GANGSTA = SLAVE By John Denny Observer Reporter
(St. Thomas Primary, Nevis) – In an effort to de-glamorize gang culture for school children, Dan McMullen, a financial sector attorney in Nevis, has developed a curriculum to educate them of the reality of gang life and donates his time to deliver the message. He has developed a seven part series whose target age group is the secondary level, but earlier this week, he gave the first segment to the students of the St. Thomas Primary, which was received well. Using a power point presentation, McMullen had a split screen projection showing the children on one side gang life and traditional life with a main theme of the first segment demonstrating that gang culture and slavery are very much the same. Mr. McMullen did not come up with the comparison between being a slave and being a gang member. That credit must go to Stanley “Tookie”Williams, founder of the Los Angeles Crips who was executed in 2005 for four murders committed during the course of two robberies. One victim was a store clerk and the other three at a motel where Tookie killed a hotel owner, his wife and his daughter. Both robberies together netted Tookie less than $300. He was convicted in 1981 and about 12 years later, finally renounced his gang affiliation and began an outreach project to prevent youths from following his same path. In the spring of 1971, when Tookie was 17, he was in a very different situation. He was a high school student from South Central Los Angeles. He had a fearsome reputation as a fighter and as a “general” of South Central’s west side. And, around that time, Tookie, along with Raymond Lee Washington, created what would one day be a super-gang, the Crips. Back in the day when Tookie and Raymond founded the Crips, many of the young people of South Central Los Angeles were involved with small gangs. Those gang members roamed South Central taking property from anyone who feared them, including women and children. To protect the community, Tookie and Raymond organized the Crips. Growth By 1979, the Crips had grown from a small Los Angeles gang to an organization with membership spread across the State of California. By this time, Crips had also become just like the gang members they had once sought to protect themselves from — Crips had become gangbangers who terrorized their own neighborhoods. Soon the Crips lost both their leaders: in 1979, Raymond was murdered by a rival gang member, and, that same year, Tookie was arrested. He was charged with murdering four people. In 1981, Tookie was convicted of those crimes and placed on death row. Life in Prison In 1987, Tookie began what became a 6 1/2-year stay in solitary confinement. After two years there, Tookie began to look at himself. He focused on the choices he had made in his life and then committed himself to make a drastic change. The long, difficult process he undertook to rebuild his character put him in touch with his true spirit, his own humanity. Only then could Tookie finally begin to care about the many children, mothers, fathers and other family members of this country hurt by the Crips legacy and by its explosive growth. The gang is now in 42 states and on at least one other continent: South Africa. Youngsters in Soweto and other South African cities have formed the Crips copycat gangs Dan McMullen has had experience with gangs before, first working for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as an officer of the law and then after going to law school, becoming a criminal defense attorney, defending accused criminals. The gangs McMullen worked against and with were outlaw motorcycle gangs and syndicate crime families in Canada. He and his family have lived on Nevis for a number of years and love the island. He became concerned with the rise in gang mentality when his children started talking about it when they came home from school, saying other children were singing songs about gang life or discussing whether they would be Crips or Bloods when they got older. During the presentation at St. Thomas Primary, McMullen presented many of the anti-gang ideas put forth by Tookie to youths in the years before he was executed. The concept of gangs being slavery was first outlined by Tookie in an essay titled “My letter to incarcerated youth 2.”That letter is: What is the relationship between prisoner and guard? Is it slave versus master? Foremost, the interactions between captor and captive can vary from person to person. All guards do not behave the same way; neither does every prisoner exhibit an identical pattern of behavior. But a relationship of any kind that is based on distrust, caution or fear will eventually give rise to open hostility. In prison, the basis of the so-called relationship between guards and prisoners is that guards issue institutional orders and prisoners must comply – or the prisoners suffer the consequences. These consequences include prisoners being placed in solitary confinement in “The Hole,” which is known as receiving “hole time,” or prisoners are forced to comply through violence inflicted on prisoners. In the matter of the master-slave concept, there are commonalities between a guard as master and a prisoner as slave. Similarity between the guard’s role and the master’s role can be found in the guard’s absolute power to control the prisoner. This control is carried out by enforcing rules on the prisoner; closely watching the prisoner to ensure compliance with those rules; punishing, abusing and, if need be, eliminating the prisoner through banishment to solitary confinement or through violence. On the other hand, the resemblance of the prisoner to the slave is that both are subjected to strict rules, confined like animals, controlled, often brutalized physically as well as psychologically, and deprived of basic human rights. Dare I take the master-slave connection a step further to point out that many people – of all races and ethnicities – have allowed themselves to be modern-day slaves. Indeed, a person does not have to be Black to exhibit a slave mentality. Unwittingly, too many of us – and it does not matter whether we are Black, Asian, Chicano or White – perpetuate ‘the Master’s will” through our own self-hatred and destructive behavior. For those individuals who are in denial, here are some recognizable signs of self-perpetuation of slave behavior, be it in prison or in society. Modern-Day Slave Traits A modern-day slave will neglect to educate himself, which in turn creates mental slavery. (During slavery, Blacks were prohibited from learning to read or write. So, these days, everyone should take advantage of the opportunity to get an education.) A modern-day slave will swindle and commit other crimes against his own people and others instead of helping to break the chains of poverty by earning an honest living. A modern-day slave will perpetuate self-hate through committing violence on people of his same ethnicity, such as black-on-black violence, including murder, which is a form of genocide. A modern-day slave will deal, buy and/or use drugs that will make him and others function as slaves (addicts) to drugs, slaves to misery and slaves to defeat. A modern-day slave will adopt the wicked ways of the slave master, who disrespected and abused women. A modern-day slave will abandon his children – leaving them for someone else to raise – just as the old masters abandoned Black children by selling them off to other slave owners, not caring about their fate. A modern-day slave will foolishly commit crimes that cause him to end up behind bars, incarcerated, in mental and physical bondage. Take a look at this list and then read it again. Look within yourself for any similarities and eliminate your modern-day slave traits. If you cannot admit to any of the seven signs, you are in denial. But all is not lost. The first step toward defeating a slave mentality begins with your acknowledgment that it exists. Mr. McMullen has been presenting his seven-part series to a select few students at the Charlestown Secondary School. He said the curriculum is more designed for youths at the secondary level
, but would like to make the first presentation in the series to more primary level students to get the children talking. “Starting young is key, because by the time they get to a certain age, they will be harder to reach,”he said. “I would like to do more, but the problem is: I work and I only have so much time. I would like to teach this to some of the secondary students, so they can pick up the torch and carry this on.”A number of children interviewed after the session said they plan to carry the message they learned back home to their family and friends. All of them said they learned that gangs were a bad thing that led to pain and prison. One little girl asked why did they have to execute Tookie considering that he was sorry for what he had done. McMullen explained to her that Tookie asked to be forgiven, but his crimes were too great and his death was the price he had to pay. Tookie wrote a number of things in prison before being executed and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature for a children’s book. Eight years before his lethal injection he wrote an apology to all the people that were hurt by the gang culture he helped create. The Apology: Twenty-five years ago when I created the Crips youth gang with Raymond Lee Washington in South Central Los Angeles, I never imagined Crips membership would one day spread throughout California, would spread to much of the rest of the nation and to cities in South Africa, where Crips copycat gangs have formed. I also didn’t expect the Crips to end up ruining the lives of so many young people, especially young black men who have hurt other young black men. Raymond was murdered in 1979. But if he were here, I believe he would be as troubled as I am by the Crips legacy. So today I apologize to you all — the children of America and South Africa — who must cope every day with dangerous street gangs. I no longer participate in the so-called gangster lifestyle, and I deeply regret that I ever did. As a contribution to the struggle to end child-on-child brutality and black-on-black brutality, I have written the Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence children’s book series. My goal is to reach as many young minds as possible to warn you about the perils of a gang lifestyle. I am no longer “dys-educated” (disease educated). I am no longer part of the problem. Thanks to the Almighty, I am no longer sleepwalking through life. I pray that one day my apology will be accepted. I also pray that your suffering, caused by gang violence, will soon come to an end as more gang members wake up and stop hurting themselves and others. I vow to spend the rest of my life working toward solutions. Amani (Peace), Stanley “Tookie” Williams, Surviving Crips Co-Founder, April 13, 1997 For all the anti-gang activism and contrition for starting the biggest street gang in the world, Tookie never admitted guilt in the crimes for which he was executed.
GANGSTA = SLAVE By John Denny Observer Reporter