April 29th Brought Power to the People
Once, I took my knife and dragged it along the side of his blue Mustang. I did it because I could tell he had spent all day washing and waxing it. At nighttime the streetlights gleamed down on it, making the creamy blue look radiant. Man, we can’t have that, not over here. So when he went inside for the night, I waited for his house lights to go off and then I slid the blade from front to back in one continuous line.
It was early April that year. 1992. The next day, I was with three other dudes on the corner of Marie Street in Cross River, where we lived at—still live at most of us—and Sherrod drives by me real slow blasting an Ice Cube tape.
Fuck you Ice Cube
It’s the nigga you love to hate.
We laughed and pointed.
“I know you did that shit, bitch,” he called out the window. “I’ma fuck you up, watch.”
I was without my gun that day for some reason, but I reached for my waist as if it was there.
“Keep driving, faggot,” I replied.
It was a light moment. Everybody knew nothing was going to pop off. He lived on that block for a good ten years. Always claimed Krip Klux Klan, despite living in a Willie Lynch Mob neighborhood. You really got to give it up to him, the nigga was brave. He got into plenty fist fights, probably got jumped hundreds of times, but he twisted up his fingers into three k’s, like it was the most natural thing to do.
Nobody was gonna kill him or his mother or nothing like that, we had no reason to really, but if trouble went down between our sets, him (or his mother) would likely been the first to get it.
I didn’t really know the dude. He was two grades ahead of me and he was Krip Klux Klan and I was Willie Lynch Mob. We ran in different circles. I had nothing against him. I admired him, really. He was different.
But truthfully, I didn’t think about him much. He wasn’t never really in the neighborhood and I didn’t used to see him at school. Most of the time I forgot about him.
One night we got drunk, like four of us, and we went across town to a Krip Klux Klan neighborhood and the first nigga we saw alone wearing a blue robe and a pointy blue hood, we beat the shit out of him.
Jerome hopped out the car first.
“Who told you to be walking alone, nigga?” Jerome said. He smashed his fist hard into that guy’s mask, right where his nose should have been. That blue cotton hood turned purple real quick. He fell to the ground and started to roll around holding his face, whining like a bitch. “This is the Willie Lynch Mob, nigga, get the fuck up.”
We all got out and started kicking the dude, stomping the dude. Nothing to stop us. It was our neighborhood. Our world. Moments like this I lived for back then.
He tried to stand, his Krip Klux robe stained with blood and dirt, his mask now on the ground. The man charged me as he rose. I slammed my fists into his mouth, one after the other. He collapsed.
“You think you Rodney King, mu’fucka?” I called out. “Well, I’m Stacey Koon, bitch.”
That Monday I heard he was in the hospital, fucked up pretty bad.
It was also the Monday of the brawl. I told you that the nigga with the Mustang, Sherrod, was a brave dude. He ain’t say a word. He walked right up to Jerome in the cream colored school hallway and bam, punched that nigga right across the face. I understand why he did it, but damn. I was shocked. I swung at him. We rained fists down upon him and more fists showered down upon us. And I just swung blindly. I felt the skin on the back-side of my hand split as it slammed against a locker.
After it was done, we were all suspended. Almost everybody with any type of crew affiliation, some who weren’t even a part of the fight got kicked out. Told us to stay home for the rest of the school year. When we sat in the principal’s office receiving the news, Sherrod was the only one who looked disappointed. He was different.
Sometimes, quite often actually, after the fight, we used to see that ol’ stupid KKK nigga standing outside his house in his blue hood and blue robe, just standing there like a ghost. He held a shotgun sometimes. Rested the barrel right on his shoulder. Standing next to that old tarnished Mustang. Sometimes he was unarmed, but he stood there stoically for hours like he was guarding Buckingham Palace.
I found my purpose in life sitting on the couch, eating a bowl of Lucky Charms, watching Ricki Lake on April 29th. A special news bulletin cut into my show. The world had blown up, at least it did in Los Angeles, far from my home. On television a man rammed a shopping cart into a shop window and people rummaged through the ruins of the store. There was a woman running down the street with a television set and I wondered how she got the strength to lift the thing.
At that moment I realized where I needed to be, where I would be most useful at. It should be the Willie Lynch Mob running through those streets slamming white folks to the ground and burning Korean grocery stores, I was thinking. I saw myself on television screaming, Willie Lynch Mob, nigga! Then the world would know us like they knew the Bloods and Crips.
The phone rang and I snatched at it, lifting it to my ear absent-mindedly. It was Jerome. He’d been watching the same thing.
“I knew them crackers would let the cops free,” he said.
“Man, we got to find a way to get down there.”
We called up everyone we knew who had cars. Most laughed at us. Some of those dudes had never been past the Hail Mary Bridge. Some of them had gone as far as Port Yooga and that was it. I leaned back in my chair frustrated, wanderlust overwhelming me. I looked out my window and Sherrod stood by his Mustang holding his vigil. He looked ridiculous in full Krip Klux regalia.
Jerome and I decided to approach him together. I waited for my friend and then we walked across the street. Sherrod reached into his robe grasping for his gun. His face was totally covered and all I could see was his eyes and the brown surrounding them.
“What y’all want?” he said, clutching a handgun at his side.
“We got guns too,” Jerome said slowly pulling his weapon out. “Thought yours was the only one in Cross River?”
“We ain’t come for all that,” I said.
“We come in peace, man,” Jerome held out an Ice Cube tape, Kill at Will. “I heard yours got stolen in the fight.”
Sherrod examined it: “This is my tape!”
“What, you don’t want it?”
He snatched it from Jerome’s hand.
“Them cops in L.A. got off,” I said.
“I heard,” Sherrod replied. He paused. “Y’all come to bring me the news?”
“Shit is popping off in L.A. Niggas is rioting,” I said. “They starting the revolution over there we need to get out there man. You got a car. We figure you want to join your fellow Crips—”
“Krip Klux Klan ain’t affiliated with the Crips.”
“See,” Jerome said. “I ain’t even know that. That’s why you need to get on T.V. and let these folks know about your set. That’s what we trying to do.”
Nobody said anything for a few moments.
“Are we just going to look at each other breathe?” Jerome asked. His question cut through the thick tension. Sherrod laughed. He tucked his gun back into his robe. Jerome slid his into his waistband and I also tucked mine away.
In an hour we were in that scarred Mustang, traveling clear across the country, headed west. It clanked and chugged and for a brief period of time, smoked.Jerome told lots of funny stories. Sherrod was good company; he laughed a lot. Gradually he started speaking more, said our sets would never understand what we were doing. I told him they’d understand when they saw us on television.
We never did make it to L.A. Several hours in, the car chugged and clanked to a halt and we pulled to the side of the highway. We lifted the hood and the engine looked like it would flake into black ash if we were dumb enough to touch it. The three of us sat silently at a gas station in a city and state that I’ll likely never return to. We must have been a sight, two nondescript dudes sitting next to a tall guy in a threatening looking robe and pointy hood. To break the silence Jerome asked him what he thought about when he stood in front of his house.
“Nothing really,” he replied. “Sometimes my mind is just blank. So numb and blank. You know, before you guys came up to me I was about to take that thing somewhere and let the fumes just take me out. That’s probably why I was so quick to bounce with y’all. I think about the future and nothing, absolutely nothing comes. I was going to go to college, but how’s that gonna happen with this long ass suspension on my record? I’m stuck on Marie Street forever, just Krippin’ it out. Sometimes, I think I should have never joined the Klan. Shit. It’s been one thing after another. I ain’t think about neighborhoods or no shit like that, I just did what my friends at school was doing and it’s been a non-stop war and shit. The suspension’s just one thing in a long line of a bunch of shit. When I saw that long ass mark in my paint, I was like ‘Why does all this shit keep happening to me?’ My mother’s sick and then my car’s fucked up and I’m always scrapping with y’all Willies. I felt like shit. I had just washed and waxed the thing. I can’t even talk to the Krip Klux dudes about this stuff, wouldn’t nobody understand. When you’re all fucked up, you ain’t got no perspective. Every bad thing that comes along is more worse than the last.” He paused. Then he turned to me. “Tell the truth, you did that shit didn’t you?”
I shook my head.
“It’s alright. You was just doing what you was programmed to do. When I hit Jerome I was just doing what I was programmed to do. It ain’t nothing.” We never did see that Mustang again. His mother drove out to pick us up after chemotherapy. She was mad as shit. Slept a lot in the back seat while Sherrod drove. Back in Cross River, Sherrod was always on foot after that. I never really talked to him though. Maybe a head nod here or a what’s up when no one was looking, but no real conversation.
After a year or two, I ain’t see him no more. His mother still lived in that same old house, but he wasn’t there anymore. Sometimes I wonder what happened to him and I imagine him in a clear creamy blue Mustang, driving west.