced into it," explains Haha. "If you don't want to be in my gang, why would we make you get in and tell you all of our secrets?"

Haha also explains that the first step to being in a gang is rebellion. Adolescents begin to turn their attention away from homework and chores to money and girls. Parents have to be careful of the messages they send their children.

"As a parent, you have to think about your kids," he says. "You can't gang bang and then raise your kids in the same hood and think they won't follow you. I have sons who watch me, but they also watch me go to work. They also play the video game True Crime: Streets of LA and they hear my music."

No matter how many rap videos proclaim to expose the "real" inside view to gangs and gang life, the reality is that no criminal in his right mind with real power would dare expose current activity for which he could be prosecuted.

Power is not always visible with a quick observation. Sometimes, true power moves through the streets as an unseen hand.

Next Week: "The Facts & Faces of Gangs."

Darryl James is an award-winning author who is now a filmmaker. His first mini-movie, "Crack," was released in March of this year. James' latest book, "Bridging The Black Gender Gap," is the basis of his lectures and seminars. Previous installments of this column can now be viewed at James can be reached at

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I spent time in Montgomery, AL this weekend.

I was there to meet with T Long (NY Yankee) who is starting his label, LongMoney Entertainment. I got to meet all of the artists on that label: Small Time Ballaz (Jungle Baby, Killa Katt, and Big Hulk), Willie Wheat, D'Shanty (Shann), Songbird, Lil Dutty… and the incredible producers and folks behind the scenes who are making shit happen over there. I met T through my good friend Michael London, who is one of the first people int he industry that I befriended. He's a cool muthaphukka...

T and Michael London were kind enough to set up a meet and greet so other artists in the city could meet me, Greg Gate$ (writer for MurderDog, Down, The Source, etc), and Wayne Watts (a successful entrepreneur). It was an outstanding couple of hours. I received over 200 demo CDs, but the best part was that I got to tell the artists that to get noticed by major labels and offered a respectable deal, they will need to sell their own CDs regionally. So they need to get their hustle on.

At the end of the night, I got to see a performance by many of the local artists at a local club with a very long history: The Rose. Although I never go to showcases (it sends the wrong message to the artists that performing leads to a record deal—labels don't care about shows), I did have a great time Sunday night.

I met Khao and one of the guys from Dirty. Khao was in town for the weekend to clean up some things for his father’s estate—his Pops had just passed away (condolences to Khao and his family). He’s from Atlanta, where I now live, so I’ll get to see more of him.

Daniel from Dirty was able to break down his experiences for me in the music business from being at Universal to Rap-A-Lot. He has a solo CD that’s out now. He is a very nice guy and I got to hear about his kids that he’s raising by himself as a single Dad. How amazing is that!!

T Long kept the Moet and Corona flowing all night in VIP, and the only bump in the road was when a fight broke out downstairs. It appeared to be some guy who chose that moment to beat the hell out of his woman right then and there. Men who beat on women are low, so he showed his ho card to everyone in the club that night. Security seemed to be busy outside guarding T’s Bentley, so the fight lasted a little longer than necessary.

The Rose has a rich heritage of performances by jazz and R&B greats and has been in existence forever! I was proud to be part of history in the making and hope I get to do big things with LongMoney in the near future! Michael London (DJ Shadow) is the superstar who is going to deliver that label to infamy. Get at your boy… he’s running shit over there now!! And he’s really doing his thing!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Best quote I've read from a rapper in ages:

Complex Magazine asked Game about why he remained loyal to Dr Dre when it appears Dre turned his back on the rapper by not offering any beats for this release. Games responded by saying, "How about giving me a chance to feed my family for the rest of my life? Isn’t that better than giving me a beat?”


And speaking of props...

Dear Project Pat;

Thanks for introducing me to Mike.

Best Regards,