The front page headline of the Sacramento Bee read "Who Trained Kevin James"? It was a follow up to a "major case" against a cell of California terrorists who were presumably setting their targets on military installations. The mastermind was a Kevin James. Mysteriously, he planned all this and gave orders as he sits rotting in Folsom Prison. I received a frantic phone call from my brother.
"Watch your phone conversations; everyone in the family probably has a wiretap".
He then informed me that the so-called terrorist bust that is all over the news concerns our little second cousin Kevin. I laughed. "Stay in trouble Kevin" is a terrorist mastermind – Please! Then on CNN came the press conference organized by the U.S. attorney general and the director of the FBI. They were claiming Kevin to be a homegrown terrorist. He was a bad man! Again, I laughed but with a melancholy lament.
Kevin's mother, who was my first cousin, and I grew up together in a very tight family. The memories are very sweet. As we grew up and took advantage of various new opportunities for young Blacks derived from the toils of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Los Angeles was starting to turn for the worst. I left the Los Angeles area never to return and I have not regretted that one moment.
Guys in my neighborhood were faced with the draft, complements of the U.S. Army. Kevin, who came along with the next generation, didn't have to face the U.S. Army draft, because he was held accountable to a different induction.
The boys in Kevin's South Central neighborhood were inducted into the organized "army" known as the Los Angeles Crips. There was no choice if you lived at Hoover and Florence. It was a "Blue Zone." You were a Crip or you would soon be dead. This lifestyle was cool with the Los Angeles police department which was as corrupt as they could be. It was also cool with local governments and the state of California, especially former Governor Pete Wilson.
They were building up a big new industry known as the Prison System and the Crips along with their rival, the Bloods, provided an excellent crop of prisoners who would travel in and out of the prison system on a sure and continual basis. Prison guards are the highest paid state employees and California has built more prisons in Kevin's lifetime than they have colleges.
The "Three Strikes and You Are Out" policy; prison sentencing guidelines for crack; association with known felons while on parole, etc. ensured this predatory practice against our young males would be complete and successful. Crack was everywhere and you couldn't help but associate with a felon when your whole neighborhood was made up of felons. It was a trap our boys could not escape.
Kevin's turf of Hoover and Florence is quite famous. It is just two blocks away from Florence and Normandie — which was the birthplace of the Rodney King Riot. Crack cocaine was introduced to Los Angeles and America at 83rd and Hoover just 10 blocks from Kevin's house. My cousin didn't stand a chance. So when they ask, "Who Trained Kevin James?"-- let me answer that. It was the predatory and racist environment of Los Angeles, Calif.
Little Kevin started getting into trouble at 12 years old and it was a system that watched him carefully and poured "gasoline" on a young fire that they started. Here is a kid that was totally confused and terrified. He would write his mother from his cell every day without fail. It stands out immensely – 31 years old and half of his life has been behind bars. Girls from that neighborhood, some of whom are cousins to Kevin, have multiple college degrees. They are attorneys, dentists, educators and such. None of the boys made it and it is not a coincidence. My crew was not angelic but we weren't targeted either. Most of us made it out and were successful – 70 percent anyway. I doubt if 10 percent of Kevin's crew is going to be successful.
I should have gotten more involved. She couldn't deal with it on her own and it is certainly not totally her fault by any stretch. She left us for Heaven this year – a victim of HIV AIDS.
Like the so-called Black "terrorists" they claim to have in Florida, Kevin's case isn't going anywhere. The fact that he is locked up and still they try to pen raps on his record illustrates how bad and evil this system is.
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.