Tag Archives: Bumpy Johnson

“Legacy – A New Season”

John T. Wills announces that the long awaited sequel to the epic novel “Just a Season” continues with “Legacy – A New Season” is now available. It is the continuation, yet a standalone story, that will take you on an awe inspiring journey through the African American Diaspora. Give this must read gift of empowerment and knowledge this holiday season.

PRELUDE 

If you were to reexamine the time in which you’ve lived, you will come to know that the reason we live is to die. The question then becomes what happens between the years of one’s birth and death. This is without question a quandary that each of us will face. In the novel “Just a Season”, I referred to this specific period of earthly existence as the dash that will be placed on our final marker between the beginning and end dates of life’s journey. This period of time can only be characterized as a journey because this tiny little dash represents the whole of your life.

It’s been said, there are no words that have not been spoken and there are no stories that have never been told, but there are some you will not forget.  Just a Season is that story. It chronicles what has been called a contemporary “Roots” with a reviewer saying “this is the stuff movies are made of… I have not read anything that so succinctly chronicles an African American story.” Another reviewer said, “Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions… transports the reader directly into the life and struggles of the main characters…”

I am honored to have been chosen to channel such an epic saga to the world. With that said, I am reminded of a powerful statement once made during a sermon by my childhood pastor – Reverend Cole. He said, “Unless and until you suffer enough pain, then and only then, will you reach deep inside and feel the breath that God has breathed into your soul coming eye to eye with your destiny”.  I’ve pondered that profound statement my entire life and it continues to deeply impact my life.

It could very well be because I’ve lost my son that I have come to embrace this message so profoundly. There have been a number of reflections from those early days at Friendly Church that continue to touch my spirit. Specifically: “Why Jesus wept?” As the story goes, Jesus was so moved as he witnessed the pain of Mary and Martha weeping for the loss of his dear friend, Lazarus, that he also wept. Today, I understand that emotion because I have felt such pain. This might explain why I was chosen as the vehicle to share such a powerful story that will surely live far beyond the season I’ve been given.

Just a Season is a historical narrative that begins with a grief-stricken father visiting the grave-site of his beloved son who was killed in a tragic automobile accident – a dreadful moment no loving parent should ever have to face. The main character, John Wells, asks himself a philosophical question as he views his late son’s final marker. “If the tiny dash placed on my marker were to tell my life’s story, what would it say?”

What emerged from the pages is a legacy of true benevolence and grace that I believe is destined to be become a literary classic. This luminous story is a riveting portrait into the life of an African-American man who, in the midst of pain and loss, journeys back in time to reexamine all the important people, events, circumstances, and intellectual fervor that contributed to the richness of his life. Moreover, the main character relives all of the significant events affecting the African-American Diaspora, over a fifty-year period, providing a perspective of reality to the unfolding history.

As the story ends, like in the blink of an eye, John reflects upon his life’s journey realizing the irony that we come into the world crying while all around us are smiling.  Then, we leave the world smiling while everybody around us weeps. This thought causes him to recall another powerful sermon Reverend Cole gave explaining this phenomenon in the simplest of terms. The Good Reverend said, “This period of existence we call life in the final analysis is Just a Season.”  Then with a deep sigh realizing that the story must end, as stories do, he leaves the cemetery slowly walking past his loved ones resting for eternity; pausing briefly to look back in the direction of his son’s resting place and says, “I will always love you.”

As he nears the crest of the hill walking into the abyss of time, he pauses at his grandfather’s resting place, seemingly unable to take the next step. With tears flowing down his face, he gently touches the headstone of his grandfather and quietly asks him “to look after my son”.  At that moment, he fondly recalls the last thing his grandfather said; “life is not just a race you run. It is a relay. It is now your responsibility to pass the baton.” Somehow, John finds the strength to look toward the heavens saying softly that “I have to be Granddaddy now. I just hope my grandson will love me as much as I loved you. More importantly, I must make sure that he tells his grandchildren about me.”

It’s been several years since this epiphany led me to tell the story of this man’s epic journey.  Many have wondered if it was a true story, miracle, a blessing or, simply a fairy tale. I will only say that “Just a Season” is a must-read story that reflects the audacity of hope, pain, and struggle of a people. It will most assuredly touch every emotion as you travel through time, as you relive a life through the eyes of an African-American man living in America the Diaspora.

In the end, John sorrowfully leaves the cemetery at Friendly Church that day feeling as if God has forsaken him. But his conviction is strong in faith and he knows that faith is the instrument to believe true what is not seen. With all the strength within, he refuses to drown in his tears; rather he is committed to swim in his blessings knowing that God has not forsaken him because the wonders of life spoke loudly.  Blessed are those who believe and have not seen which is tomorrow and tomorrow holds his “Legacy and A New Season”…

http://johntwills.com

Legacy – A New Season 

AMAZON

Just a Season


In The Spotlight Author Toi Moore

It gives me great pleasure to welcome esteemed Author Toi Moore – “Dubbed the Celebrity Author” – to the John T. Wills Book Tree Radio’s “In The Spotlight”; Wednesday, November 28th at 8:30 PM (est). Author Toi Moore is back with another blockbuster book – “HOW TO GET BILL COLLECTORS OFF YOUR ASSets!” A book that helps readers with ways on DEBT SURVIVAL. She is also a nationally syndicated author of newspapers and magazines such as Billboard and Upscale who has over 350 bylines to her name.

Toi has also written five other books which include “Not Quite Good Enough”, an Erotic Comedy; the celebrity endorsed book, “Unbreakable, A Guide to Understanding Marriage and Relationships” which focuses on the 20 plus years of being married to her professional guitarist husband Greg “G. Moe” Moore; “Mind Games”, a mystery thriller; “Momma Please Forgive Me”, a fictional story reflecting domestic violence; and How to Self Publish on a Shoestring Budget In 10 Easy Steps, which is an instructional booklet that encourages readers to follow their dreams of seeing their names on a published book.

She is called the celebrity author because of her work with several well known celebrities, entertainers, and VIP’s such as: OPRAH WINFREY; musical legends EARTH, WIND & FIRE; Presidential Candidate HERMAN CAIN; Boxer LAILA ALI; singer JAMES INGRAM; actress VIVICA A. FOX; Boxer SUGAR SHANE MOSELY; Radio personality SHIRLEY STRAWBERRY; Motown song writer LAMONT (Holland, Dozier, Holland) DOZIER; Nasa Officials, Former Los Angeles Chief of Police BERNARD PARKS; Fubu clothing designer, founder/CEO & television show ‘Shark Tank’ co-host and cast-member, DAYMOND JOHN; Founder of Operation Hope JOHN “HOPE” BRYANT; Jazz Saxophonist BONEY JAMES; and singer JAHEIM to name a few.

In addition, my very special guest, the esteemed Author Toi Moore, will give away a FREE 30 min session of ‘PICK HER BRAIN’ to someone wanting to ask questions about publishing and/or writing and give someone a PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED copy of one of her books for FREE. Don’t Miss this opportunity!

LISTEN TO THE SHOW:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/johntwills/2012/11/29/the-book-tree-radio-show

Call in and welcome this amazing author at 718-506-1699.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/johntwills

Slideshow: http://www.toimoore.com/photos.php

http://johntwills.com

Legacy – A New Season 

AMAZON

Just a Season


Najee Ali “Q&A”

In his newly published memoir, “Raising Hell,” Najee Ali takes readers inside the eventful life of a controversial figure — one whose journey from fearsome gang member to one of Los Angeles’ most recognized civil rights figures has played out largely in public. He recently sat down for a conversation about the book, some of the powerful forces he has confronted and how personal challenges have informed his life as an activist.

Why did you decide to write a memoir?

I wanted to chronicle the important events that have transpired not just in South Central L.A., but also nationally. Over the last 20 years, I have worked with, or for, nationally celebrated figures that include President Barack Obama, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, Rev. Jesse Jackson and the late Michael Jackson. “Raising Hell” gives an insider perspective into what those experiences were like. And also, I wanted to reflect upon the tragic murders of Latasha Harlins, Sherrice Iverson, Tyisha Miller and Trayvon Martin and discuss how we as a community responded to these community crises. The book is a story about adversity, hope, change and redemption. It’s a blueprint for young Black America, to help them overcome the personal challenges they may face in their own lives.

You were born Ronald Todd Eskew. Tell us about changing your name, and why you felt that was important when you converted to Islam.

My conversion to Islam 20 years ago was a life-changing moment for me. Islam — as practiced by over one billion Muslims worldwide — is the faith that professes that, I’m not against Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or any religion. I respect everyone’s choice of worship. I just prefer Islam. That’s what spoke to my heart. With a new faith, I chose a new name. I wanted to choose a Muslim name of African origin that I thought best fit my personality and had a meaning to it. My first name means “strong.” It was inspired by my favorite jazz artist, who I was listening to at the time on the radio, as I was making up my mind about my new name. My last name was inspired by the greatest boxer to ever live. From then on, I would be called Najee Ali.

A lot of your activism has centered on cases of police misconduct. Today, what is the state of the relationship between law enforcement and Black communities?

It’s a blessing to see that real, substantial change and police reform has come to the Los Angeles Police Department — based on not just my activism, but all the other activists, as we all fought tooth and nail to ensure change came after the Rodney King beating. We contributed some important work to help ensure our civil rights would be better protected, so things have improved in the last 20 years. But we still have more work to do to ensure the LAPD continues to have transparency and accountability in their dealings with the community.

Over the years, you’ve taken on some pretty powerful individuals — Rep. Maxine Waters, L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks come to mind, for example. What has your activism cost you?

My activism hasn’t cost me anything. It’s my and the community’s job to hold them accountable when they’re not serving the community’s best interests. No elected official is above reproach. My activism has gained me the respect of the community of South L.A. I’m a homegrown grassroots community leader, who the community knows would never sell them out and have always fought on their behalf to help save lives — from negotiating gang truces to leading protests for social justice. I have been on the front lines for over 20 years and will continue to be, regardless of the cost.

In your book, you speak very candidly about your mother’s battle with addiction. How does that experience shape your view of the War on Drugs?

It’s a failed war. We need to focus on education, prevention, intervention, and treatment; we can’t arrest ourselves out of this war. I’m hopeful that our new district attorney, Jackie Lacey, will ensure that defendants with substance abuse problems can continue to receive treatment and not jail time.

As a Muslim, what are your views on Islamic extremism? What do you think about President Obama’s Middle East policy, with the use of drone strikes and other controversial methods related to the War on Terror? 

Islam is a faith practiced by over one billion peace-loving Muslims worldwide. Unfortunately, our religion has been hijacked by religious fanatics and extremists who have tarnished and damaged the image of Islam worldwide. Their terrorist acts don’t represent true Muslims or the teachings we follow in our holy book, the Holy Qur’an, which forbids terrorism. The American Muslim community, while calling for peace, should also call for President Obama to review some of the policies his administration is employing — with many innocent lives lost due to errant drone strikes. Our government is still holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the Patriot Act that was signed into law in the Bush Administration is still a threat to all Americans’ civil liberties.

You write very vividly about your participation in the L.A. Riots, which almost cost your life when a storeowner whose business you were vandalizing pointed a handgun at your chest. Twenty years later, do you think that kind of civil unrest is ever justified?

No, it’s not. Dr. King once said that, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Twenty years after the civil unrest, relations between the African-American and Korean communities have improved. And we have to continue to communicate with all members of the community — regardless of race, or religion.

You took a lot of criticism, some of it from Black people, for your advocacy on Michael Jackson’s behalf. To a lot of people I spoke to at the time, they felt as if you were condoning what was seen as a very strange lifestyle. Has there ever been a cause you regretted becoming involved in?

I never condoned Michael’s lifestyle. I was publicly critical of the position he put himself in. But I have a lot of love and respect for Michael and the Jackson family. I knew in my heart he was innocent and would not just sit quietly when I knew he needed my help. I’m proud to say I have helped everyone I could help from the famous people, to the gang members in South Central L.A. I have always tried to help people. I can’t have regrets for helping. I would only have regrets if I didn’t help.

Your protests against Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have gotten headlines in recent years, over their outspoken criticism of President Obama. Do you think this president owes anything specifically to Black America?

President Obama is not the president of South Central L.A or Harlem. He the president of the entire nation. Tavis and Cornel were out of line and disrespectful to the president and tried to undermine him, it seemed, every chance they got with their phony “poverty tour.” Poverty didn’t just start with Obama in office; it was there with Bush and Clinton, and they were both silent. We get the first Black president in our lifetime and they start with the name-calling and attacks on him. President Obama does have a responsibility to Black America to support our agenda, in the same manner his administration supports other special interest groups. Unfortunately for Tavis and Cornel, it’s not what they said — it’s how they said it. They created a perception, of their own doing, that they are Obama haters.

If you were given one do-over that you could use at any point in your life, how would you use it?

I wouldn’t change one thing in my life. If I did, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I love serving the community and my life. “Raising Hell” is a testimony I can now share with others and a legacy to leave behind.

Raising Hell: A life of Activism

http://johntwills.com


Harlem – The Underworld

The rich history of Harlem could never be told in a few words or just one article. Actually, it will require several posts to come close to capturing the essence of Harlem’s grandeur and with that said, this is the continuation of Harlem’s great legacy – The Underworld. It has been said that the character of the community is determined by its members.

Since the hamlet came into existence Harlem’s storied past has been highly romanticized. Aside from its artistic achievements, what was most romanced was the role of the underworld, which was a huge part of the nightlife and social scene. During the 1920’s, the Jewish and Italian mafia played major roles in running the whites-only nightclubs and the speakeasies that catered to white audiences. While the famous mobster, Dutch Schultz, controlled all liquor production and distribution in Harlem during prohibition.

Rather than compete with the established mobs, black gangsters concentrated on the “policy racket,” also called the “Numbers game”. This was a gambling scheme similar to today’s lottery that could be played, illegally, from countless locations around Harlem. By the early 1950’s, the total money at play amounted to billions of dollars and the police force had been thoroughly corrupted by bribes from numbers bosses.

When you talk about Harlem gangsters, particularly of that era, two names immediately come to mind. One of the most powerful early numbers bosses was a woman, Madame Stephanie St. Clair, a black French woman from Martinique known as Queenie or Madame Queen. A tall, abrasive, and tough woman, with a seldom-seen gentle side, ran the famous New York extortion gang known as The Forty Thieves.

The Forty Thieves had a reputation for being so tough that even the white gangsters would not interfere with their illegal operations or attempt to take over their turf. She utilized her experience and talents to set up operations as a policy banker and recruited some of Harlem’s most noteworthy gangsters to support her and her growing numbers business. Within a year she was worth more than $500,000 with more than 40 runners and 10 comptrollers in her charge.

Then there was the legendary Ellsworth Raymond “Bumpy” Johnson known as the Godfather of Harlem. You may recall Lawrence Fishburn played Bumpy Johnson in the movie Hoodlum. Bumpy was one of Madame Queen’s main recruits. He was a colorful character from Charleston, S.C. He had moved to Harlem with his parents when he was a small boy and was given the nickname, Bumpy, because of a large bump on the back of his head. He was a dapper gangster who always made it a point to wear the latest, and best, clothes while flashing wads of cash wherever he went. Bumpy was a pimp, burglar and stickup man who possessed a recalcitrant attitude. He always carried a knife and gun, which he would not hesitant to use.

Bumpy feared nobody and did not shy from confrontations. He was known for barroom clashes over the slightest issue, having a short fuse and for his arrogance. He never learned to curb his temper or to bow his head to any man. It was because of his negative demeanor that he spent almost half of his life in prisons before he even reached age 30. During his interments he became an avid reader and began writing poetry. Bumpy also proved to be an incorrigible prisoner and spent one-third of a 10-year sentence in solitary confinement. Because of his attitude, he was shuttled from prison to prison until his release in 1932.

Despite his tough-guy reputation, Bumpy Johnson had a soft side. It was common knowledge among Harlemites that he often helped many of Harlem’s poor with secret cash donations and gifts. Madame Queen liked what she saw in Bumpy and offered him a position as henchman in her numbers racket. He accepted and quickly gained her trust. One of his first tasks was to confront the Bub Hewlett gang. It erupted into one of Harlem’s most violent and bloody gang wars. Eventually, Bumpy gained the edge and defeated Hewlett, temporarily saving the numbers game from the Mobs first takeover attempt.

The relationship between Madame Queen and Bumpy was strange and tenuous at best. Some said they had an ongoing affair but most claimed the odd couple were only business partners. Bumpy never abandoned his pimping and robbery professions both of which irritated Madame Queen but both knew what would make the numbers game a success, so they successfully coexisted. These bosses became financial powerhouses, providing capital for loans for those who could not qualify for them from traditional financial institutions – loan sharking. They invested in legitimate businesses and real estate as a way to legitimize their profits.

The Godfather of Harlem lived until 1968, dying from a heart attack as oppose to dying by the gun in the manner most did in his business. As a testament to his success he maintained control of the underworld for nearly forty years with some saying that nothing illegal took place in Harlem without his permission. After Bumpy’s death the underworld became loosely organized and overcome by the drug trade with its many factions. Bumpy’s protégé, Frank Lucas and his rival Nicky Barnes became the most dominate players in the game.

Frank Lucas operated the largest drug business in Harlem after Bumpy’s death during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He was particularly known for cutting out the middle man in the drug trade and buying heroin directly from sources in the Golden Triangle of Thailand. Lucas boasted that he smuggled heroin using the coffins of dead American servicemen. He controlled such large quantities that he was a supplier to the Mafia. When Frank was busted facing life in prison, he flipped turning states evidence for the Fed’s causing the conviction of more than a hundred associates. However, it is important to note that most of those criminals were on the police force. His career was dramatized in the 2007 feature film American Gangster.

Leroy “Nicky” Barnes, known as Mr. Untouchable, led the notorious African-American crime organization known as “The Council” made up of seven powerful Harlem gangsters similar to the Mafia that controlled the heroin trade. Barnes was convicted in 1978 of multiple counts of RICO violations, including drug trafficking and murder, for which he was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole. While in prison, Barnes became a “Rat” turning state’s evidence against his former associates in “The Council”. In exchange for his testimony, Barnes was released into the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Comparing the gangsters of the two eras, one thing is clear despite the viciousness of their chosen profession, the contemporary gangster’s careers were short lived and all of their ill-gotten gains were lost.As a result of the carnage distributed by these characters the drug addiction rate in Harlem was ten times higher than the New York City average and twelve times higher than in the United States as a whole. Of the 30,000 drug addicts at the time estimated to live in New York City, 15,000 to 20,000 lived in Harlem. Property crime was pervasive, and the murder rate was six times higher than New York’s average.

In the 1980’s, the use of crack cocaine became widespread, which produced collateral crime as addicts stole to finance their purchasing of additional drugs. Dealers fought for the right to sell in particular regions or over deals gone bad causing the murder rate to skyrocket. By the end of the crack wars in the mid 90’s and with the initiation of aggressive policing, crime in Harlem plummeted and a since of normalcy returned to the once proud historical hamlet of Harlem.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Just a Season
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