Whether I admit it or not I am inextricably linked in many ways to RUDOLPH GIULIANI. This would be king used the images of my collective to patch together his collage of a grim visage that NYC had been handed over to the ‘other’. The city’s streets were no longer safe for traditional minded Americans. Some pretty brutal headline grabbing events like the Central Park jogger incident, the Utah tourist subway stabbing and the Crown Heights uprising were enough to transmit fear throughout the nation.
How was I to know that we were being used for a political agenda? What 16year old can comprehend that the journey continues past their 17th birthday? What teenager can think of anything other than the moment?!? So that is how I came to be part of this youth collective. My mind was trapped inside the moment and the moment was in Brooklyn 1986. The new year had begun without too much fuss at Brooklyn Technical High School. The kids from Marcy Houses and Sarah J. Hale H.S. were still torturous to all the Asian kids that might have ridden the G train with their ‘walkmans’ exposed. Sarah J. Hale was considered a ‘600’ school at that time. The ‘600’ was Board of Education code for a school that housed only special education students. Some kids were developmentally challenged and all were emotionally challenged. There was an incident where some kids from Hale were on the G train with golf clubs. They pulled the emergency cord between the Bedford-Nostrand and Myrtle-Willoughby stations and then began to rob people on the subway and issue beat downs with the clubs. What I’d like to know is where the fuck does a kid from the Marcy projects get a 9 iron?!?
The kids at Tech had their issues too. Westinghouse H.S. had been Tech’s traditional academic rival in the years after WWII. As the sailors and army personnel moved from the Navy yard the demographics for these schools changed, but the rivalry never subsided. Tech still required students to pass an entrance examination that weighed heavily on math and english while Westinghouse became a poorly funded ‘zone’ high school. The infusion of African Americans into the Farragut, the Walt Whitman Houses and the other Fort Greene developments meant that Westinghouse was an overwhelmingly Black school. The lack of any substantative intra-mural programs at Westinghouse meant that they would have to rely on physical contact with Tech students for sport.
Between the Sarah J. Hale kids from Bed-Stuy and the Westinghouse kids from Fort Greene, Tech students were in between a rock and hard place, and things got no easier inside the school either. The Black kids that held court inside Tech’s massive walls were 5%’ers. This was the last generation of these dudes that were still holding onto the quasi-religious commandments. They all wore an almost-uniform that consisted of fuzzy Kangol driving caps, leather blazers, Cazal eyeframes, shiny Chams de Baron shirts, straight legged(tapered) jeans and Clark’s Wallabees. The leader of the 5%’er faction inside of Tech was a dude named MESSIAH. He had to be the leader because he wore a suede fedora. Imagine the Hollis crew circa 1984. His right hand man was a cat named DIVINE. They diddy-bopped through the hallways lockstep, and if you saw MESSIAH you had to believe that the shorter DIVINE was in his shadow.
I knew some 5%’ers from my neighborhood like BAR-KIM, BORN, KAY-VON and the EVERLASTING ZIG ZAG ZIG and all of these dudes sold drugs so I was never connected to all that 5% rhetoric about the Black man being GOD. I mean, would GOD want to sell drugs? That’s prA’Li why I had little regard for these dudes inside Tech. I thought that the purpose of religion was supposed to be a mechanism for connecting yourself to a higher power or a greater truth. There wasn’t any truth that I could find with these dudes and they were straight up haters.
In my sophomore year I began to exit from my nerd shell inside Tech. I had spent the summer standing on a corner off Northern Boulevard watching all kinds of people give BAR-KIM their cash money. When I handled the plastic vials I earned even more money and who knows what my future would have been had I not been threatened off the block by RoboCop MIKE COMBS. Nevertheless, I came to school in September with a gang of gear and a mean grip in the stash back at the crib. I could afford to buy a hero sandwich at Rocky’s every day if I wanted. I was still part of the football team although I never suited up and when I did they rarely played me. I finished freshman year with three tackles and two were against my own teammates. Life at Tech was still good. That was until I attracted the attention of MESSIAH and DIVINE.
I might have skipped some non-descript 5%’er on the lunchline one day or maybe I bumped into him in the hallway, but whatever the reason, I drew the ire of these cats’ crew. The stares in the lunchroom became vocal insults which culminated into a shoulder bump scenario inside one of the main hallways. DIVINE tried to do a shoulder bump into my chest as I walked to class. I stopped in my tracks as did he. As I tensed up my face and clenched my fist I began to step towards DIVINE. He moved towards me along with MESSIAH and two or three other 5%’ers. Just as we were going to exchange punches a senior named JAY stepped in between us. JAY and I were cool since I was a freshmen and he had some dap with the 5%’ers, plus he prA’Li didn’t want to see me get lumped up in the hallway. With everyone gathered in the hallway anxious to see someone get jumped and have his azz handed to him, DIVINE yelled out that we’d see each other after school.
My head was racing now because I didn’t want to get pounded out in front of the entire world. Keep in your mind that I am 16 years old so for me the entire world would be any student that went to Brooklyn Tech High School. I could handle DIVINE for sure, but these dudes wouldn’t let me fight with him head up. As soon as my advantage was apparent they would jump on me and pummel me with blinside punches and kicks. I had seen many a kid catch a ‘bad one’ and I was not trying to be part of someone’s high school memories in that light. I did have a few friends in the school that I was close with so I went to petition them to stand behind me.
My best friend GREG was a junior, a year older than me. GREG lived in Laurelton, Queens which was the home of the Boom Bash Brothers. Boom Bash took over the remnants of the mega-drug trade from southeast Queens that PAPPY MASON and FAT CAT had put together. GREG told his buddies GEORGE, ALDEN, CHARLES and JOHN STONE. My homeroom homie TIMOTHY STONE was an unrequited math wizard and he happened to be JOHN’s younger brother. FRANK NITTY from the Bronx was like a boisterous hype man who kissed every pretty girl in Tech. KELVIN JONES a/k/a ‘POP’ a/k/a ‘BABY FACE FINSTER’ was a little dude, but you should never sleep on little dudes. Just ask FREAKY TAH. Outside of school I would hook up with DU and DU. They were both named DUANE. One was from Herkimer Street in Bed-Stuy, the other was from Jamaica Estates. We ended up calling DU from Jamaica POLOTRON because that is the only brand of clothing that he ever wore. POLO was tight with a Technite from Brownsville, who always kept his two brothers, STEVE and TRENT, close to him. The dude from Brownsville had his two best friends with him also. One of the friends was nicknamed V’ILL BLACK and he was the most darkskin brother that you could ever meet.
The stage was set now for my 3p.m. showdown with the 5%’ers. In retrospect how ridiculous was all of this posturing that we had done as teenagers? It was pretty insane and over dramatized by the fiction that we watched on television. When I left the school there was a crowd of 50 or more kids behind me with GREG and all the previously mentioned dudes sprinkled amongst them. I crossed over Fulton and Lafayette Streets to the front steps of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. There DIVINE and MESSIAH were waiting along with another 50 students. A bunch of them were 5%’ers but most were just the other Tech students who wanted to watch us fight. This was almost a surreal moment like from West Side Story or The Outsiders. I locked eyes with DIVINE and the din from all of these assembled kids disappeared. I yelled to him, “What nigga what?!?”. Nowadays I think the kids yell out, “What’s really ‘hood?!?” before they start fighting.
Just as we were approaching each other someone yelled to me which broke my concentration. MESSIAH was trying to attempt to punch me out from my blindside. I quickly wheeled to my right and punched him in his face. As I am now fighting with MESSIAH I am snuffed from behind by DIVINE. I turn to DIVINE and I hit him square in the mouth so hard he stumbles backwards. As I am about to jump on DIVINE and really start giving him the business end of my fists I am hit by a car in the street. One of DIVINE’s cousins drives his car into me from behind. I am thrown onto the cobblestone street. As I rolled on the ground the car drives on top of my leg pinning me down. MESSIAH comes from around the car’s backside and just as he is about to punch my lights out when TIM STONE snuffs him in the face.
At that moment it was as if the entire assemblage exploded like a nuclear bomb. Everyone just began to fight. Shit was breaking wild. Everybody is getting it out now. The good thing for us was that you could tell who was who by the way we all dressed. You could tell who the 5%’ers were because of their style of dress. They had on their Kangols and pimp fedoras with leather jackets and Chams de Baron shirts. My brothers had a uniform as well. We were all colorful like a pack of LifeSavers wearing some Polo rugbys or Fila sweatsuits. Now shit had really become a scene from West Side story. A big ass battle royale in front of the steps to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In a wild scene like that you just have to hit somebody, hell anybody, because if you are just being a spectator, you might as well be a Now-n-Later. You will get punched out now, and hear everybody talk about it later.
As the melee raged on all around us, GEORGE and GREG pulled me from under the front of the car and the Technite from Brownsville pulled the driver from out of the car and began to pound him out. When the driver fell to the ground we began to kick him and stomp him out. My foot crushed the Cazal frames on his face. That scene was symbolic for the day as well. It signaled that the fight was over and the 5%’ers had been beaten. After a short while the police came and this caused everyone to scatter in a hundred different directions.
This event was the moment when a loosely united group of specialized school students became galvanized. We all saw that we had a common problem and we all saw that as a group we could put in more work than most. We had backed these 5%’er dudes down and they were shook because we looked so deep and so serious. I am forever indebted to Tim Stone and the Technite from Brownsville for holding me down that day. As a matter of fact I am forever bonded to everyone that was with me that afternoon on the steps of B.A.M.
What that day also translated into was now there was an official shift of power inside the school. The 5%’ers had been the dominant crew inside the school, but they were insular. They could care less what happened outside of the school as long as it was none of their dudes that was getting it set on him. If the 5%’ers couldn’t stop Westinghouse kids or Sarah Jay Hale kids from coming up to Ft. Greene Place and wilding out, me and my brothers would! You couldn’t just come from Westinghouse or Hale and post up on the corner of Fulton Street and Fort Greene Place anymore. If you were going to be trying to hold it down at Rocky’s Hero Shop then you had better be affiliated with us.
This day didn’t end my brothers problems with the 5%’ers either. There would be several more dramatic incidents to follow up this one before that chapter in our story would finally be closed. But the rest of that is a story for another day…