Chapter 6: 1970s Drug Wars
It’s been said that the Vietnam War brought in the white horse,
We were helping the allies because they were helping us,
Shipments from Asia were flown into Europe bound for the western world,
America had an addiction surge,
Everyday folks and big time stars
Wore needle tracks on their arms
Casualties of the Golden Triangle
Where Burma, Thailand and Laos converge.
When Saigon fell, the panic began,
China white was gone and needle parks were stressed,
But it didn’t take too long before a new source was found,
Mexican mud took over the market to calm our junkies down,
But Agent Orange contaminated the fields
That’s when the Golden Crescent took charge,
Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan had the latest good stuff and it was all America bound.
It seemed to follow war vets and poor folks
Into every city and every town,
The white horse was everywhere and the first hit was free,
Plenty more came upon the American shores
So, the lucrative industry of the war on drugs was always guaranteed.
Kent State broke the last hope to make America a better place,
And it had been coming for a long time,
We were still feeling the sting from losing Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King,
We didn’t feel like the flag was truly ours
And then, this war that seemed to have no end was killing our brothers and sons.
Manson’s demonic family killed seven people and gave hippies a bad name,
Angela Davis was on run from the FBI
Huey and Rap Brown were doing time,
Stokely made a run for the motherland,
And the war was getting worse.
Crime waves and murders were on the rise,
Serial killers buried bodies in the back yards
Homicide like never before,
Bomb threats from radical groups,
Upset from the lack of change,
Lack of relief for suffering masses stuck in poverty.
The generation who thought they could change the world fell exhausted,
The Great Society fell flat,
Gangs infested every corner
And body bags draped with American flags were coming back,
Abandoned homes and abandoned cars were adequate shelter for junkies and vermin,
Our water and air were dump sites for chemical companies,
Who wouldn’t pay a dime to clean it up,
Sending Americans into deep despair and so it seemed that we had finally broken,
There was no future at all.
A peace rally at Kent State brought attention to the Cambodian expansion of the war,
A litany of events turned the rally into a terrible commotion,
Rocks and explosions of tear gas and rifles left four students dead and wounded nine.
Campuses lit up all over the nation;
End the draft!
Bring the war home!
Give peace a chance!
But the war was still going on.
That was the last blow to the idealistic times of change,
We slowly withdrew from the streets and into ourselves;
Divorcing ‘we’ and married to ‘me’,
And the decadent excursion for pleasure
Began its dominance in the 1970s.
Liberty and justice for all,
And yet, under hostile urban clouds we were still searching for something to call our own,
We fought not to be lynched
Fought to sit in the front of the bus,
And have a bite to eat at the luncheonette
We fought to get out of the white woman’s kitchen,
You see it was all about freedom.
No, it was about money, I mean the long bread;
Wait, education was the key to get out of the ghetto,
We need to hear The Word,
I need my words to speak to the acidic air that rains down fear, doubt and poverty upon my head,
I can’t see the beauty in America
Can’t see any further than next door,
Can’t see liberty and justice for all.
In order to form a more perfect union,
We’ve got to change the zip code and get to a better neighborhood
There, that should do it,
Send my child to a private school,
Look, they’re hiring Negroes now!
We’re not Negroes anymore
And wear a suit and tie on the job;
Got that house with the second bathroom and the big back yard,
Got us a second car and then rejected by some who didn’t get as far,
They claimed we’re too white,
But not according to white folks who see only black,
I know! I’ll lighten my skin and perm my hair
No, pride is in the natural curl,
Gotta get me a blowout afro…
How about if I put a turban on my head?
But that won’t go over with the status quo who gave me this job,
Or the agent who block busted the neighborhood where I’m so proud to live,
Pride, they say?
What is it really anyway?
Young gifted and black?
Educated and sophisticated?
Allegiance to my African roots?
My guts are burning
Still wounded from the Jim Crow war
I was black and poor and fought the devil himself to get out,
Now, I have arrived living in grand American style and still I suffer.
A terrible place to be,
Filthy dens filled with rapists, murders and thieves,
Packed on top of one another fighting to breathe their own air,
So, they came together demanding basic reforms
Demanding decent food and water
Sanitation and medical care,
It was August, 1971 when a Soledad brother was killed in San Quentin.
Three guards and three inmates ended up dead,
And the news spread back to New York State where Attica inmates were already tense,
And come breakfast time, they refused to eat,
The guards felt the heat and told the inmates to go to their cell,
They refused to obey and there was the start of a melee;
Hollering and screaming, fires were set;
Glass was breaking and emergency whistles blew
Inmates ran everywhere taking the fortress over and the guards too,
It was a mess.
But they worked fast,
A list of demands was made from the tents in the prison yard.
The guards were held hostage but would be released
When prisoners were granted amnesty, and given relief
For the deplorable conditions, they were living in.
Bobby Seale, Amsterdam News and lawyers appeared
To try talk it over and work it out,
But then a guard came up dead and negotiations were called off.
By day four it was clear the state wouldn’t stoop so low
As to make a deal with common criminals to let the hostages go.
Then the big boys came in
And they weren’t trying to talk,
They mowed everyone down on the catwalk and shot up the yard,
By day five, blood mixed with a cold raw rain
From thirty-eight inmates and guards lying dead and eighty more who were hurt,
Troopers moved in to have a torture party,
Survivors were stripped naked among the dead
Punched, kicked and pistol whipped
With broken bones, they were made to wallow in the mud and dirt,
Made to look at the gun that promised to blow off their head.
New York Times reported the inmates slashed throats killing the guards,
And they were all going to be charged,
Until forensics concluded that all the dead were shot from the back
And only the troopers bared arms.
A cover up was in effect
The yard was cleared,
The crime scene was buried in the ground,
No evidence of perjury, murder or torture could be ever be found.
Inmates and police were pardoned
To neatly protect the powers that be,
Law suits were filed and the state won every appeal
Until the year 2000 when some victory had come,
For the survivors of the Attica uprising
On September 9, 1971.
Where is the Liberation?
We’re tired of the righteous black man,
Tired of peaceful, turn the other cheek
Can we find somebody?
Who will hit Charlie back?
Can we win just once?
What about the rest of us who still can’t find a job?
Where is the liberation?
Ain’t nothing changed since the death of Dr. King,
We laugh at Tricky Dick and his Watergate lies,
Never dug that gray boy in the first place
We didn’t vote for him anyhow.
And how can this jive turkey talk about black power with his arms wrapped around a white woman?
What do we do with all of this pride?
What do we call ourselves now?
We marched and fought and it still ain’t right out here,
I don’t want to see any more fires and riots,
But something has got to change.
Nobody seems to be down for the cause;
We got more cats on the corner settin up gang wars, getting high with needles marks on their arms
Where is the liberation?
Yeah, we got the token jobs with the token Toms,
Got on the television variety shows,
We got on the silver screen
Got Black Gun, Black Caesar and Blackula
We even have Miss Black America,
But there still ain’t no liberation for me.
White folks leaving the city and took the good jobs with them,
Out to where there is no bus,
And now it’s just us
With no options, no service, no tax dollars to pay the bills,
I can’t see my liberation no matter how hard I try,
Here I sit on my decrepit steps while angry tears well up in my eyes.
I’m singing that song I love by Roberta Flack,
Singing that song about the Trade Winds of our time.
We’re waiting for the tubes to warm up
Mama let the dishes soak,
Our world stood still waiting to see
Flip Wilson coming to prime time.
We sat at attention
Beaming with pride
Watching him on our brand-new color TV.
He was the first brother to have a program since Nat King Cole,
And soon we were on a roll,
The sponsors and networks that wouldn’t spend a dime to give black folks any kind of air time
Suddenly saw dollar signs when the ratings stayed on top,
Black faces appeared on the cover of magazines
We had Redd Foxx on the scene,
Evans family delight every Friday night,
Upward mobility and soulful swag moved up to the east side of New York City.
Television was ours to have,
And it had never been so good to be black in America.
And it didn’t stop there,
We adjusted the antenna to clear up UHF,
So we could see the hippest show
Granting us peace, love and soul,
Featuring our favorite groups singing their number one love songs,
Singing party songs that went gold and then platinum
And that had never happened before,
The Isley Brothers serenaded the salty shores of our liberated lives
And Marvin’s consciousness activated our minds
To a higher level of thinking, living and loving.
Superfly made The Godfather number two,
Obsession with the fashion scene came to us on the big screen where our heroes confronted ‘The Man’;
Charlie was his name,
Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones beat him at his own game.
It was as close as we came to seeing black folks win,
But we got so caught up in the women, the clothes, the drugs and the cars,
Any possible substance was lost
So, the movies were demoted to Black Exploitation,
And as the debate went on, the quality of the genre began to fade,
By the middle of the decade our soul cinema was all but gone.
The Last Hurrah
America was barely two centuries old,
A brand-new culture had taken hold in every dimension of society;
As jumbo jets made their maiden voyage in the sky
Earth Day was underway and the EPA was created to give attention and care to our fragile land.
The vote was finally realized for everyone,
Blacks, women and those under twenty-one.
The Beatles broke it off
The Supremes did too,
Jimi Hendricks, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison
Were the warning flags of truth for drug abuse,
The pace was picking up
Everything was happening all at once,
Technology we use today
Were ground-breaking creations for the seventies decade.
Cable TV and microwaves,
Silicon chips, calculators and compact discs
Were just beginning to exist,
But we didn’t notice much
We were too busy fanning fever flames on the Saturday night disco floor,
Felt like a star when the lights flashed from above and below and from all four walls,
Having cozy affairs with tight clothes
And platform shoes,
Stumbling to get home and watch the news.
The Manson family was on trial,
Watergate tapes were released
Lines went clear around the corner and down the street
Waiting to see The Godfather and Superfly,
Apollo 17 was the last mission on the moon,
The peace papers were signed
2400 Greenwich Mean time,
And the Vietnam War was finally over,
Roe won against Wade
And women had the right to choose,
She was rising up in her career,
Got credit in her name
No longer had a man telling her what to do.
The Black Panther Party did not survive,
We helped Israel in their fight,
And the Arabs were mad
Their embargo against us meant nobody could get gas
But it wasn’t all bad,
Our struggle from the decade before was paying off,
We had black mayors and filled congressional seats,
And the zenith of our mission seemed to be complete when Roots debuted on T.V.,
The world stopped,
The telephone didn’t ring,
Everyone was inside of the saga of
Our story was told,
Capturing the pain and victory of every slave soul.
America was black and beautiful,
Women stood on their own two feet,
Gays rejected shame and got a slice of the freedom pie
No looking back, the eighties were near,
Farewell to all who fought and died,
No more rage, no more blood in the street
The last of the Baby Boomers were coming of age,
Say goodbye to the nineteen seventies.
Light of the August Moon
World War II seemed to have no end,
But finally, Germany surrendered in May,
There was a sigh of relief, but no time to rest,
As the pacific war was still alive,
We were not completely at peace until the second bomb dropped and Japan finally surrendered in August of 1945.
Barbaric cruelty was exposed when Emmett Till’s body was found,
His hideous corpse outraged the nation,
Justice was elusive
But the south could no longer lie
About the hatred they tried to hide in the Tallahatchie River,
People of East Berlin were escaping tyranny by fleeing to the west,
And nobody was trying to go back
First a fence was put up and then a wall,
People were forced to work and hurry to get it done
To keep folks from sneaking out toward a freer world
Freedom was the cry
Jobs were the prize
No sense in civil rights
If we have no money and no choice on how to live our lives,
It came to a peak in the August heat,
March on Washington
Been looking for those boys all summer
Somebody knew where they were,
Twisted arms and threats of bodily harm may have helped to get the truth out,
On the fourth of August 1964
Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were finally found.
Too many hungry people in this great land of ours,
President Johnson tried to put a stop to poverty,
It was a part of his idea for his Great Society.
He wanted people to have a chance; education and training while maintaining basic human needs,
So hunger would be no more
He signed the Equal Opportunity and Food Stamp Acts
In August 1964.
Police were the cause,
Pushing folks around,
Talking about their mama and calling them names
Body slamming against the wall with accusations of resistance,
Made it easy to shift the blame and justify spilled blood assuming fear could control,
But black were tired and wasn’t gonna take it no more
And rebellion against society was on,
Voice of the poor
Fighting to survive
Both happened in August,
Philly in 1964 and Watts in 1965.
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic party traveled from the delta to Atlantic City demanding their voice be heard,
Sister Hamer questioned America
Johnson blocked her out,
They were offered just two delegate seats after a thousand-mile trip,
And were not welcome on the convention floor,
But it was still a significant step toward equality
In August 1964.
The Civil Rights Act had been passed the year before, but wasn’t worth the paper it’s written on if folks in the south couldn’t control their lives,
Had to get that voting right bill passed
And it finally happened
In August, 1965.
1968 Chicago Convention had an awful fate
The streets broke loose with police riots;
Demands to stop the Vietnam War was loud
Heads were busting all over the place
The delegate floor didn’t fare much better
Cussin and fussin; fist to cuff,
Knocking over people trying to report the news
It was getting rough,
Humphrey finally won his victory, but it was off to a sad start,
Cause everybody inside the convention hall and out in the streets was burning mad,
August 1968, was when the Democratic Party had fallen apart.
It was the ninth of August, 1969
When Manson and his crew committed a heinous crime, creating one the bloodiest nights anyone ever knew,
But on the other side of the country
An event was planned for a few thousand people to gather and enjoy their favorite band,
It was just a weekend concert show,
Well wouldn’t you know,
The roads had to be shut down
They ran out of food
Landlocked with no place to go
If any kind of emergency would ensue.
The best of Blues and Rock and Roll were played,
History was made,
But then it rained and some people had taken a bad trip from LSD,
Maybe that was a sign
That free love is not free,
The love generation was coming to a close
August 15, 1969.
We had been to the moon and ended the war,
But another uglier spot loomed that could no longer be ignored,
Nixon had to go
And his friends too,
They lied and they stole from the country
Leaving us angry and the party was torn
White house was cleaned out in
August isn’t known for much
It has no national holidays,
It’s a month for cookouts, family reunions and summer getaways,
Maybe it’s the pre-autumn sun
Or the warm ocean’s tide,
The nights are a minute longer than they were in July
Perhaps the heat is just too much by noon,
Maybe that’s the reason why
So many incredible events took place
By light of the August moon.
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