Sunday, February 07, 2016

No Love City, Black-on-Black Violence & Guns

My older sister and fourteen year-old niece reside in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is by now a largely gentrified neighborhood that borders the increasingly (equally) high-priced neighborhood of Caroll Gardens.

The rents are astronomical but the streets, populated by a mix of families, affluent singles, hipsters and long-time residents clinging on to rent-controlled apartments, are generally safe.

I was understandably both relieved and troubled last Wednesday when Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson, NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton and James M. Essig, deputy chief of the NYPD's Detective Bureau, announced the indictment of 18 members of No Love City; a violent street gang whose illicit activities are based around Flatbush Avenue, Newkirk Avenue and Ditmas Avenue in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

While the gang came under closer scrutiny of investigators in 2013, they morphed into a much more serious public threat in 2014 after members began driving around the Canarsie section of Brooklyn on what police described as "hunting expeditions" to locate and shoot members of rival gangs based in Canarsie - including the GS9's and 100 Cloccs (factions of the Crips) as well as gangs known as HQ Monopoly and the 1090's.

The "hunting expeditions" were retaliation for the murder of 17-year-old Malik "Reckless" Bhola; a No Love City member shot and killed in the early morning hours of January 1, 2014 while (ironically) standing in front of a funeral home on Bushwick Avenue in one of the first murders of 2014 in New York City.

NLC leader Kwyme "K' Waddell
According to information from the Brooklyn DA's office, in response No Love City members went on a vengeance-fueled rampage including some six separate attempted murders of men they believed to be rival gang members between February 9, 2014 and November 12, 2014 - including three shootings in May and one in June, click that link directly above and scroll down if you want to read some details about the level of violence NLC members were engaged in.

It's really pretty disturbing. Like Wild West type of stuff.

There were six more shootings in 2015, including the October 18, 2015 shooting in the DUMBO neighborhood after NLC members were involved in a shootout in front of a music video shoot for rapper Meek Mills that left a rival gang member dead after being shot in the head and another person shot in the leg.

That gunfight was retribution for the killing of NLC member Richard "Moneybags" James outside the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California; I've been to the Comedy Store in Hollywood and find it hard to believe a gang member was shot in the face there on such a well-lit high-traffic area of the city.

After the revenge shooting in DUMBO (which took place on a crowded public street at about 6pm) NLC members fled through the streets of Park Slope and Caroll Gardens at high speed in a bullet-ridden black Cadillac later left abandoned in an effort to elude capture by the police.

Symbols used by FOLKS Nation
No Love City is one of many different gangs associated with the larger FOLKS Nation, a nationwide alliance of gangs that was originally formed inside the Illinois prison system in 1978 by Larry Hoover - a cofounder of the notorious powerful Chicago gang alliance known as the Black Gangster Disciple Nation.

FOLKS (an acronym for Follow the Orders and Laws the King Sets) is primarily comprised of Black and Hispanic gang members.

But it also include gangs made up of whites, Asians and other ethnicities.

As Ashley Southall reported in an article in The New York Times, the indictments handed down by the Brooklyn DA's office were a result of a lengthy investigation by the NYPD's Gun Violence Suppression Division; the 76 different counts include murder, attempted murder and weapons possession.

Since winning the election to replace former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes in 2014, Thompson has worked hard to use the power of his office to serve the interests of the entire Brooklyn community and restore a sense of integrity and fairness in the application of the law.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson
His aggressive pursuit of No Love City is part of his broader strategy to make Brooklyn a safer community and address inequities in the criminal justice system.

For example, according to the Website of the Brooklyn DA's office, after being sworn into office he created the Violent Criminal Enterprise Bureau to confront the trafficking of illegal firearms, street gang violence and drug trafficking.

Thompson also formed the Conviction Review Unit to pursue the review and dismissal of people who've been "wrongly convicted of murder and other offenses." including Jonathan Fleming.

As reported by Joaquin Sapien for, Fleming served over 24 years in prison for a murder despite the fact that members of the NYPD's 90th police precinct and prosecutors had evidence that Fleming was in Orlando, Florida visiting Disney World with his family on August 15, 1989 when 22-year-old Darryl "Black" Rush was shot and killed in New York City.

So Thompson isn't just some opportunistic DA trying to publicize the prosecution of violent African-American offenders to make a name for himself, he's got a long and proven track record of tackling tough cases to ensure fairness and justice in the community.

Ex-NYPD officer Justin Volpe
As a former federal prosecutor in New York's Eastern District he delivered the opening statement in the civil rights trial of former NYPD officer Justin Volpe, the vicious thug convicted of the brutal beating and torture of innocent Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997.

Volpe is now serving 30 years for sodomizing Louima with a broken broom handle in the bathroom of the 70th Precinct police station; a crime that horrified the world.

The rampage that the approximately 45 members of No Love City have been on for more than 18 months is just a snapshot of the alarming epidemic of black on black violence tearing at the fabric of urban and suburban communities across the nation,

Their crimes have taken a terrible toll on the public.

Aside from the murder and attempted murders of rival gang members, beatings, assaults and drug trafficking, innocent children as young as three have been witness to some of the shootings described above - and innocent people have been caught in the cross fire.

Including the May 30, 2014 shooting of innocent victim 60-year-old Deleta Crawford who was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by NLC member Kenny Dorcean as she was carrying groceries home from the store; and NLC member Corey Roberts' July 13, 2015 shooting of an innocent 50-year-old man sitting in the courtyard of his residence on Coney Island Avenue while other residents were sitting outside; including young children who were nearby playing.

This kind of violence has plagued communities across America for years in places like Trenton, Newark, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans...the list sadly goes on.

Thanks in large part to the lobbying efforts and political threats of the NRA, for the most part Congress has been a complete no-show when it comes to enacting laws to prevent the flow of guns into American cities that are such a huge component of this violence.

While some American communities are stepping up to enact their own local and state laws to restrict access to firearms, far too many American voters seem apathetic when it comes to demanding laws like tougher background checks for people who purchase guns.

Despite evidence from a poll conducted by Yale University researchers Benjamin Miller and Peter Aronow that shows that 53% of Americans favor stronger gun laws, 41% of respondents are under the mistaken impression that universal federal background checks for firearms purchases are already in place.

There are all kinds of community-based efforts by members of the public, clergy, schools and politicians that work hard to combat and address not just the black on black violence taking place in our country, but it's curious that we generally still don't see the same level of national outrage expressed on social media and mainstream media that accompanies the killing of an African-American by a member of law enforcement.

Should the Black Lives Matter movement be just as passionate, present and vocal when a black gang member kills another black American as they are when a white police officer kills a black American?

Director Spike Lee's recent film Chi-Raq attempted to bring attention to the epidemic of black on black gun violence in the city of Chicago by adapting Aristophanes' Lysistrata (a comedy written in 411 BC about the women of Athens collectively agreeing to withhold sex from their husbands to pressure them to bring an end to the Pelopennisian War) to modern day Chicago.

While I haven't had a chance to see the film, in a November, 2015 review in The Chicago Tribune, Dahleen Glanton argued that Lee's movie did little to offer meaningful insight into the deeper roots of the violence plaguing Chicago's communities - and may even have done it a disservice by attempting to use comedy and satire to address such a  serious issue.

There were approximately 13,381 gun deaths in America in 2015 according to data compiled by (including 3,383 children and teens killed or injured).

Call me crazy but to watch the news, it seems like the media is much more concerned about the potential spread of the Zika virus, which can obviously (and sadly) cause birth defects in newborns, but which is far more likely to cause fever-like symptoms than cause death.

On Friday Columbian officials announced that they believed that three people who had the Zika virus had died as a result of developing a rare nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre - those would be the first three known deaths as a result of the Zika virus.

Contrast that with known deaths by gun violence in the United States.

It's only February 7th as I write these words and over 1,253 people have already been killed by guns in America in 2016 - in less than two months.

Do you see the mainstream media positioning guns as a health crisis? It's past time they should, in my opinion their lack of coverage of the issue to bring it to the attention of the public is in part to blame.

Personally, I think Dahleen Glanton best summarized the feelings of many Americans frustrated by the ongoing epidemic of black on black violence and gun violence in America in her film review in The Chicago Tribune, in which she said (in part) of Spike Lee's film Chi-Raq:

"I know it's satire. But can we really afford to laugh when our situation in Chicago is so dire that a 9-year-old boy can be lured into an alley and executed? Still we shouldn't condemn Lee for trying to make a difference in Chicago. The film does serve as a reminder to our elected officials, particularly alderman on the south and west sides, that the lack of jobs in African-American communities, inadequate education and poverty contribute immensely to the violence...The film has a message aimed directly at the gangbangers - young black men killing young black men is self-imposed genocide. That's a tough sell, though, to young people who know nothing about their history."
9-year-old murder victim Tyshawn Lee
On the devastating effects of failing schools, lack of job training and employment opportunities in many African-American communities, I and many others completely agree with Ms. Glanton.

But a lack of awareness of American history is just one part of the complex sociological problems that create gangs.

As Ms. Glanton observed, satire isn't going to help answer how members of a faction of the notorious Chicago Black P Stones gang could lure an innocent child like 9-year-old Chicago boy Tyshawn Lee, who was playing on a swing in a park on his way to his grandmother's home on Chicago's south side last fall when he was lured into an alley and murdered as revenge for a previous gang killing.

Why? Not because of anything this child did, but because his father was involved with a rival gang.

 Another city, another gang, another "hunting expedition".

Another horrific example of what Ms. Glanton describes as the same "self-imposed black genocide" the members of No Love City are responsible for in Brooklyn.

Who knows what the members of this Brooklyn street gang, ages 17 to 27, might have done with their lives had they been raised in environments with a nurturing family structure in which things like proper nutrition, commitment to education, expectations and boundaries for behavior and discipline and exposure to extracurricular activities to nourish mind, body and spirit had been available?

But instead at least 18 of them are facing 25 years or more in the American prison industrial complex that houses so many other children raised in raised in poverty - which of course is no excuse for violence or being willing participants in the self-imposed genocide of young black men.

Does the family of 60-year-old Brooklyn resident Deleta Crawford, who was paralyzed below the waist as a result of a bullet fired from the gun of NLC member Kenny Dorcean in 2014, have some degree of solace in knowing these young men are off the streets?

Does Ms. Crawford?

I'm saddened by the circumstances that led the members of No Love City to where they are.

But thanks to the efforts of the NYPD and the Brooklyn district attorney's office, I'm more relieved that none of these guys will be racing through the streets of Park Slope Brooklyn (or any other neighborhood) with their loaded guns on "hunting expeditions" in the neighborhood that my sister and my fourteen-year-old niece, and other innocent people, call home.

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