A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Gangster – A member of an organized group of criminals; a racketeer

Chronicles – A detailed narrative record or report

  Gangster Chronicles is a website designed to give you the reading public a unique insight into the urban and inner city landscapes through the lives of those that lived it up close and personal and the eyes of those who have witnessed it and lived to tell about it. On a bi-weekly basis GC will keep you updated and abreast of the news both good and bad from sources both national and local regarding the coming and going wins and losses and unfortunately deaths of our urban legends, city and social icons and the men and women that make up our world.

  GC is not a vehicle to glamorize or romanticize the street life and or the “game”. On the contrary GC is our attempt to shine an unblinking light on life in the fast lane and its attendant cost and consequences. To that end we will on occasion profile the lives and often losses of both men and women, sung and unsung who have been and yet remain a part of the social mosaic of the urban experience.

  GC will also serve as a front for information on new laws and amendments to old ones that directly and sometimes indirectly impacts on the lives of our families, friends, and loved ones ensnared in the tentacles of the Prison Industrial Complex. It is our hope, no in truth it is a great deal more than that, it is our near prayer that in some small way our site may help to stem the destructive tide of incessant incarceration and recidivism that threatens to decimate an entire generation.

  In keeping with our stated concern for those of us and the families of those of us that have run a foul of the law or that the law has ran a foul, our website GangsterChronicles.com will provide a posting board to allow concerned friends or family members to post messages, or make inquiries that our staff here can answer or readily address.

  Alright my brothers and sisters, I believe you know what page where on. You probably have some idea as to what we stand for and perhaps where we are heading. So, welcome aboard our Maiden Voyage and know that regardless to how tumultuous and storm tossed the sea may become, we the staff at GC will always “speak truth, to power”.

Sincerely,

Akbar Pray, Executive Editor

DOES THE RISK OUTWEIGH THE REWARDS, REVISITED

By Akbar Pray


  On October 4, 2009 Frank (Nadeem) James died. On October 7th, 09, I acted as the Master of Ceremonies for Nadeem’s memorial. For those that knew him well, the passing of Frank James was yet another death knell in the passing of the old guard. Frank James was indeed one of the last of a dying breed. That Frank James died in prison, drew his last breathe in the presence of prison guards, as opposed to the warm bosom of family and friends, should be a teachable moment for each of us, for there is a lesson to be learned from how Frank James lived and ultimately died.


  To the unenlightened, those young guns and old heads still trapped in the matrix of what we euphemistically refer to as the " Game" Frank James was revered for having been the partner of that infamous snitch Nicky Barnes, celebrated for having been seen on American Gangster, and both lauded and applauded for the amount of cheddar he is alleged to have stacked. However, to the enlightened, and those close to Frank, those that watched his health then life slip slowly, then abruptly away, those that watched him in the autumn of his years, watched as he fought a losing battle with emphysema and coronary heart disease, there were no true glory days. American Gangster, trips to Vegas and all that the aforementioned entailed, was not worth the dismal end result.


  Frank James was not the only one amongst us that the putrid smell of prison hallways and walls or the hideous glare of the sheen of razor wired fences would be the last smell and sight that they would witness. From Baltimore there was Gangster Webster, from Harlem there was Brother or Muhammad and from Newark, there was Ali Akbar, and unfortunately the list goes on.


  Each of the for mentioned men briefly basked in the reward, but like those amongst us that continue to come after them, blazing the same trails, and ignoring the same warnings, none have adequately factored in the risk. For what reasonable man, what sane person would run the risk of one day of dying in jail from old age, against the dubious reward of “coming up" and " ballin out of control.”?


  I am sure that as many of you read this article, the crushing reality of your life spent in prison then dying there from old age is far, far from the soft cushion of your present world. Yet, to those of you that remain on the cusp, straddling the fence of both worlds, each day many of you place your bet, make your wager. Betting your life in the off chance that you are smarter, shrewder and slicker than all of those that came before you. However, betting in the " Game ' is like betting at the casino. At the end of the day, the house always wins. The odds are stacked against you.


  Each day, somewhere in this country, even as you read this article, sometimes in tandem and sometimes simultaneously, there are grim reminders of the sheer stupidity and ingrained wrong headedness of the reasoning stated above. Each day, somewhere some young gun or recalcitrant old head stands before a judge waiting to hear the words that will confine him or her to prison for the rest of their natural lives. Yet, we continue to wager, continue to ball, continue to make it rain at strip clubs, continue to build your foundation on a house of cards, ignoring the windstorm that is coming your way.

 

 

Gangs and Drug Wars: Who are the Real Winners in This Deadly Chess Game?

By Solomon “Chessmon” Montague


  Having been involved in the gang and drug culture for too many years before I finally turned my life around, I feel a strong obligation to ask those who are still involved in it; who are the real winners in this deadly chess game? Is it the convicted drug kingpin sitting inside his prison cell with five life sentences and 1,000 years for “conspiring” to sell 50 grams of crack? Or is it his big shot lawyer who charged him $200,000 and lives in a $2,000,000 mansion and wears $2,000 suits? And what about the glorified gang chief who use to have 500 soldiers at his command but now rots in Florence, Colorado’s Supermax Prison, “ADX” and can’t even get a visit, a letter or a simple hello from his comrades anymore. Who won, the glorified gang chief or the $50,000 a year prosecutor who sent him there? Rick Ross or Oliver North?


  C’mon y’all, for real for real, we lost. So let’s not fool ourselves, anymore! Honesty is our best medicine and our first step towards a cure. We lost the war in this deadly chess game because we were playing against an evil unseen enemy and didn’t bother to learn the rules of the game. Our brother Akbar and Editor-in-Chief said it best… “Betting in the game is like betting at the casino. At the end of the day, the house always wins. The odds are stacked against you…” Wow! That’s really deep if you just take a moment to think about it. I wonder how many people did when they read it. Probably very few!


  What it boils down to are chess players versus crapshooters – “them against us”. While we the crap shooters – drug dealers, gang leaders, stick up boys, etc. – play the game with our hearts, egos, and little heads, they the chess players – the lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and corporate entities – study the game, the players and the rules. So they can foresee the consequences of not only their own thoughts, words and actions, but ours as well. While we the crap shooters throw dice with our lives for mere money, status symbols and notoriety, they the chess players calculate 10 or 11 moves in advance based on precise assessments of their positions, strategies and tactics. And while we are in the bad habit of “leaping before we look”; our unseen opponents are trained to focus, concentrate and think logically and long term.


  Living only for the moment, we gamblers take the highest risk and suffer the highest losses. And when we leap first and look second, we care only about ourselves and nothing for our loved ones. Thus, in our wake we leave behind a bloody trail of broken promises, hearts and bodies. So, to bring this full circle, who are the real winners in this deadly chess game – “them or us”?


Just think about this: when crapshooters go against chess players, they crap out.


Until next time, keep your thoughts positive and intelligent

 

Ten Points For A Prisoner’s Success

By Marvin Ellison


1.    Education-  It’s the responsibility of every prisoner to invest in their future. The more educated and knowledgeable a person is, the more likely they’ll have success in life.

2.    The Law- The burden for knowing the law rests on the shoulders of each prisoner. Every country has a judicial system of codified laws. The process of arrest, conviction, plea bargain, and appeal, is predicted on a judicial system of criminal law and civil law. Being ignorant of the law isn’t a mitigating circumstance in one’s favor.

3.    Family- Maintaining strong family ties is not only essential to the health and well being of every prisoner , every prisoner is obligated to save family members and love ones from repeating their mistake/s through utilizing their predicament as a teachable example of what not to do (i.e. avoid the gang culture, drugs, etc.).

4.    Friends- Unless one is committed to dying with a prison number or under similar circumstances, one’s friends ought to consist of people who reinforce positivity. Anyone who doesn’t, should be replaced.

5.    Enemies- Life is simply too short to waste in the fruitless arena of enemy combat. Whether its physical, psychological, or emotional engagements, there’s simply no point in having an enemy taking refuge within your state of being. It’s a stressful drain and complete waste of brain cells and energy.

6.    Doing Time- Time, like life, is whatever one makes of it. It can be a fruitful investment or waste. Learning from one’s mistake/s and impulsive decisions can be mastered through the prison regiment imposed interactions between a range of nationalities, personalities, and temperaments. While some people leave prison more knowledgeable, wiser and technically skilled, others leave immature and unchanged with delusion of street-life grandeur (only to end up back or in a coffin).

7.    Giving Back- The guilty as charged, are obligated to make amends through bettering one’s self and becoming a better human being. Participating in programs using one’s past to dissuade at-risk young people from traveling the wrong path, is one of innumerable avenues and means to make a positive difference.

8.    Health- Being incarcerated is a stressful condition. Smoking dugs and being overweight, compounds the stress and can often times lead to preventable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, etc. Exercising, eating as healthy as possible and minimizing one’s salt in-take, are ways to becoming and staying healthy.

9.    Vanity- Prison tends to place an over-exaggeration on looks. Some men spend more time lifting weights than studying their case. Most women invest more in hair  products than books. Although one’s appearance and feeling good about one’s self is a good thing, if the trends were reversed more prisoners would be better equipped at gaining reversals; not to mention making a favorable impression during courtroom and/or parole board proceedings.

10.    Freedom- There’s simply no substitute for freedom and absolutely nothing worth losing it! Doing time is a form of slavery. The jailers control every aspect of a prisoner’s existence. The size of the cell, the number of sheets and blankets, the heat. When and what a prisoner eats from food services or commissary. And on and on! No gang color, robbery, or other crime, or drug corner, is worth ending up in DOC. Ask Bernie Madoff was it worth it. Regaining  and keeping one’s freedom helps end the 13th Amendment  practice of judicial imposed slavery behind gun towers (“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, hall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”)


From the Editor’s Desk:

THE LINGERING RESIDUE OF RACIAL BIAS IN A SUPPOSED POST RACIAL AMERICA!

By Akbar Pray


  Over the last couple of days starting on May 17 and continuing to now through May 19 I have watched with anger at some points dismay at others, but ultimately with deep disappointment, and near resignation, as Anderson Cooper of CNN reported a segment of the show entitled “Children and Race in America". As a person that prides himself on staying abreast of matters that effect African Americans as a people, I found myself nonetheless surprised, even stunned by the persistence of racial bias, and stereotyping, in children as young as four and as old as ten, in what many of us hope had become a post racial society.


  In a study that began before Brown v. The Board of Education, and in fact laid the groundwork in some regards for that landmark decision, two prominent Black psychologist, Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark, in what has become to known as the "Doll Study " reach the alarming conclusion that Black children when offered the opportunity to play with dolls that looked like themselves as opposed for dolls that were meant to look like white children, overwhelming choose the white doll.


  Nearly sixty years later, even as this country celebrates it first African American president, and many people both Black and White speak of a post racial America, the racial bias and stereotyping that many thought had been near buried with the Brown decision, shows in a new study using children of both races and conducted along similar lines, that the perniciousness of racial bias, even in the very young remains deeply entrenched in our country's culture. In a persistent pattern that should have stunned even the most jaded observer, children both Black and White identified the Black childlike images that they were shown, with feelings of negativity, anger and unattractiveness, while in the very next breathe giving the reverse view of images that were identified as White children. In one question after another, young Black children most between the ages of 4to 6 consistently identified the images that look like themselves as being bad, unattractive or the color that most adults disliked. What for me was perhaps the dismaying and on some level confounding, is that these children, Black children are the grandchildren of those of us that shouted "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud" or "To be Young Gifted and Black!" Moreover, and perhaps even more troubling, these are children of the hip hop generation. The generation that didn't merely shout “Young Gifted and Black" but lived it. Somewhere along the line, there has been a profound disconnect. Somewhere, somehow, something was left unsaid, unlearned, untaught. There is a nagging sense both visceral and cerebral, that there is something seriously wrong with this picture.


  Here we are now 2010. One hundred and forty five years after physical slavery. Yet, we find the pernicious tentacles of racial superiority embedded not simply in White children, but deeply embedded in our own children. The subliminal message of White superiority and of Black negativity is so entrenched that even the entrepreneurs of the hip hop industry, rappers and choreographers alike have become unwitting participants in this cancer of racial bias.


  One need only look at whom or what colors African American woman are that appeared almost exclusively in today’s videos, to see the persistent presence of colorism. If, your Black stay back, if, your Brown stick around. if, you’re Yellow you’re my fellow, and if, you’re White you’re alright."


   It is alive and well, even amongst the supposed enlightened. White, light, suggests wholesomeness, pretty, good and favored. Dark Brown and Black continue to imply, angry, aggressive, and not attractive.


How many times have you heard a fellow African American say "She's nice looking to be so dark.” How many times have you said it, or thought it yourself?


  This is the same type of racial bias, racial profiling and stereotyping that undergirds the pre-textual stops of Latin and African Americans far in excess to their respective numerical representation. For that reason amongst others, is there any wonder that The Center for Constitutional Rights noted that Blacks and Latinos in New York were nine times more likely to be stopped and frisked by police than their White counterparts in New York during 2009. It therefore takes no great leap of faith to see the connective tissue between the answer given by otherwise innocent children and their negative depiction of Blacks and the behavior of White officers zealous and disproportionate and targeted stopping of Blacks and Latinos.


In closing, is this, the aforementioned an incurable malady? No, it is not. However, it is a cancer, that like most cancers, we ignore at our own peril.

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