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December 05, 2005

Poobutt Writers Rule

In my mind, I stand with Jervey Tervalon, Wanda Coleman and Paul Beatty as a chronicler of black Los Angeles. In reality, they're published in the real world of books, and I occupy some slim corner of cyberspace. That's OK because I understand the lingo. Tervalon is in the LA Times this week reflecting on life with Tookie. Read the whole thing.

I ALWAYS THOUGHT Stanley Tookie Williams wanted to kill me. I thought he wanted to kill all of us pootbutts who didn't gangbang, and that fear informed how I lived my life as a boy.

Thirty years later, I don't believe in the death penalty, and I don't want the state to execute Tookie. But I do want the people who grew up in better neighborhoods and now want to lionize the gangster to understand just how hellish he made many people's lives.

Tervalon is brilliant and funny in this piece and I feel him 98.6%. I wonder where in this place now called Jefferson Park he grew up. Having him weigh in would be a fine complement to the homies we have found. I was fortunate to be the oldest of four boys who had lots of friends. We didn't have to bang. So while I endured some calls of poohbutt (we didn't have a 't') when I was on my own on the Crenshaw bus (back when it was the 85) or the Jefferson Bus (when it was the 9), once I got home, I was safe and free. Still, I've spent more than enough time in the shoes of a tough but smart skinny kid who knew when to put his head down and pretend to be Urkel.

He nails it on the 'Brim Here'. Crips were so pervasive that everybody knew their perversions of pop. Back in the day when KFC introduced their Extra Crispy recipe, their advertisements on the TV and the radio where everywhere. They said of their chicken that it doesn't just crunch, it goes KA-runch, in a sing songy fashion. Next thing you know, black bangers weren't just Crips, they were CA-rips. What could we say back without getting beat down? It was bad enough they already copyrighted the mean-stroll pimp walk. That was an infringement you din't want to risk. Even the LAPD had to step off.

I was in a summer science program at USC when the Crips, in a squabble with the Bloods, shot up the community center with a machine gun. A police officer showed up and explained the LAPD's plan of action if the Crips returned: "We'll take our time getting here," he said. "We're not prepared to handle machine guns.

The idiot world, projecting their violent fantasies on all us black men, are still biting gangsta rhymes as if that were all that flows from black SoCal, and points east. So we all know how cool it is to follow the bouncing bullet to the rhymes of Ice Cube and EZ E. But at some point you have to remember that it was us sharp kids that the gangstas emulated. In the novel I never wrote, the cops pull over my protagonist for driving with his windows down in a slammed hoop with chromed Cragars. The pretense doesn't matter, but it shocks the cop to discover an old friend from the neighborhood is the driver whom is freshly returned from law school. The cop says"'I thought you were a banger, this is how they roll". His old homie replies, "You know this is how I rolled and all of those fools were trying to be me."

Half that story has never been told, and so people believe the reverse is true. It has become a self-fufilling prophesy to the extent that people believe black men discover their true selves and value to society in prison, not college, the armed forces or the world of work. To all that I say this. Do everyone a favor and forget Tookie's books. We're the writers you ought to be learning from.

Posted by mbowen at December 5, 2005 01:00 PM

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crimeys win hearts and minds in the hood because they're there. poohbutts too busy frolicking in that greener grass and chewing on that colder ice...,

Posted by: cnulan [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 6, 2005 04:41 AM

Rev. Eugene Rivers brilliant summation of the paradox of the poohbutt. While he confines himself to church and political leadership, without a doubt the crisis of guardianship abandonment goes far deeper than superficial institutional leadership.

Some 40 years after the beginning of the civil rights movement, younger black Americans are growing up unqualified for gainful employment even as slaves. The result is a state of civil war, with children in violent revolt against the failed secular and religious leadership of the black community.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 6, 2005 08:44 AM

This reminds me about the asset forfeiture thread in the dramatic series 'The Sheild'. Other than the ordinary love parents have for children,no matter how anti-social their path, there are only a few non-political reasons to back bangers. Financial to be sure.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 6, 2005 06:38 PM

Conceited asshole!

Posted by: Joe Fire at December 12, 2005 11:31 PM

So that's where that CA-rip came from. And, ya'll said, "Poohbutts"? That's deep.

Posted by: Jervey Tervalon at December 20, 2005 03:25 PM