ACT EIGHT – PAGE 391
THE DRUG STORE ROBBERY – 1965-1969
PART ONE AND PART TWO
This story about the drugstore robbery is only important because most crime committed by kids in the ghetto is not thought out, it happens in the spur of the moment, nothing is really planned, it’s just there’s an opportunity and you just do it and it’s not that important to anyone outside the ghetto unless you die.
Shit happens so fast in the ghetto, that you’re dead five days before you know you’re dead, and you’re in jail five years before you know you’ve really fucked up, and you’re doing life without parole. Kids die in the ghetto because there’s no thought about, oh I’m going to die if I do this shit, kids die all the time, but, your always thinking, not me, so you do stupid shit, real stupid shit, that you never think you will die over.
You do that drug deal with another asshole, never thinking that asshole is gonna rip you off, shoot and kill you; you do that drug rip-off because you think, ‘I can get away with this shit; you pocket a cigar from a store, because you think no police is gonna blow my head off for doing this light shit; you talk back to a police because he ain’t gonna pull out a gun a shoot you dead in the street; you rob the store down the street, because you ain’t gonna die that night; you do all kinds of stupid, fucked up shit all the time in the ghetto, because you either don’t give a fuck, or fuck, life is so fucked up and full of shit and poverty and low class jobs and shitty apartments and no fuckin car and everybody you know from miles around is all fucked up and sometimes your just high and fucked up and sometimes there just ain’t nothing else to do but fuck up somebody else’s life.
Sometimes for a young poor black teenager, after a lifetime of poverty and abuse, living in the ghetto or projects, life isn’t worth living, fuck it.
When I was fourteen during the spring and summer of 1965, I just stopped going to the Boy Scouts, I don’t think there was any reason, except I just stopped going, Maybe it was girls, maybe it was the gangs, maybe I was growing up and I wanted something else. I dropped my childhood friends and started hanging out with another group of boys from the projects.
That summer instead of going to my Grandmere’s house for a week or Adams Pond Scout Camp, I went to a camp called Agazzis Village and got thrown out and then got a job with an organization called ABCD or Action for Boston Community Development. It was a new program, started by the City of Boston to help Inner City kids. My job was to, along with other kids, clean up the neighborhood vacant lots and condemned buildings. It was good outside work and I enjoyed it. A lot of the kids were from outside the projects and lived in the tenement buildings that surrounded the projects, some of the kids lived in other parts of my project and I knew them by their faces, but, all of the kids myself included were kids who saw this as something different that we were a part of, something big that we could belong to. We were all 14 and 15-year-old ghetto and project kids trying to grow up, trying to figure it out and if you were working for this program, you were still a good kid, working for a paycheck, learning how to collect a check every two weeks for doing a job that you were proud of. It was like a real job, except that it was also about our love for the Roxbury community. It might have been one of good ol Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty Programs.
I remember that our supervisors were nice Black and White politically-orientated liberal college kids, who supplied us with rakes, shovels, garbage bags and gloves and every day we would meet and sign in at a different vacant lot or building that we were to clean up or clean out that day.
When it happened we were at the top of a vacant building, cleaning up the rubbish and debris and had been working together all day. We were sweaty, a little tired and alone.
Her name was Renee, she lived across the street from the projects in one of the tenement apartments on Tremont Street and was a sweet, pretty, tall, skinny, brown skinned girl. She was not a ‘home girl’, she was a ‘round the way’ girl. Round the way girls were all skinny, had long legs and could out run most boys. They were exotic and beautiful young girls of twelve to fourteen-years-old and there were hundreds of them in and around the projects that summer of 1965.
When we kissed the first time, we looked at each other, when we kissed again, we kissed with our eyes closed, when we kissed the third time, we kissed with our eyes open, our lips just touching, and smiled at each other. I had reached puberty the year before and though I sort of knew what to do with it, the only thing I had available was my hand. But, when we kissed again, she allowed me to touch her budding right breast and her smell overwhelmed me, and for the first time, in my first real kiss, I tasted and smelled a woman, although a girl, Renee would one day be a beautiful woman, and in that summer, late afternoon, her eyes, although closed, and it was just a kiss, she said yes, and I found my first girlfriend.
We worked together all the rest of the summer, we held hands, talked about silly stuff, made things with our kemp ropes and sang and danced to The Four Tops, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandells and The Temptations, on the little portable radio with batteries, that I had while we worked, that summer of 1965.
At night I sang songs like Billy Stewart’s, “Sitting in the Park”, with the fellows out back on the benches while drinking and smoking. I had taken my first drink from the bottles of wine that Randy kept in the kitchen cabinet. I kept drinking them and refilling them with water and would take one or two cigarettes a day from his pack. I had tried to throw my mother out the fifth floor window, earlier that summer and so she was leaving me alone. I had also finished my first year at public school, the ninth grade, at English High Annex and was scheduled to go to English High School for the tenth grade that September and that August we moved to a three bedroom apartment on the Whittier Street side of the projects at 15 Whittier Street, one of the small buildings in the project, on the third floor, next door to Deleno and his brother and sisters. Deleno would be the first person I knew to go to college, Northeastern University, that’s why I was so surprised when I used to see him in Grove Hall copping and shooting heroin, that summer of 1967.
One night, shortly after dusk, after I had started the tenth grade at English High, I was across the street from our new apartment on Whittier Street playing basketball by myself at the Health Unit basketball court and I saw about eight guys and a girl walking towards me and getting ready to go into the tall building next to my building on Whittier Street. The girl was staggering and the boys were nudging her along, like in a playful way. Nobody was paying attention to me so I just stood still and watched. As they came closer I could see that the girl was Renee and the boys I knew. They walked into the building, down into the basement, and within about 30 seconds Renee began to scream.
Earlier, at the beginning of summer in June, I had been outside playing and another kid came up to me and said, they got your sister in the hallway on the third floor, I knew what that meant and I without a word to the kid ran into my building on Cabot Street, ran up the stairs to the fifth floor, opened the door, grabbed a long fork, the kind you use to lift a pot roast out of the pot, a long fork, with long silver blades and ran down to the third floor and busted through the door into the inner hallway and there they were like roach’s crawling all over my sister who was spread out on the hallway floor.
I started yelling and screaming and punching out with my fork and the boys scattered off of my sister, who was just lying on the hall floor, her clothes ripped off and she’s just lying there, not making a sound, not even crying and the boys who were just a little older than me started running out the different sides of the hallway.
I chose one and ran after him. We ran down the stairs and out the building into the project courtyard. I chased him around into the middle of the project that day and with the whole it seemed project yelling and screaming at me to catch him, I did catch up to him and with a swoop of my arm and hand, over and down, on the run, I plunged my long bladed fork into his back and became a project legend for two weeks. The police never came and life went on in the projects.
The boys that were trying, and I never knew to this day if they had before or after succeeded, because my sister has never talked about it, the boys that were trying to gang rape my sister were a part of a larger project gang that lived on the Ruggles and Tremont side of the project. They had been gang raping young girls in the project for about a year that I knew of. These gang rapes were planned and more than a few of my friends’ sisters had been gang raped.
The girls that were being gang raped by these boys were between eleven and fifteen years old and a lot of these girls were turning up pregnant and some of them were being turned out and began to like the big boys pulling trains on them. All of this was happening and nobody was saying or doing anything. So when Renee was pulled into the building and started screaming at 25 Whittier Street, I knew exactly what was going on. But, I also knew that for me to go into the building that night and try to save her would be the death of me, that I would die that night, because the boys that had her were the leaders of the Tremont and Ruggles Street gangs and they were killers.
The leaders of these gangs were 18, 19, 20 and 21 year olds, had all been to jail and had been running the projects for many years. They were the same boys that robbed me of my paperboy money and had held me over the seventh floor roof and threatened to drop me when I was younger, they were the same boys who had gone on a very famous murder spree in Boston and robbed and killed eight taxi cab drivers, they were the same boys who ran the heroin drug trade in the projects, they were the same boys who robbed and killed people for miles around the projects, they were the same boys who had robbed and killed Mrs. Parker. They were young heroin drug users meaning they were not yet fully strung out, and so when they got high, they did not yet, just nod out, they became violent and very dangerous.
If you grew up in the real ghetto, the real projects, in any urban city in America, you know who they were, you remember them, they were the real gangsters, the real killers, the ones the police leave alone, the ones that the police are afraid of, the ones that prey on and viciously rape and kill eleven and twelve year old girls and stab, rob, shoot and kill elderly people, you know who they are, they live right in the ghetto with you, they are evil vicious cowards who destroy your community, who you allow to sell drugs to your children, rape your daughters, steal your lives and your dignity. They live right with you, every day. You know who they are and you don’t do a damn thing about it.
And so, at fourteen and then fifteen I had been living with these bigger boys most of my life, I knew who they were and they knew who I was and so while Renee’s screams from being brutally gang raped that night in the basement at 25 Whittier Street in The Whittier Street Housing Projects in Roxbury, Massachusetts rang out into the night, I and nobody else did nothing because we were all scared.
So while Renee was screaming that night, Renee’s life was being changed, and Renee would learn to love being gang raped and soon she would love guys coming up to her apartment right across from the projects and pulling trains on her and soon she would learn to love sucking White men’s dicks in Boston’s Combat Zone alleys. I never really saw Renee after that night, that summer. The gangs had her and she was turned out.
Soon after that night I just stopped going to school and began hooking school with other kids in the Fenway. We would hang out there in the marshes and on the benches and drink and smoke cigarettes and sometimes I would hook up with a girl and we would lay in the bushes and grass and fool around. When it started to get cold, we would go up one of the kid’s houses whose mother worked and hang out at his or her house for the day.
Soon English High expelled me and life moved real fast after that. The ghetto enveloped me, the alcohol engulfed me, the weed found me, the horror of the projects, of how I had been living, of all that I had seen and gone through at only fourteen and fifteen-years-old, finally embraced and pulled me in. I went into shock and had a mental breakdown and wouldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. My mother called the welfare department and they sent people to evaluate me medically and psychologically.
When I re-emerged, I was new. It was like my blood had been drained and I like a Vampire awakening, knew who I was for the first time. The things I had already felt were there, were now enhanced and I knew what they were for the first time. The God that I had learned about at St. Francis de Sales had given me strange, visual, colorful dreams of wealth when I was a child and now with prayer (I was now praying for the big boys deaths, as I was always praying for my mother’s death) was showing and giving me strange gifts of the power of suggestion, mind reading, invisibility, speed, endurance, courage, wisdom, the ability to be in many places at the same time, the ability to visualize, to have visions, to see the future and the brain and the body that would use these strange abilities, came alive.
The doorway to help the underdog, to help those who needed me, to help the hundreds and thousands of people I would meet on my journey and the heart and courage I would use to attack my enemies and win many battles for others and myself for the next forty-five years, opened up. Some feats you have heard of, and most you haven’t, but they would all begin at the Whittier Street Housing Projects that fall and winter of 1965 and 1966.
The first thing I did after my transformation and with my new powers, was to align myself with some new friends from the Cabot, Whittier and Lower Ruggles Street sides of the project, the second thing was to process or straighten my hair and I took to wearing a doo rag, the third thing was to go downtown to the knife store in the Combat Zone and buy two long silver switchblades, the fourth thing was to start a psychological war against the big boys by telling everyone I knew that we needed to do something about the big boys gang raping girls in the project, the fifth thing was to with great stealth and courage write the words RAPISTS in chalk all over the projects.
In the meantime, in early 1966, I learned from my mother that my father was coming out of jail again and he wanted to see me, and if I wanted to, I could see and meet with him. The last time I had seen my father and spent any time with him was in late 1956 or early 1957 when he had unexpectedly showed up at my first grade class at the Asa Grey elementary school in Roxbury and took me out of class so that we could go to the movies and see Walt Disney’s Song of the South based on the Tales of Uncle Remus, He got in a lot of trouble for that, as he had just gotten bailed out of jail by my Grandmere’ for threatening to kill my mother and grandmother that time he had been dragged out by the police with the shiny things on, but I had never forgotten that day sitting in the movies with my dad eating popcorn and watching the enchanting old darky world of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox with Uncle Remus in the deep south after slavery and during reconstruction. I had never stopped loving my dad, so damn right I wanted to see him and besides I wanted to tell my dad all that you had done to me when I was little boy.
The day finally came early February 1966, it was a cold Boston winter Saturday and I had been waiting outside the 15 Whittier Street building all day, sitting on the benches around the corner. They said he was coming at 11:00am, but it was 12:30pm before a car rounded the Cabot Street gym and made its way down Whittier Street. My brain said, “it’s my dad”, and I took off leaped over two fences and met his car before it was halfway down the street. Since I didn’t know anything about my dad, I didn’t really know what he looked like, how he sounded, who he was, if he would like me, I didn’t know anything and didn’t care. I just knew whoever he was I had missed him, for some reason that I didn’t know about.
But, there he was. I didn’t recognize him, but I sensed a familiar presence in that car. There was a woman with him and he told me to get in the back. I got in the back and pulled my doo rag off so that dad could check out my process and me real good. The woman said, “Is this him”, like I was some smelly, dirty, motherfucker, under her shoe and my dad told her to shut the fuck up. Me and what I learned was his main bottom lady and soon to be wife, never got along from that day forward, but ol dad beat her so bad and so often and fucked with her mind enough for both of us through the years, so I managed to disregard her from that day forward until that miserable bitch died. You should have seen her face when ol dad died in 1989 and she found out that he had signed the deed to Ten Clarendon Avenue over to me and my sister in 1986.
The last time I had seen my dad he was a man of 26 and now he was 36 years old, he looked older and much fatter, but he also looked a little tame and little weary to me, which I was to find out later was just because he had just got out of jail, so all that was just the bad jail house starchy food and the whipped look was the inmate look.
Just about everybody I knew below the age of seventeen had been to Concord reformatory and Lyman Reformatory in Shirley, Mass, I mean all of the Ruggles and Tremont Street gang had been there and most of the mothers boyfriends in the project were always coming in from or going out to jail. So the projects were run by weary looking former inmates on heroin, and we were all living in jail, everyone I knew was a criminal, and that included my dad and my step-dad. In fact Billy, one of the big boys younger brother had just asked me in January 1966, when I was going to jail. I said soon.
We drove out of the projects to Tremont Street, turned left and drove up Tremont Street, Dad said that we were going to him and Lou’s (that was that miserable bitch’s name) favorite restaurant. It was a place I knew well, up Tremont going towards downtown Boston in the South End, Lew Changs, a Chinese Restaurant. We went there and I had my first meal with my dad in…; since I don’t remember us having any meals together whenever he was around before, which was hardly ever, I’ll just say it was the first meal I can ever remember eating with him. And then, that was it. He took me back home and I wouldn’t see him again until he came to save my life.
By March on my way to Trade High Public School, near the Annunciation Road Projects, where I had ended up in the 10th grade paint department because my cousin Philip went there and I had to be somewhere, I had taken to going into the buildings where the big boys lived in the morning and yelling their names, saying shit like, “D, rapes little girls” or “Mak rapes little girls” or “Stevie rapes little girls”, shit like that I would yell out loud in their buildings on my way to school.
This went on until one day near the end of March, one of my new friends, probably the one who was ratting me out, telling the big boys that it was me who was making all this noise in the projects about them gang raping girls, told me that Stevie wanted to have a sit down with me and talk about the shit I was doing and I was so crazy and fucked up on alcohol and weed at this point that I actually believed that I was going to negotiate, a new word for me at that time, actually this was going to be my second major negotiation outside of my deal with Al’s grocery store, which had ended because we were now getting these big motherfuckin cans and blocks of welfare cheese, welfare powdered milk, welfare beef, welfare macaroni, welfare butter, food stamps and other welfare food shit from the Boston Welfare Department, so my deal with Al’s was no longer needed.
I remember Al shaking my hand and wishing me well when I thanked him that summer of 1965 for the deal and told him that after seven years we could no longer keep the deal because with all the welfare food and food stamps we got, they had cut way back on our welfare check, so we had to go straight welfare. Anyway at fifteen-years-old, I actually believed that I was going to negotiate a deal with the big boys, so that they would stop gang raping the girls in and around the projects.
The sit down with the big boys, specifically Stevie, was set for early April at night in the middle of the projects on the benches near the wading and shower pool. Now, Stevie I had known nearly all my life. He was the older brother of about six siblings, one who was about my age, and Billy who was a couple of years older and who I had some type of relationship with. The brother my age, when we were about six years old was picking on a real skinny kid named Paul who live around my way in the bigger building on Cabot Street and who was a friend of mine, I had pushed this big boys brother off of Paul and flipped him over to the ground, at that time his older brothers, Stevie and Billy, came after me and pushed me to the ground and told me not to bother their brother again. So this was how I met those brothers and like I said I had known them most of my life that April night when Stevie and I were to meet in the middle of the projects.
Finally the day came. I don’t remember what I did that day, but I do remember what happened that night. That early April night at the Whittier Street Housing Projects was stiller and quieter than it usually was, I remember that, it was as though everyone knew something different was going to happen that night. I just knew that something was about to change forever.
As I walked to the middle of the projects I saw Stevie sitting on the bench alone. I walked up to him and sat down. Stevie was a short, built, dark-skinned man, about nineteen-years-old. He shot heroin, raped little girls and robbed, stabbed, shot and killed people. I was a tall, skinny, fifteen-year-old kid, and I was not afraid of him or the other big boys, because I had known them most of my life, from my early newspaper selling days when they used to rob me, and I knew who they were and what they were.
He offered me a drink of alcohol and so we drank together, while he was asking me what I was doing, why was I fucking with them. I started to tell him about Renee, when some other guy came up on us. I was a little drunk by now and heard the guy say to Stevie, “Is this him”, and Stevie said, “Yes”. Stevie said to me, “No hard feelings, but you got to learn your lesson”. he said to the guy, who I didn’t know and would never know or see again, “Don’t kill him, he fucked up, but he’s still one of us”. With that Stevie got up and walked off. The bigger, older guy, who I didn’t know, stood over me, right in front of me and his fist smashed into my face and broke my nose immediately, his next hit broke my right jaw, his next broke the left side of my face, my cheekbone, the next hit busted my mouth and my lips, the next hits I couldn’t feel anymore.
When it was over, I remember hearing Stevie’s voice, saying to the guy, “help me with him”, and they dragged and carried me over to 15 Whittier Street, up the three floors of steps, knocked on my door, my mother opened it and Stevie said, “Mrs. Rose, here’s your son” and dropped me in front of her. The ambulance came, I was rushed to Boston City Hospital, I almost died twice they said, but I was brought back to life. The doctors that worked on me were dedicated people and they saved my life. The police came and interviewed me in the hospital after a week. I told them about the gang rapes in the projects and didn’t name any names. They kept asking me who had done this to me and because ‘I was one of them’, I gave no names.
What I knew was that because it was Stevie, I was alive. He and his brother Billy, had some empathy for me and probably fought for my life in whatever meetings the big boys had about me, because if it had of been up to D. and Mak, I would be dead. They had no love, no empathy for me whatsoever. The police investigated, talked to the project people, the activist people in the projects stood up, had meetings and the big boys stopped gang raping the young girls in and around the projects.
I stayed in the house recuperating for about a month and then one day my dad came and walked me out of the projects to his car and we drove off. It would be the first time I would live outside the brick walls of the projects since I was three and I would live with my dad until he would go back to prison. We would have many adventures, some recounted in these pages and some not. I would repeat the tenth grade at Dorchester High that September 1966; Mak would die violently, shot to death a few years later at twenty- four-years old; D. would move to California and find some real black gangsters who would shoot him dead in the streets of Compton in 1973; and Stevie, well he just disappeared and nobody, including me, ever saw him again.
I did see Renee again. I was in New York City recording my band Prince Charles and the City Band with Prince Charles Alexander at Intergalactic Recording Studios, 84th Street and Lexington Avenue. It was January 1982 and I had a huge hit out called Beat the Bush we had produced and written on a group we called Slyck, that record was getting a lot of radio play and sales across the country, especially in New York City. We were recording a follow-up track and I was staying at the Holiday Inn on Eighth Avenue and Forty Eighth Street in the Times Square area in Midtown Manhattan.
While walking down Eighth Avenue one night on my way to catch the #7 train at 42nd Street over to get the #4 or 6 train at Grand Central Station going uptown, I saw her. I knew it was her, I hadn’t talked to her or really seen her since that summer and fall of 1965, but I knew it was her, same cupid pretty face, except she had on this funky wig and looked emaciated, but it was her and she saw me too. We walked over to each other, looked at each other in the middle of the Times Square area on Eighth Avenue, near 42nd Street and hugged and looked at each other closely.
It had been almost seventeen years since that summer we had kissed, held hands and worked for the ABCD summer program; but, my heart felt the same joy as it did that last day I saw her. She had on a short waist rabbit jacket and her wig, short mini skirt and high heel shoes in the dead of a New York City winter said it all. I had on my Burberry coat, leather black pants, almond silk shirt and carried my music industry briefcase. She asked me what I was doing in New York and I told her that I was recording a record in a studio uptown. I asked her what she was doing and she said that she worked across the street at the Peep Show Theater on Eighth Avenue and Forty Second Street. I asked her if she wanted to come with me to the studio and she said yes.
So she locked her arm in mine and we went underground taking the #7 crosstown train to 42nd Street to the #4 express uptown to 86th Street. We didn’t say anything to each other on the way to the studio and when we got there I introduced her to my partner and friend, Prince Charles Alexander; my main man and bass singer, Edmond Harris; and Jay Burnett, my recording engineer, as a background singer. Gina G. our main vocalist for the session was already there and ready to go.
Jay set up a mike for Renee in the vocal booth, while Prince Charles and I coached Renee on the chant we wanted her to sing with Gina G. When Renee was ready she went into the vocal booth and we turned the track on. The music played and we cued Gina and Renee and they chanted/sang, in a call and response verse, “He’s just a Freak”, and Edmond sang, “Video Freak”, and the girls sang, “He’s just a Freak”, and Edmond sang, “Video Freak”.
This went on for about six takes, three overdubs and a couple of measures worth that we could use and then those particular backgrounds were done. It still remains after all these years one of the best hours of my life. To see and be with Renee that night doing something that we could have never known we would do, something so outside of what had happened to her, something that seemed to make her happy, is still one of the best feelings I have ever felt. That night at the studio we drank and sang and did a little cocaine and drank some more and sniffed some more cocaine and kissed again, and looked at each other and marveled at what was happening and that night when we left the studio we went back to the Holiday Inn and finally, we concluded what we had begun as fourteen-year-old children in 1965.
That June 1982, the record, “Video Freak (Defend It)” came out and I moved to New York City from Boston that month with my wife Yvonne. One day I took the record, it was one of those old “12 inch” disco long playing records from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and went over to Eighth Avenue and Forty Second Street to the Peep Show Theater and asked for Renee. The manager took me to the back where the naked girls were waiting for someone with five dollars to put it in a machine and they could then go into a room and do their thing for one minute.
Renee was sitting down and stood up when she saw me. We hugged each other and kissed with just our lips touching softly and I held her and looked at her warm brown face, with that ugly wig on, and held her naked body close. I then reached down and handed her a “12 inch” record of “Video Freak”, and showed her where her name was on the record. She just shook her head and looked and said thank you. We hugged again and I think I cried a little because it was all I could do. I said I had to leave and walked out, when I turned around just before I turned the corner, she was standing there looking at me and that would be the very last time I ever saw Renee.
I know, I won’t lie. I went back there again looking for her and the manager told me that she had quit and he didn’t know where she was. I lived in New York City for the next twenty two years, as well as living in Los Angeles and Phoenix and would often return to New York City all through the years and I would look for her on the trains, walking down the street, in a store, anywhere, but I never found her again, but wherever Renee is, her name is forever on the record, now a cd, and that record, “Video Freak (Defend It)”, is still being played today all over the world and she is still singing, “He’s just a Freak”, forever!
THE DRUGSTORE ROBBERY – PART TWO
By October 1967 at sixteen years old I hadn’t really been back to Dorchester High School since my father went back to jail and I had to go back to the projects. I was pretty much safe in the projects, but I was hanging with a gang in Grove Hall for companionship. We were all somewhat violent kids looking for trouble and I am usually high on alcohol, weed and bombers and so is everyone I know. I know a lot of kids who have gotten killed. I’ve been violent with and fought many other kids and other kids have been violent with me; and yet I’m still living, still walking around.
So the Almighty Hawk was with me one night and there was this drugstore we hung out at every day getting stuff. My gang had a territory, and everything in that territory belonged to us. Whether it was girls, stores, money, people or food, it didn’t matter, if you were in our territory you belonged to us as a gang. So in this particular gang, which was in Dorchester starting from Grove Hall within a radius of about 3 miles, everything in that area belonged to the gang. We had our headquarters at a Chinese restaurant, directly across the street from Ma Dixon’s Country Style Restaurant; the Muslim place and in the center was a barbershop. We knew everybody there and everybody knew who were. The drugstore that we hung out in that was in our territory had prescription pills like bombers and shit like that, so the Almighty Hawk and me decided that we would rob this drugstore up on Washington Street and Columbia Road, and so we did.
One night after midnight around 2:00am we were just hanging out it and we did it. The drugstore was facing Columbia Road on Washington Street, and on the side street going up Washington Street there was a door that led into a basement, which we figured was underneath the drugstore. We were gonna go in there into the drugstore and steal the all the drugs that made you high. The Almighty Hawk who was sixteen also, knew which ones to get, so we up went up Washington Street to the side back door and figured out how to open it. I think the Almighty Hawk had been working on it for a few days. Anyway we got in and went down the stairs to the basement and I opened another door and went up some steps into the drugstore, went into the back rummaged through the drugstore area and found some pills and this and that.
We went back out the way we came in and as we were coming up the stairs we saw at the top of the stairs that people were talking outside. The Almighty Hawk said, Oh shit that might be the police! And when they didn’t leave, I said, We better get the fuck out of here! We need to get the fuck out of here! If they come in we’re caught; we might have a chance if we can get the fuck out of here! So we slowly crept up the stairs and we looked at each other and understood what we had to do…something that was gonna take a tremendous amount of energy and strength. We were two 16-year-old street-wise kids and we knew what was out there and what we had to do. As we moved up the stairs we could see them with the lights and we just moved at the speed of sound so fast we could have been just a blur, and we were. We busted through that door into a sea of police cars and policemen and moved past them faster than they could blink, faster than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, like superman and shit, and ran right past them, right down to Washington Street, around the corner, around the next corner. And we were gone.
And I happened to think that in this day of police killings that are so prevalent across the United States is that, what if some policeman had just pulled his gun, took a quick aim and fired at us like they do to black kids who are mostly doing stupid shit, either me or the Almighty Hawk would have been dead that early morning night as so many of my other friends were. In fact, one had been shot dead not more than a block away from where we were doing the same thing in another store a few months earlier. But for some reason, either we were moving that fast, or they couldn’t think in time, nothing happened to us, we didn’t get shot and killed. But, what I really know is that if a policeman really wants to kill you, because he hates Black people, especially Black kids, he’s going to have his gun out in a second and shoot and kill you. So one or two stupid motherfuckers like us would have died for nothing but a few pills to get us high. And so I know that night, no Boston Policeman wanted to kill a Black kid for nothing.
We called ourselves different names. I called us the Grove Hall Gang. At that time if you had a formal name, you were a sissy gang. We were real hard core fighting street gang; we really didn’t have a name. At that time, if you were in a gang and had a name that was when you gave parties and stupid shit like that. We got in fights, did drugs, talked shit and had a good time. We we’re getting a kick by just roaming the neighborhood and fucking with whoever we wanted. Our leader was Petey. He turned into a hardcore heroin addict, so I had to be the leader sometime. But Petey was the real leader. He killed three people in a gas station robbery, a friend of mines father was one of them, and went to jail for life and died in jail in 1980.
God kept me from heroin. Before I left for the war in 1969, the gang was just starting to get into heroin really bad. Heroin wasn’t a drug of my choice because it has too many things necessary to use it, so I would just sniff it. It never really became a drug of my choice because it was just too much trouble. You have to do a lot to get ready for that; there was a needle involved, a spoon involved and you need to involve a wrap. My father was a heroin addict and my father’s main claim to heroin was if you stop using heroin you died; so he had told me that and heroin just never appealed to me. But there was one time that I remember that I might’ve just been drawn that way.
They were in an alley and they were my best friends, more or less. Petey was a bigger kid and he was some type of natural leader, but he liked heroin and when I looked in this alleyway and they had a girl in there with them with some hot pants on and she looked good and she was going to shoot up with Petey and CP. It was on Blue Hill Avenue, actually it was Cheney Street and Blue Hill Avenue and they were all there in an abandoned building and I was near the corner. I had just come from hanging out and I saw CP in there with Petey. They were going to do their thing and shoot up and the girl was in there because after they shot up she was supposed to be sucking their dicks, she was going to give them some head, and I’m looking at that. She was begging me to come back there with them and then we could shoot up and I could get my dick sucked. While I was looking at them, and this was just before I was going to go over, it was in my mind and then I’m not wanting to go.
It was probably about June 1969 and I’m eighteen-years-old. I’m not sure if I’ve already been downtown to the Air Force recruiter yet. I’m just not sure, but I do know that God intervened in my life again. God showed me a vision, that if I shot that shit into my vein that for the rest of my life I would be a scroungy rat looking junkie, hiding in condemned buildings, shooting heroin, until someone mercifully shot me in the head and ended my life. I thought that my life was worth something more than this thing. Something was changing me at that time. I had been through a lot of things and seen a lot of things; and my father was saving my life again. A number of things were shifting. I was understanding something. Some kind of shift was going on, one way or the other.
It was a few weeks before the White Stadium robbery, when I robbed the stadium with a gun and could have been shot and killed if a policeman had been nearby or someone at the concession stand would have had a gun and they would have started shooting because I had a gun in my hand while robbing the place. And so life was shifting, although everything I knew about life was still going on. Everything was still happening, but it wasn’t going to be enough to throw me over to the other side. I was straddling something that was going to end up good or bad. All the way bad or all the way good, one way or the other.
And at this particular time when Petey and CP beckoned me, I made a motion to come. I saw the girl in the hot pants; I wanted that. I liked Petey and CP. We had done a lot of crime together, so I wanted to do that with them too I guess. Then all of a sudden, right before my eyes God showed me the rest of my life, it was a vision. I had a strange situation in microseconds and in that vision, God showed me that if I went in an alleyway with them, I would forever be in that alleyway fumbling around looking for them and shooting up until someone just shot me and put me out of my misery. So in that vision, I became a heroin addict who was eventually killed, and I saw it as clear as you can see anything. I saw that thing, one of many, many visions that I’ve had in my life. Always a vision has taken me to a good place and I’ve always followed my visions, seeing them for what they were and they always showed me the right path. There’s a good and evil path. It was a good thing and in this case it showed me the evil path; and if I wanted to take that path all I would have to do was go back in that alley and let them tie that rag around my arm and put that needle in my vein and shoot that heroin and that would have been the end of me.
I could have chosen that path I could have easily chosen to go to hell; but God showed me what he showed me. The path I wasn’t shown was what would happen if I didn’t do that; I was just shown what would happen if I did do that, and I said no. I would have been a different person and that would have done it for me. Heroin would have been my favorite drug.
The gun came from Petey. He gave me the gun. We didn’t need guns during that time, I never did. I was very good with a knife, I had always kept two knives. From fourteen years old on, I had a switchblade knife. I had knives that clicked open in micro-seconds. I was really good with a knife. Petey had a small caliber type of gun. Petey was so high when we were robbing White Stadium, and he give me the gun. We were at White Stadium robbing the place and it was underground at White Stadium. The stadium was this place where they played football – high school football games – and the concession stand was under the ground. I guess Petey had made the decision that we were going to rob the concession stand and the Almighty Hawk and he were there with me. Petey was high on heroin and when we got to the concession stand, he got the gun pointed at the people behind the concession stand, but he couldn’t move; he froze and all that was coming out of his mouth was off just a loud noise…AH, AH, AH….
Petey was making all this loud noise. He was standing there robbing the place and all these white kids were behind the counter at the concession stand serving people. Petey was standing there holding the gun, pointing it at them, so I just took the gun from him. He didn’t hand me the gun; I just took it from him and leapt over the counter and jumped down and pointed the gun at the guy behind the counter at the cash register. Then I opened the cash register, grabbed the money and handed the money and the gun to the Almighty Hawk.
They ran one way and I ran the other. I had on flip flops and I was running up the other end of White Stadium tunnel, which opens right into Humboldt Avenue. I got to Seaver Street and there was a bus waiting and I ran up to the bus with my flip flops on and jumped on the bus and sat down. About two or three minutes later the bus was still sitting at the top of the hill and two policeman get on the bus. I looked nonchalant, like every black kid knows how to look when he sees the police. I looked like I was chilling on the bus looking out the window. I had a dead look on my face. I was breathing kind of heavy when I got on the bus, because I had run up that tunnel with flip flops on, but I was just looking out the window, and again some kind of a divine intervention was with me because I was scared and I couldn’t show it, and I couldn’t breathe because I couldn’t look like I was breathing hard. I was just looking out the window and not even looking at the bus driver or police. I was looking out the corner of my eye and saw them say something to the bus driver and the bus driver just looked around. He glanced at me but he wasn’t looking at me and back to them again real fast and he shook his head no. I was looking out the window looking at them like nothing’s going on here and then I looked and they got off the bus. Then the driver closed his door and began taking the bus route down Seaver Street and it was a white bus driver. He could have said anything he could have said I had just jumped on. But, he didn’t say nothing.
The Almighty Hawk and I later met at my cousin’s house – well not my cousin but we called ourselves cousins. His place was on Washington Street. I don’t know what happened to Petey that day. But, within a year he had killed three people at a gas station and would go to jail for life. He probably got away that day, but I didn’t see him much after that…and soon after I went in the military and never saw or heard from him again.