Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out with the old, In with the new, from a prisoner's perspective

Bu Johnny White

This is not a new year's story. This story is written by convict Johnny White, serving a 50 year sentence for the death of a Rockford woman during a drive-by shooting at her house. The term "gang banger" is what street gangs go by in Rockford. Of course they have their "bad" names for each gang, but "bangin" is the general term for being a member.
Johnny previously shared part of his story on the blog titled Rattlesnakes, Whoopin', and Hollerin'. This one is quite different. I will be posting it in its entirety over the next few days. 
I found it compelling. 
* * * *

"Ellis, come to the door and cuff up."
"Why? What's up?"
"You gotta new celli. A young guy at that."
When are these people going to put someone in this cell who's more my age? Sure doesn't take long for them to send another cell mate my way through the  never-stopping revolving door.
"Once I get you cuffed Ellis, I'm going to need you to step to the back of the cell.
I've been here over 20 years. I know the routine.
"It's just procedure, Ellis."
The fellow they bring in here is young.
"Why don't you give him some pointers on how things work around here. How to carry himself. Maybe help make his time go a lot easier."
"What makes you think I'm fit to do that job, Chief Stash?"
"I remember 20 years ago when you were the new guy comin' in. You tested and broke every rule in the book Ellis."
"Well not all of them!"
"Most of them. But today you're a man who tends to keep himself out of trouble."
"I guess things aren't the dame these days. I have come a long ways. Shoot, I still have a long ways to go."
"Inmate  Phillips, this is your celli. His name's Ellis. If I can give you any advice, it's this. Listen' to what he has to say. He's seen it all behind this wall. His advice may keep you out of  trouble. May even save your life."
Stash  clanged the cell door shut and left.
Phillips shrugged."Why they always slamming doors around here Pops?"
I looked him over. "First, I'm not your pops. If you're lookin' for a daddy in this place, you're in trouble. My name's Ellis. If you haven't noticed, this place is old and falling apart. So they need to slam the doors to make sure they're closed."
Phillips shrugged again. "I didn't mean no disrespect callin' you Pops."
"None taken. What name you  go by?"
"They call me Smoke," he answered, a touch of adolescent pride in his voice.
"Who is it you refer to as 'they'? You a gang banger?"
"Yeah, I been bangin' since I was 12 years old. My boys and I, we from the eastside of Rock-Town."
"Oh yeah. I'm from that town as well. East and west side. I used to run back and forth. Who is it you ride with?"
"Alley Boys! We the baddest when it comes to the town's streets."
"Smokey, every banger that comes through this place says their hood is the baddest. I used to say the same thing. I know a lot of older dudes from the Alley Boys. Most are dead or in this place now."
"How you know my O.G's family, Ellis?"
"I used to run those same streets. I used to be part of the Devil's Click. I'm  past that part of my life now, Smoke. I learned the truth."
Phillip's brows arched. "Man, you Devil's Click?"
"No. Used to Devil's Click!!!" I emphasized the words.
"What's your aka? Your bang handle, man?"
"They called me Drop. That name is nothing but a mistake from my past, Shorty. Once I learned the truth, I changed. Hopefully you will too. Lot of guys don't, or they choose to ignore it."
"I ain't no sell-out, Ellis. I'm Alley Boy all the way until six feet under."
"You'll either learn you already been sold out, or you'll be six feet under quicker than you think. Let's put that aside for the moment. Let's put this cell in order.

Part Two to follow.

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