5 Lessons I Learned from the Movie American Gangster

CEVWBh1UkAIumVq

American Gangster is based on the true story of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas, who by the 1960s constructed an international drug ring that spanned from New York to South East Asia. The film features Denzel Washington as Lucas and a New York City cop (Russell Crowe) who busted a big-time heroin ring. I have a love-hate relationship with this movie. In no way do I condone selling drugs and yet I will still watch this movie. There’s a little angel on my shoulder, shaking her head in disgust and a little devil smirking at me as we both smile while watching Denzel’s swag.

I’ve been a bad girl

So anyway, I was watching American Gangster last week, and I started typing away at the notepad on my phone. Somehow, I had managed to think about writing. These days, I watch movies to see if they are written well, educational, and entertaining. Eventually, I had come up with a list of things I learned, and I thought I’d share it with you.

Lesson #1: Influence

“I want what you got Uncle Frank. I wanna be you.”

One of the most powerful aspects of this movie is the message on Influence. Social influence occurs when someone’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. In the film, Frank’s nephew Stevie Lucas is an excellent baseball player and had been playing since he was a child. Now at the prominent financial level to do so, Frank schedules a meeting for his nephew Stevie (T.I.) with the Dodgers. Stevie does not show up. Now that he was part of his Uncle’s drug enterprise, he no longer had a desire to play ball. Instead, Stevie wants to be a drug kingpin like Frank. This scene is one of the saddest parts of the movie for me when Stevie Lucas says he doesn’t want to play baseball anymore, although that was his passion since childhood. Instead, he wanted to be a drug dealer.

This scene is a reminder that you are not just living for yourself. The decisions you make and the opinions you give do not only belong to you but can influence the people around you. We don’t have to be celebrities or someone great to have influence. Somewhere, in our little corner of the world, someone is listening to us and silently taking our advice. People are watching you whether you know it or not and whether they speak up about it or not. The danger in this is that people will follow your example. Sadly, even when you’re wrong if they admire you enough.

Lesson #2: Follow Your Own Advice

“The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.”

Frank said this to Huey Lucas, his brother, after seeing him hanging out with Nicky Barnes, “one of the biggest heroin dealers in the country,” a 1977 New York Times Magazine article titled “Mister Untouchable” stated. Nicky is known as being arrogant and living an extravagant lifestyle. In the movie, Huey had taken on Nicky’s colorful way of dress and his arrogant demeanor.

There is so much to learn from this quote alone. It goes hand in hand with the phrase, “the more you talk, the less you know.” Usually, it’s the people who are the weakest who makes the most noise.

Frank then turned around and wore an expensive fur, bought by his wife, to the Ali/Fraizer fight–the same “clown suit” he warned his brother not to wear–and stuck out like a sore thumb. This fur is what made the police take notice of him and pay attention to him. From this one mistake, they learned of Franks every move.

The message here is for one to remember to take their own advice, which is not always easy to do if a person is not paying attention. I am sure we all have an instance to which we forgot to take our own advice.

Lesson #3: The Love of Money

“Success has enemies…quitting while you are ahead is not the same as quitting.”

All any black man wants to do is take care of his family, but Frank had a significant role in the direction of his brother’s life. He didn’t have to travel to North Carolina and recruit them in his drug empire. His brothers and cousins were country boys, and while each is entitled to one’s own choices and decisions (his brothers could have decided not to participate after discovering what the business was about), Frank is responsible for his part in taking advantage of his brother’s innocence. Frank was the oldest (if the movie is correct in this portrayal) and they looked up to him. He could have used his influence more positively. Even his mother in the film said: “If you were a preacher they would have all been preachers.” This example goes back to lesson number one. We all have people who watch us and look up to us even if we don’t know it. Frank could have used his money to invest in legit companies for his brothers, leaving them out of the drug business.

Lesson #4: The Business Mind

“Nobody owns me though. That’s ’cause I own my own company and my company sells a product that’s better than the competition, at a price that’s lower than the competition.”

There’s a lot to learn about business in this movie. Even though the market here is, unfortunately, selling drugs, I believe you can get a lesson from anything if you’re paying enough attention to it. One of Frank’s many experiences had to do with launching a new product that was cheap but still held quality. Frank stepped outside of the established heroin supply chain by cutting out the middleman and not diluting the heroine. In the 1970s, the heroine was often diluted with sugars, chalk, flour, or powdered milk to stretch it, so ddicts understood that the drug would have a lower potency. To create his one-of-a-kind “product,” Frank went directly to the source, a heroin producer in Saigon, Vietnam. In the movie, Frank didn’t dilute his heroin, which made it more potent. He also sold the undiluted, more potent drug at a lower price.

The lesson here is that sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort circles to reach new levels. If broke people surround you, then you will more than likely be broke too. If people with no vision surround you, then all you will ever do is have a dream. If you want to reach new levels, you have to surround yourself with people who are where you want to be. Want to publish a book? Want to understand how it’s done? Then surround yourself with people who are doing it right and take advice from people who have made it to where you want to be. This same thing applies to any business.

Lesson #5: Not Everything is as it Seems

Lucas_Brothers

The final and most important lesson is not to believe everything that you see. Much of this movie is made up by Hollywood. Denzel Washington is a more smooth and exaggerated version of the real Frank Lucas (and in some ways, we all kinda wish the real Frank was a lot more like Denzel). The real Frank Lucas was not Bumpy Johnson’s driver for 15 years, and he was not with Bumpy when he died. The real Frank Lucas did dilute his heroin, though not as much as the other dealers. The real Frank Lucas did collect numerous mink and chinchillas aside from the one his wife bought him, and the real Frank Lucas is mentioned as being just as “flashy” as Nicky Barnes. The real Frank Lucas is also rumored to have been illiterate.

The persona of the copy, Richie Roberts, was also exaggerated in the movie. He did not have a child and was not in a custody battle with his ex-wife. He also had a much smaller role in the capturing of Frank Lucas.

The lesson here is to remember to do your research. Don’t just believe the movies you watch, the articles/books you read, or the things that you see on social media. Even salt looks like sugar, and spoiled milk is still white. Always double-check your facts.


Sources:

http://brandautopsy.com/

http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/americangangster.php

https://www.biography.com/people/frank-lucas-253710

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Lucas_(drug_dealer)

http://www.complex.com/style/2013/01/the-10-most-stylish-drug-kingpins-of-all-time/khun-sa

Heroin: From the Civil War to the 70s, and Beyond

Advertisements

Do Black Lives Really Matter

blackprolife28Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in America. It has killed more black lives than AIDS, Cancer, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and even the entire Vietnam war. Planned Parenthood clinics loiter the black community. They are on every corner of many High Schools and College campuses but no one speaks out about this. Alcoholism, drug addiction, child abuse and molestation plague the black community but no one speaks out about this. 70% of African American women are single and 42% have never married. This means that 70% of African American women are left alone and unprotected and 70% of black children grow up without fathers. Contrary to popular belief, father’s provide more to the household than just money. They provide not just financial stability, but protection, leadership, and guidance for our children. In fact, the state of the black man and woman relationship is worse today than it was over 50 years ago (and even during slavery. We were more communal as a people during slavery than we are today). In the 1960s, 40% of Blacks had their own businesses and 87% of black families were two-parent. Today, less than 7% of blacks own their own business and only 25% of black families are two-parent. But, no one talks about this. However, African Americans have been told over and over again what the problems are so this post is really not about that. This is not just about Slavery, Jim Crow, and Discrimination. This is about the revolution of self.

The African American community is in a state of spiritual crisis. We continue, as a community of people to fight for change in our community. We continue to vote in an attempt to change our political clout. We continue to march, to speak and to debate about the many changes that are necessary in this world; from education to discrimination, and from discrimination to gender equality. But while we seek to change everything around us, we have yet sought to change ourselves. We know what our problems are, but what we need at this point are solutions. Solutions that are deeper than government funded organizations, of protest marches and ballot boxes. You see a people cannot change anything around them if they cannot change first what is inside of them no matter what color they are. For, in the words of the African Proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you”. You see freedom is deeper than social-economics. Freedom is spiritual and spiritual freedom begins inside of the individual. To change the way that we live, we must first change the way that we think. Otherwise, if we continue to depend on outside sources to change our current conditions we will be marching for the next 50 years, while our sons blood cries out to us from the ground.

The Central Park Five

Central Park Five

I was only two years old in 1989 so I obviously was not aware of these men when the story first broke. In 2002, when the man who committed the crime stepped forward and these men were officially declared innocent, you can still say that I was a baby being only 15 years old. As I think about my life and the things I was doing then, graduating Middle School and entering High School, I cannot help but to think about these men who, at 15, was on their way to jail.

You can say that they were doomed from the beginning. Let’s set the scene. In 1989, big cities like Chicago and New York City was overflowing with crack addiction within the black community.

“Crack popped up in Miami and Los Angeles in the 1970s. The Drug Enforcement Agency didn’t pay it much mind then. It was nothing more than a different version of cocaine, the agency figured. Crack arrived in New York City in the early 1980s before most of the public had heard anything about it. The department was understaffed. Budget cuts from the 1970s, when the city was almost bankrupt, had forced the NYPD to lay off nearly a third of its officers from 1975 to 1982. Meanwhile, crack began its spread across New York. It was cheaper than cocaine. Anybody could afford it, and anybody could sell it — anybody could buy a gram of coke, chop it up, cook it, and flip it for double the money. So now, all of a sudden, you have got a product that is saleable to a mass new audience,” Robert Strutman, a former New York city D.E.A. agent, told PBS Frontline in 2000. “And that is what the New York drug peddlers did. They mass-merchandized cocaine.” The media world first noticed crack in 1984, when the Los Angeles Times reported that “cocaine sales explode with $25 rocks.” According to a 1999 paper in Columbia University’s Souls journal, reporters began using the word “crack” in 1985. The earliest instance was a November 1985 story in the New York Times: “new form of cocaine, known as crack, was for sale in New York City.” By 1986, crack was available in 28 states. Newsweek called the drug’s impact a “national crisis.”

Source:

-The Voice, http://www.villagevoice.com/news/cheaper-more-addictive-and-highly-profitable-how-crack-took-over-nyc-in-the-80s-6664480

You can be sure that this was by no accident. The media practically advertised crack cocaine. Crack destroyed the Black community like no other weapon could. I speak not from a Google search or a spectator of the news, I speak from experience. I watched the drug take over the minds and bodies of those close to me. As a 90s kid, with crack being born in the 80’s, by the time I was growing up it was at its peak and those addicted were completely strung out. You see, it was cheaper than other drugs. This meant that everyone, including parents became junkies. No, not just parents, children.

This created gangs, drug dealers, and naturally, much violence. Because the victims of crack are African American in the majority, almost all crimes are presumed to be related, in some way, to blacks in the inner cities with an emphasis on  males. So when a group of young men go to Central Park New York to hang out and witness numerous attacks that lead them to head home for curfew around the same time a young white woman (28yrs) is raped and beaten beyond recognition, it is no secret why police decide to bring these men in for questioning. Besides, it is a trend that has existed for centuries. Had this been 1929 instead of 1989, these men would not have had the “privilege” of an arrest, they would have just been hung from the nearest tree.

“Isa 42:22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.”

Falsely Convicted

On April 19, 1989, five young men, ages 14 – 16 were recorded on video confessing to attacking, raping, and almost killing Central Park jogger Trisha Meili. In two separate trials, five young men were coerced into video taped and written confessions that sent them to prison. Still, after the confession, all of the young men pleaded not guilty and claimed that their videotaped confessions were concocted by the cops.

The story of the crime, as told by the police and prosecutors, was that a group of young people, were “wilding” through Central Park and after harassing a few other people, eventually led to the beating and sexual assault of the woman jogger. The story quickly exploded into the public eye, and I am sure those of you older than me remember the story. Because of the taped confessions, the jury ruled the young men guilt in two separate trials in 1990. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise served sentences ranging from five to thirteen years.

Korey, the oldest of the group, got the most time and was still enduring his sentence when he got into a confrontation with a man named Matias Reyes at the prison where they were both serving sentences. The confrontation was over something simple but Reyes apology had a far deeper meaning. Korey, presuming it was because of their jailhouse brawl, dismissed the man’s apology.

On August 12, 2001, just months after the only DNA collected at the crime scene, which was never tied to any of the accused, was matched, Korey got out of prison. Matias Reyes had committed to the crime that sent these young men to prison. In 2002, one year later, the young men were exonerated. However, their innocence did not ring as loudly as their assumed guilt.

Adult Central Park 5
The Central Park Five as Adults

In 2012, a documentary was premiered of this case titled “The Central Park Five”. For those of you on Netflix, you should find it there. Otherwise, I highly recommend you activate your Google skills and find it. It is a story far too familiar and is well worth the watch.