Tag Archives: New York

Harlem Gangsters

2The rich history of Harlem could never be told in few words, that is, if one intends to come close to capturing the essence of Harlem’s grandeur. Aside from Harlem’s artistic achievements, what was most romanced was the role of its underworld, which was a huge part of the nightlife and social scene.

In 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 1950s, 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 come to mind immediately. 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 ten comptrollers in her charge.

The other 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 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.

Bumpy 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 a 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 – others 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 opposed to death by the gun like 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 and facing life in prison, he flipped turning state’s 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 then 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, 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, coupled with the initiation of aggressive policing crime in Harlem plummeted and a sense of normalcy returned to the once proud historic hamlet of Harlem.

Black History is our history, and our history is American History! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

As Simple As Black And White!

th (7)Over the last few years, the prevailing conversation and top news stories was about an unarmed black person killed; men, women, and children at the hands of the police. I follow the news pretty closely, and all of these police killings were done by white police. It goes without saying that the outcomes left a lot to be desired and there was not much outrage from the white community. Regardless, of the circumstances only a few of the white cops were charged and none convicted!

Let’s recap: there was the horrible grand jury decision in the Eric Gardner and Michael Brown cases, to include almost all of the others show the environment that can only be described in one way “a black man’s life means nothing”. It speaks clearly that the black community is under siege and black men in particularly are marked for death with impunity and no accountability at the hands of the police. I have seen many social media comments from “Negro’s” who say things much like what conservative white America is saying that “it was the victims fault.”

Last week, two black police officers killed a white child and justice was swift. To my knowledge, this is the first or one of only a few where a black cop has shot and killed a white person in the same senseless manner as the weekly killings of black citizens. White America is up in arms, and their cry for justice is intense. Today, the black cops will be arraigned on murder charges. Don’t misunderstand me but their cries were barely hear when the white rookie cop killed Tamir Rice in Ohio, where, in that case, nothing has happened. Could it be just a case of American justice or something as simple as black and white?

In the many black killings, the system prop-up some ministers and every so-called civil rights leader to tell black people to “march and be peaceful” – Jesus will take care of it. I will not hold back my words here and say if Jesus were going to do something, he would stop the murdering of black men and children. Frankly, we have been marching for sixty-years and praying for four-hundred years to no avail. When the homicides are so blatant that Ray Charles can see this is wrong and in most of the cases, it was videotaped!

Now, I want to be clear the death of this child is as painful as any death, and I give my sympathy to the child’s family. I do not condone the actions of the black cops any more than I do when it is the white cops killing blacks. It is just that black people should get the same kind of justice as they do. However, my point is this: justice work differently when it’s a black doing what they routinely do to them what they do to us. In other words, in cases where blacks kill whites they react swiftly and harshly.

If you follow my blog, you know I love history and call upon what I have seen in the past. As a small child, I can vividly remember watching a small black and white television seeing Bull Connor put dogs on black people peacefully protesting for the most basic of human rights. I can also remember the police and fire departments using fire hoses on peaceful protesters, and those marchers would go to some church; kneel and pray. That was in the early 1960s and today in 2015 the same atrocities, brutality, and murder still happens. It is akin to the 1000s of lynching’s of black people that they did not seem important.

Black people have never received “justice” in any manner since being dragged onto the shores of this country. In the case of Mr. Gardner, he received a death sentence for selling a single cigarette. The twelve-year-old killed in Cleveland was killed for playing with a toy gun. The black man killed in a Wal-Mart while trying to buy a gun that was on sale in the store. Michael Brown killed thirty feet from a cop with his hands up seven times, and another black man killed just up the street in St. Louis a few weeks later. But in this killing of a white child by black cops justice will be served.

All over the news, the police advocates and retired cops have come out to say how horrible this particular police killing is, but in the cases where white cops killed black people they circle the wagons and hide behind the “blue wall of silence” and defended the white cops. All black people are saying is that Black Lives Matter and want the same justice as they want and demand. Again, I say is this a case that is as simple as black and white. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…



I came across this article written by Ricardo A. Hazell is a veteran journalist whose writings has been featured in a number of prominent newspapers and magazines. It is a rather lengthy article, so I will repost excerpts and add a link at the end for you to follow to read the entire article. I found this article to be excellent and on point, which is why I am sharing it.

This picture is an actual photo of two Chicago Police Officers posing with a suspect! 



So many American men of African descent live in a soul-splitting world of conflicting existences. As Americans were are taught that we have inalienable rights; but as a Black men, we know that is a half-truth at best.

For me, at no time has that duality been more apparent amid the American-based African Diaspora than in the years since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The affair brought to the surface all that is racist and reprehensible about American society for all who gazed upon it. The aggressor was made to be the victim and the victim was said to have been implicit in his or her own death.

From Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner to Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray, America tells us they caused their own death, and a significant portion of the African American populous believes America and that it is correct in their conclusions.

What about the Black people who are in constant agreement with suspected racists, conservatives and tea party members whenever the police “accidentally” shoot a suspect for whatever reason they and the state attorney can agree sounds plausible enough to slip by a jury? Claiming that Rekia Boyd and Aiyana Stanley-Jones were anomalies, and that John Crawford and Darrien Hunt, both whom were shot while carrying toy facsimiles of a rifle and samurai sword, respectively, were somehow in the wrong.

These Drop Squad candidates will say that we must align ourselves with the police to protect ourselves from the hordes within our own community. They make concessions for those that shoot, beat and torture Black men and rape, assault and murder Black women by saying it’s a tough job and that these are anomalies rather than by design.

According to a graph created by ABCNews.com, 40 percent of all homicides committed in the United States between 2009 and 2011 were gang related. That number sounds awfully high to me but, admittedly, I am biased. With the way race based policing methods terrorize the inner city, it is my strong suspicion that a number of those alleged gang-related murders were actually conducted by the police. The city of Chicago is notorious for the rampant race based brutality and misconduct within its police department.

With knowledge of the racism that proliferates the history of civilian policing in the United States since its advent, my conscience could come to no other conclusion. And that’s only considering cops who are being racists, not to mention the officers who use the badge to disguise the deeds they commit that aren’t purposefully being racist but rather money and power motivated.

Officers like Detroit’s William “Robocop” Melendez, who is alleged to have been the leader of a crew of 17 officers who planted drugs, made false accusations against innocent individuals and terrorized the communities under their watch. He beat the charges despite significant evidence to the contrary. He has not been convicted of any charges and still works in law enforcement in Motown to this very day.

Then there’s the case of former NYPD Detective Stephen Anderson, who in 2011 testified in a massive corruption investigation that he and at least eight other officers engaged in planting evidence on innocent people to maintain arrest quotas in Brooklyn and Queens.

When asked by New York City Justice Gustin Reichbach whether he had witnessed others conducting shady business, Anderson replied:

“Yes, multiple times. It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators,” he said.

“It’s almost like you have no emotion with it, that they attach the bodies to it, they’re going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway; nothing is going to happen to them anyway.”

Whether the police are being racist or just plain criminal, their actions still help propagate the White supremacist charter in one way or another.

In 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigations released a report on how white supremacists and Neo Nazis had been infiltrating police departments across the nation and carrying out their ideologies in the line of duty and under the guise of law enforcement.

It was found that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had been infiltrated by Neo Nazis and engaged in a campaign of terror in Black communities across L.A. County. Former Chicago Police Department Detective Jon Burge was fired after it was revealed he had ties to the Klu Klux Klan and that he had tortured more than 100 Black male suspects in the line of duty.

Recent findings by the Department of Justice and Secretary General Eric Holder suggest that racism is the way things are done in police departments across the country, and have been for decades if not longer.

New Orleans, LA. Ferguson, Missouri. Philadelphia, PA and now the Cleveland (OH) Police Department have drawn the ire of these scathing reports. Racist, ineffective, irreparably damaged with a tendency to be heavy handed whenever coming into contact with Black folks, but there are still those of blue-black hue who would deem the gestapo police methods of many inner city police departments as being necessary to curb the tide of the alleged savages.

Please follow this link to read the entire article:


Article written by Ricardo A. Hazell


The Would-Be Assassin Of Dr. King Has Died

007_1000Many of you may not know Izola Ware Curry, the so-called “demented” Harlem woman who tried to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958. I’ve often wondered what happened to her. Since the assassination attempt she vanished. Well, now I know because she has died at age 98, at the Hillside Manor nursing home in Queens, New York, where she spent most of her life.

READ: “When Harlem Saved A King” for the story.

On Sept. 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his book “Stride Toward Freedom” at Blumstein’s Department Store. Curry walked up to King and asked, “Are you Dr. King?” King replied, “Yes.” Curry then plunged a seven-inch steel letter opener into his chest. Curry also had a loaded gun with her.

After her arrest, Curry was taken to Bellevue Hospital and eventually found not competent to stand trial. She would be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and described by psychiatrists as having “low average intelligence,” and suffering from a “severe state of insanity.” She was committed to Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for the last 56 years.

For his part, King forgave his assailant. Ten days after the stabbing, he said he “felt no ill will toward Mrs. Izola Curry… I know that thoughtful people will do all in their power to see that she gets the help she apparently needs if she is to become a free and constructive member of society,” King said.

007_1000Curry was a native Georgian, born in 1916 in Adrian, about 100 miles from Savannah. She moved to New York in 1937, working on and off as a housekeeper, short-order cook or factory worker. Initial reports about her after the stabbing suggest that she stabbed King because she had come to believe that black leaders were plotting against her. When questioned by police, she accused civil rights leaders of “boycotting” and “torturing” her, preventing her from getting jobs and forcing her to change her religion.

In the speech, King famously referenced the incident on the day before he was assassinated in his “I Have Been To The Mountain Top” speech. He said that the tip of Curry’s blade rested on the edge of his aorta and that if he had merely sneezed, he would have died.

This woman in the commission of this attack could very well have changed the course of every life thereafter. Because, we saw after the death of Dr. King the movement and his organization fell apart. Therefore, I doubt much progress would have been made in the 1960s without the Good Dr. This is one demented soul that should not rest in peace. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


By Any Means Necessary

012_1000I have often said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants”. One such man was Malcolm X, later known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was without a doubt one of the most profoundly significant, famous, and controversial African American leaders recorded in the annals of time. I cannot recall any other MAN, except maybe Dr. King, whose impact was so overwhelmingly felt by so many. Minister Malcolm’s prophetic words spoken over nearly fifty years ago resonate as relevant today as the day they were spoken evoking the same emotions of truth.

I could go deeply into the making of this man but so many people, agencies, institutions and organizations have covered this great man’s brief life on earth in much more detail than I can. There is a vast sea of in-depth analyses, books, movies, and biographies on his life and philosophies to which I strongly suggest you explore and learn from. I will not try to rewrite history rather to pay homage to the legacy of this great man as brief as I can, honoring him for his contributions to the African American Diaspora.

There are facts (known & unknown), suspicions and of course theories surrounding the assassination of Malcolm X, the impact it has had on our culture and the world the world. Like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X also had a dream. It began bathed in the tenets of anger and hatred, fostering economic independence on the shoulders of retaliatory separatism that ended with the swelling acceptance of a unified brotherhood and the replacement of hatred with peace and with the nagging thirst for international equality for all mankind.

As the story goes, early in Malcolm’s life a white teacher asked him what he would like to be and his answer was “a lawyer”. The teacher, who had encouraged his white students on their career choices, told Malcolm, “That’s no realistic goal for a nigger”. This statement discouraged a bright student to not seek his full potential leading to a life of crime. After being caught and arrested for carrying a concealed weapon he was sentenced to prison. While serving more than six years he began educating himself, converted to the Islamic faith and became a Black Muslim in the Nation of Islam (NOI).

After his release in 1952, Malcolm Little, now known as Malcolm X, went to Detroit and began to actively preach to the frustrated African American population about what Islam had to offer. It made no difference where he conducted his sermons and teachings, whether on the streets or in a temple. He spread the word to anyone who would listen.

It was not long before Malcolm became a favorite of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. He was made a minister and began to travel from city to city, preaching the message, founding new temples and converting thousands of people to the faith. Two years later, Malcolm X became minister of the famed Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York.

In April of 1964, Malcolm X made a pilgrimage to Mecca which led to his second conversion. He met brothers of the faith who were from many nations and of many races, black, brown, white, and all the sons of Allah. The reality dawned on him that advocating racial cooperation and brotherhood would help resolve the racial problems in America and, hopefully, lead to a peaceful coexistence throughout the world. Malcolm X’s transformed ideas and dreams reached full fruition and were ready for implementation. He changed his name, this time to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and found himself going against the system, but this time he would not be alone in the fight for equality and justice.

Upon learning of the assassination of Malcolm X, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked that “One has to conquer the fear of death if he is going to do anything constructive in life and take a stand against evil”. We may never know all of the facts about who was behind the assassination or who ordered his death. But we do know that these assassins denied him the chance to act upon his newly formed convictions.

Today, the man and the name, Malcolm X, are known in America and throughout the world. He was a celebrated freedom fighter and motivating force to those whose future he had the vision to see, the will to stand up and fight for. Postage stamps and posters now bear his image out of recognition and honor for his final crusade.

The eulogy that actor Ossie Davis delivered at his funeral profoundly impresses upon us that, “However we may have differed with him, or with each other about him and his value as a man, let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now. Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man but a seed which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him then for what he was and is a Prince, our own black shining Prince! Who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”

Malcolm X was a man who fulfilled his place in history and stayed true to his words: “It is a time for martyr’s now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood.”

A collection of Malcolm X Speeches

And That’s my Thought Provoking Perspective!


Dick Gregory Gives Insight On Recent Current Events

A good way to end the year and start the new year by listening Author, Comedian, Actor, and Activist Dick Gregory shares inside secrets about NYPD shooting hoax, Assata Shakur, Cuba, Bill Cosby, and the truth about why the Sony Hack really happened. Is there more to these stories than meets the eye or we are being told? Does he have a point? Very interesting!

For more information go to:

Just – Us

012_1000There is no secret that such a thing as white privilege exists and it is thoroughly rooted in the core of America’s spirit. From its foundation it was designed as such based upon the slave-holding founders, who stole the land to build a nation on the backs of people they captured. The only people who won’t acknowledge this truth are those who have and do benefit from this system. I hear black people talking about “our” country this and “our” country that – sounds insane – right. This was never “our” country nor was it intended to be! Again, this is no secret. They told us in the Constitution that all of the captured people are 3/5ths human and have no right a white man is bound to respect.

Some years ago, we saw twelve or more cops beat Rodney King within an inch of his life on video. They told us don’t believe what you saw. Rodney did that to himself and there was more going on that the video did not show. The police, LAPD the most feared and corrupted cops in all the free world said, we investigated and there is nothing to see here. Following that some district attorney brought charges, had a sham trial, and acquitted the culprits. Case Closed!

A few days ago, history repeated itself in the Eric Garner case. Right out of the same playbook. Only this time they told America don’t believe you’re lying eyes. All the while telling America “our country values equality of all races; that our laws and policing are color blind in their practice; that the efforts of politicians, business leaders and clergy are sincerely geared towards serving all the people; and that America is steadily progressing on the path towards a “more perfect union.”

Think about this and maybe you will understand the depth of the problem. The police union head said Pantaleo “is literally, literally an Eagle Scout, and I think that story isn’t being told. That a New York City police officer went out and did a difficult job, a job where there’s no script, and sometimes with that, a tragedy comes.”

The disturbing part, for me, was everybody in New York City who wears their collar turned backwards was put up to shut up the black people quoting Dr. King – non-violence. I understand, that is also in the playbook. I saw more black people on television saying what they were told to say, since Black History Month. But in the streets this time is different! All races and creeds are protesting as they can see the inhumanity of this man’s death and the repeated killings by the police.

It is sorta like the War on Drugs; they brought it into and infected black communities all over the nation, arrested millions, and then said its time to decriminalize it; because the problem is now so pervasive in white communities affecting their children. Make no mistake, if five to seven black cops did what was done to Mr. Gardner to a white man or white Jewish man. Every one of them would be hung publicly in Time Squire!!! I might add that young white people were not affected by the policy of “Stop and Frisk” as were brown and black people were. To that point, white American’s scoff at the notion of such indignities.

There is a twitter hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite that documents story after story of whites, who suffered no criminal consequences after engaging in behavior far worse than selling loose cigarettes. It is past time that we admit what so many have known for too long. That all too often, our justice system simply is not just and is blind. Maybe it’s time for everybody to stop being so self-righteously blind and deal with the truth. You eyes are not lying! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…


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