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The Cocaine Kids -
The inside story of a teenage drug ring
by Terry Williams
1.About the author:
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Terry Williams, Ph.D. is an (Afro-American) social scientist and researcher specializing in teenage life and culture, drug abuse, crews and gangs, violence and urban policy. He has lectured in the USA and abroad on the impact of drug misuse among teenagers, graffiti, on race relations and central city life.
As an associate Professor in Sociology he lectured at lots of Universities ( for example: Yale and Harvard University, Queens college, Richmond college...).
He is the founder and director of "the Harlem writers crew Foundation" and is involved in many social working street-programs.
Other books written by him are: "Crackhouse"
"Growing up poor"
"Youth unemployment, social policy" "Mississippe Diaspora".
He often worked on his books in cooperation with William Kornblum.
2.About the emergence of the book:
Between 1982 and1986 Williams hung around with a gang of Latino and black young people in West Harlem. They were a crew of cocaine dealers, who trusted williams and accepted him as their friend although he never took a drug stronger than alcohol or nicotin and didn't even participate in dealing. It took him quite a while to win their full confidence and Max often tested him, but Williams always stayed loyal and discreet. During the four years he became a kind of psychologist for the kids and they often phoned him in the middle of the night when they had personal problems or simply needed someone reliable to listen to them.
Williams worked as an ethnographer: by describing their every day behavior and rituals he shows how close his relationship to the dealers must have been. He observed their action, speech, gestures, facial expressions and clothing style.
Although he was fully respected by the whole crew he used no records because this would have been too suspicious to others ( customers and other dealers ). For that reason he had to develop another method to catch everything: he jotted down keywords, which filled 6 notebooks.
In his book he offers a detailed narrative of their life 'behind the scale' and you get to know how life on the street in such a trade really works and that it is different from what you have learnt from films and papers.
By accident Williams met Max, who was only 14 at that time, but already a 'comer' in the cocaine trade. Max and the 7 other kids grew up together in West Harlem, in a surrounding, where young people have few chances to escape of the poverty and are frustrated by unempolyment.
Max tries to establish a crew, when williams first meets him. Max was often betrayed by new members and that's why he always had to control them. His method was easy:
Max requestes the payment for the cocaine they are supposed to have sold before it is actually due in order to control if they are not working hard or loan out too much cocaine. He also visits them to show them that he is watching them and that they can't be in business without him.
The boss ofthe crewis Max because he has the connections to Colombian dealers.
He earns the biggest amont of money of course and decides how much he gives to his crew members to sell and he sets the price.Chillie is his first lieutenant and the boss of'la oficina', where he gives instructions to Masterrap, Jake, Splib, Kitty and Charlie, the body guard. Hector, Max's elder brother and once a major dealer himself occasionally works for Max too, but he is too unreliable and has a too strong drug- habit to control himself.
There is constant rivalry competition between all members and they have to fight against lots of problems such as being robbed or betrayed.
At their apartement called'la oficina'they package distribute and dilute huge amounts of cocaine in order to double the prophit although Max always claims that his coke is the purest you can get on the market. It is determined ( cut ) with bicarbonate and 'comeback' ( = an adulterant ). The large steel door shall give them time to flee in case the police want to arrest them. It is opened from 1 p.m. to 5a.m. - monday to friday. Sunday is their day off, where they relax in bars and nightclubs.
The phone rings all the time at la oficina - customers call to come and buy. No coke is visible, because it is sold by Chillie in the bedroom. Noone stays more than 20 minutes.
in general, drug dealers are:
- under 18:
The reason for the young age of most of the dealers are the "Rockefeller laws", because they forbid a prison term for kids under 18 for illegal drug possession. The result is dealers using kids as runners: they a re easier to frighten, trustworthy and avoid the law.
- African-Americans or Latinos
- below the poverty line
- they speak Spanish and Enlglish
motives to go into dealing:
- Most of the kids see in dealing the only way to make big money in dealing and as they see it from the elder teenagers, who show off and boast with their money, big cars, attraction to girls and parties they can afford.
- They can alway get a job in the trade which is not sure in legal economy.
- The third reason is to show their families and the rest of the world that they can succeed in something without the help of others
1. On the so called'whole sale level'transportersmove large amounts of cocaine across the state lines. The origin usually is Colombia, the Domenican Republik, Peru, Bolivia...
2.Distributorssell in kilogram lots
3. Thesuppliersact like middle managers. They have their employees, are guarded and usually distrusted. These are the ones who really set the price and determine the purity.
4. On the lowest levelsellersmake actual retail transactions. They have to limit their own consumption, keep accurate records and avoid arrest. In former times they used to get payed with cocaine but since crack has appeared on the market they rather take mone y as payment.
InAfter-hour-clubscalled theJump-Offsthe dealers usually don't sell drugs on weekends but have their own parties and take time out from selling cocaine. And those clubs are the best opportunity to show their great status in this underground society.
There is a steady competition for attention, which includes generous sharing of cocaine, elegant attire ( Bekleidung ) and having lots of girls around. A teenager can get immediate status by entering the club and giving large amounts of cocaine to everyone. Once he has established a reputation as a big spender he is expected to continue or else suffer a loss of status. To avoid this, many stay away from that club until they have enough money to boast with again.
- the highest status have theteenage patrons( dealers with a more or less steady supply of money )
- behind the dealers are theplayers( gamblers, other hustlers, able to spend money; they show elegance and personal style as the dealers do )
- another group among that level are professionalshoplifters,pickpockets andpimps( who force women into prostitution )
- the lowest status are theyoungsters, who are used as runners between 8 and 14.
- at the bottom of this hirachy you can find teens who earn their money throughlegal work. They don't have enough money to share their cocaine with more than one or two others.
Staying on topin the cocaine culture is not easy.
Dealers have steady friendships with other dealers, players with players and so on, but a change of their status can harm such relationships and a friend is no longer a friend. The dealers have the most to lose. The worst thing for their reputation is to be sent to jail. In that case they lose most of their clients, because they are afraid the dealer's phone is tapped or he is being watched. Without good relations with his supplier it is impossible to reenter the hirachy.
As a top-dealer there is little privacy ( a big problem in Max's relationship with Suzanne his wife ). As soon as they have an apartement where they sell the cocaine, the constant stream of visitors gets visible and so the dealer has to move on in order to avoid the police.
The appearence of the "in" drug crack around the winter of 1983 was a problem for Max and the crew. This was not because they didn't know how to manufacture and market the 'crack' form of base cocaine. In an early phase of the base craze buyers had only wanted 'rock' cocaine which they regarded as purer than 'flake'. But in fact this is not always true and rock is often more cut than the normal flake because it's easier to hide in that form. Because some of the best cocaine from Peru and Bolivia came in a flake form looking like fishscale, which was quite amusing for the crew and they laughed about how stupid customers were to demand rock not flake.
From then on the crew had to manufacture the 'recompressed'rockcocaine from flake. During that process they distributed the purity with several chemicals, available in every pharmacy in order to double their profit and so that it looked like the "real thing".
When it came tocrack, Max claimed to have a special ingredient called 'comeback'. When this is mixed and cooked with cocaine and baking powder, it looks smells and tastes like cocaine. This techniuqe enables Max to double his profits.
Nevertheless the crack craze was in many ways an unwelcome turn of events. In 1987 street prices dropped dramatically and even worse was the fact that crack caused more violence and paranioa of the street buyers.
The crack/base Houses
Ususally desolate, uninviting, dirty and smoky apartements, run by dealers, who charge $50 ( Jason for example ) only for letting the people in. In such crackhouses people come together for erotic stimulation, sexual activity and cocaine smoking of course. People piss everywhere and garbage is everywhere. The apartements are open 24 hours a day.
There are lots of rituals connected with getting high:
- "hit kiss ritual": after inhaling the smoke two put their lips together and exhale the smoke into each other's mouths in order to save the smoke but also as a sexuall stimulation.
- "balloon heads" - this is the name of those, who blow the smoke of the pipe into a balloon using it as a temporarily store for the smoke.
- granules of base ( looks like salt ) are rolled with marijuana into joints.
- crack is smoked from pipes
- "bazuca" - the drug is sprinkeled on cigarettes or joints and smoked.
They are full of young girls waiting for someone to scrounge ( schnorren ) a hit from. They do everything for it and prostitute themselves only to get high. Those girls are moving from sniffing ( the most harmless way of taking cocaine, which all dealers do ), smoking and injecting cocaine to snorting heroin. The most popular form of non- injecting drug use is smoking crack ( since 1985/6 ). But this also leads female users to unprotected sexual behavior and the danger of acquiring AIDS is obvious.
14 years old, when Williams met him, but already a 'comer'. He began to work as a dealer, where his brotherHectorleft. The 4 years older brother Hector had established a great business, but was not able to restrict his own cocaine consumption and he always spent more money than he made. He was 16 and already selling half a kilo weekly. He drove a BMW, his neck was full of goldchains and every night was a party. Hector owed his connect §20.000 but still had no respect of them. So Max and the whole family put together and paid his depts. Hector was sent back to the D.R., were he once drowned in the sea. Max still had the list of customers and Hector's former connect asked him, if he wanted to move on and Max agreed.
Now he is the boss of the crew and makes a great deal of money because he sets the price and looks after his crewmembers.
He is married to Suzanne, but they can't have children because he can't father any, which depresses him very much. They have some problems, because he doesn't want to give up his sexual freedom and although Suzanne often reasons with him she doesn't want to leave him. Her biggest problem is the lonelyness she suffers from because her husband is never at home and when he goes to parties she has to stay at home because " this is not a place for you". Most of those young women, who are together with dealers suffer from frustration, loneliness and boredom. And there is the ever-present danger of being alone guarding large amounts of cocaine and cash. But they stay loyal to their men and care for the children, if there are any.
After Chillie is shot at the age of 18 it's time for Max to retire because he is already too old for the business and a new generation follows. He buys a house for his family in Florida. Although Max feared the "old men" ( his colombian connects ) who usually doesn't allow dealers to retire, it was not that bad because the old man even wished him a nice life with a generous present.
Max had made §8 million profit from the crew's business during 4 years, and most of the money he had sent home to the D.R..
Splib and Kitty
They were together for 4 years and have a son Armando. Both of them are members of the crew, although Kitty works a lot of her own and in the end goes her own way, dealing to the customers of a call girl service on a 'Dial-a-Gramm' basis. She had to deliver the cocaine in a quite short time and was always busy. She sold the cocaine to normally very rich and also famous people, who had their rooms in the Plaza, St. Regis and the Doral. But after one year she gave up even that because it was too dangerous to go to strange apartements never knowing what was going to happen.
Kitty loved and still loves Spilb, and did everything for him, but he was always unreliable, spent too much money and always had depts, which she had to pay - they spilt up und she lives with her new husband now and has a second child with him.
Splib realised that he could not control his own consumption because he drank and snorted too much and was always short. He does legal jobs now and lives with his new wife and a new baby.
He always saw the dealing as a chance to make money and to afford a demo record, because he loved to rap and wanted to go into music-business. He claimed to get every woman he wanted and had a lot of girlfriends during his dealing times. language was art for him and his slang showed his lifestyle. He was considered to be a good rapper but never got a chance in the music-business.
And finally a Dominican convinced him to get out of the busines and to work in his restaurant.
After the police had searched through his apartement he knew that he had to sell in the street again although this was beneath him. During that time he was sniffing more than ever. He was shot as a result of a deal that went wrong when some guys were taken up to the office to make a buy. After this incident, he had to retire from the business with a punctured kidney.
®The crew begins to breakup although Charlie and Masterrap tried to run the office, but it was too difficult for them without their good manager Chillie and so Charlie ( the only black member of the crew ) went to community college again.
- type of book ( report ) + how it came to be
- way of life of such a gang ( hirachy - not too much )
- typical characters
- Arbeit zitieren
- Katharina Schulz (Autor), 2000, Williams, Terry - The Cocaine Kids, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/100359