Call us Today 561-563-8882

When Crack Was King


When Crack Was King

First off, we’ve got beef with the title. When Crack Was King almost makes it appear as if crack isn’t happening anymore. In fact, Donovan X. Ramsey all but calls an end to the crack epidemic. Well, that look would be wrong. No crack isn’t shaking the streets as it did back in its heyday, but it’s still shaking the streets. Statista says it’s doing it to the tune of 573,000 per month.

Hardly opioid numbers, but numbers nonetheless. Especially when you consider the 573,000 lives that are being wrecked as a result.

But we’re here to plug a book and aside from some semantics the book seems righteous. It’s an oral history, told through four American lives, three of whom were ensconced in the crack trade; one of who fought it.

We begin with Lennie Woodley, who’s now a now a substance abuse counselor for LA County. Lennie had a rough life — a mother who’d beat her and an uncle whose offered shoulder turned into molestation. She started using cocaine during her early adolescence, first as powder and then as crack, and spent nearly three decades on the pipe.

That Woodley has been able to turn around her life says more about her than about crack, but let’s just say it’s a tremendous achievement.

Next up are Elgin Swift and Shawn McCray, who both dealt crack albeit from very different corners. Swift grew up in Yonkers, son of a crack addict father, and he dealt mainly to keep himself fed. McCray on the other hand, was a basketball star who threw it all away to start slinging for Newark’s notorious Zoo Crew. Ilana Masad’s NPR review says “through these men’s narratives, Ramsey highlights the nuances of drug dealing, how for many it’s less a chosen career and more a way to make money when there are no other jobs to be found. Additionally, despite the well-worn stereotype of morally corrupt dealers, these men weren’t trying to broaden their customer base by encouraging addiction in young people.”

Does that make them any less evil? That’s not for us to say. They still sold crack, and they sold it to people who did all kinds of ugly to get their mitts on money for hits.

The last of the quartet is Kurt Schmoke, who served as the mayor of Baltimore from 1987 to 1999 and who advocated for drug decriminalization long before there was support for such an approach. Schmoke is a kinda hero for users in Baltimore, and his inclusion here makes great sense.

Crack and Capitalism

How’d the crack market fare in the ‘hoods?

Well, Jonathan Green’s New York Times review says “from the outset, cocaine democratized the drug game. It broke the Italian mafia’s monopoly on street narcotics, principally heroin, as Colombian cartels flooded major American cities with cocaine for as little as a tenth the cost per gram. For underprivileged Black and Latino youths, becoming a crack dealer was an opportunity to escape the generational cycle of poverty. The drug, Ramsey writes, promised to be “their Gold Rush, their Homestead Act, their Prohibition.”

Eventually, however, the economic emancipation achieved by “getting money” became a curse. Families were ruptured by the twin evils of addiction and incarceration. Corner crews fought deadly gun battles over access to lucrative customer bases in public-housing tower blocks, pitting neighbor against neighbor and leaving residents prisoners in their own homes, trapped in fiefs controlled by drug gangs.

And that’s when Reagan pushed through the disparity-saturated Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which mandated a five-year minimum prison sentence for the possession of five grams of crack, while the equivalent sentence for possessing powder cocaine was 500 grams.

Healing Properties

Healing Properties thanks Donovan X. Ramsey for writing a riveting read like When Crack Was King and placing focus on some glaring disparity. We also thank Jonathan Green and Ilana Masad for delivering some echo-friendly reviews. And remember, if you or a loved one is having issues with crack or any other substance, please give us a ring. We’ve been helping men get clean since 2002; we’d be honored to help you too.

Leave a Reply


Get Help Today