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A COMMUNITY IS MADE UP
|Published in: blog.honeyee.com, aaron archives, New York, July 15, 2009;
and in: Front Door Book, Miami, 2009.
While living in this community, I have crossed paths with most of the people mentioned in "Life in the Hood" - Keith Haring, LA2, Larry Davis, Lynn Stewart, Exavier Wardlaw. I lived at 325 Broome Street, the same building where Keith Haring lived. I was also the building manager, during which time I had use of the empty storefront studio space in the basement. I eventually gave it up as Keith acquired space. This is the space LA2 refers to as the Rat Studio, where he first started working with Keith.
In 1988, when I was sentenced to jail for contempt of court for not turning over my Tompkins Square Park Police Riot videotape to the D.A., I was put in the Bronx House of Detention. I was held in the maximum security prison system called Central Monitoring, which meant I had to have an officer, a captain or someone of higher ranking escort me whenever I went anywhere. When I went to court or back to the Bronx Detention Center, I was placed in a special, separate, individually locked cage in the prison bus. I had handcuffs, chains on my waist and leg shackles. Or, I rode as a lone individual in a special security van. Sometimes, instead, I had two large federal marshals pick me up and escort me. Why all the drama? Who knows? My only crime was not giving them a videotape of the police riot.
I wanted to make sure that this police riot was dealt with in a serious way and that it would be investigated. It cost me a little freedom, but I got the results that I was looking for - it cranked up the whole case in the media. Every news source covered this event and in a short time a chief was retired, the captain was moved from the precinct, six cops were criminally indicted, other cops were fired, many departmental disciplinary hearings went forward and so on.
The only other person in the Bronx House of Detention prison complex under Central Monitoring was Larry Davis. Larry Davis and I both had Lynn Stewart, Bill Kunstler, and Ron Kuby as a legal team. I went to one day of Larry Davis's cop shooting trial in the Bronx. At that time you were allowed to bring cameras into the courthouse, but could not tape or take photos without special permission from the judge. When I showed up in the courtroom, the judge got anxious. He had a special hearing in his chambers with the lawyers, prosecutors and me. He wanted to know what my connection to the case was. He examined my camera. I had documented a band called Mental Abuse and put their sticker on the outside of the camera. The judge questioned me about this name.
A friend, Exavier Wardlaw, who was a playwright, an activist and a squatter, wrote a play about Larry Davis and performed it at the Living Theatre on 3rd Street and Ave C. When Exavier was doing research on the Larry Davis story, he found my name and that incident in the court transcripts. I am a supporter of the Living Theatre and the creative freedom that they represent. Because of gentrification and the rising cost of rent, the Living Theatre shut down their space, moving to another location a few years later. The former theater turned into a drug bodega where the cops, during a raid, shot some of the dealers.
What's better for a community - selling narcotics or having a theater? In the past, members of the Living Theatre have been arrested and had shows shut down for some of their ideas and performances, and I was thrown in jail for taking pictures of a police riot. Angel Ortiz, "LA2," took a socially legitimate route as an artist, but has been robbed of his rightful place in history. Some of his own valuable art, pieces he did in collaboration with Keith, is locked up and impossible for him to get to. Surviving this change in lifestyle - from an artist with a reputation and money to having nothing - pushed him into the neighborhood business, which was selling drugs. Society obviously thought drugs were better as there were dope spots on every block and a shortage of creative venues.
As I discussed earlier, LA2 came to me for help with his art problems. I got solid articles about him and his career problems into the Village Voice, the Villager, the New York Times, the New York Sun, a German art magazine, and so on.
LA2 is the stepfather of Luis Rosado, a.k.a Blueboy. Because of my interest in the history of the L.E.S., LA2 wants me to know Luis's history. Luis also had Lynn Stewart as a lawyer.
In 1986, Larry Davis became an infamous New Yorker. Davis was a drug dealer in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. The police version of the story stated that when they went to arrest Davis in connection to four murders in the Bronx, Davis shot his way out, wounding six cops, four of them seriously. This incident became the record for the most NYPD officers shot in a single shootout.
The Davis trial took place in the Bronx, where the inner city communities had little faith in the NYPD. The defense was built on generally accepted knowledge linking the NYPD with rampant corruption. The defense testified that several cops were in the drug business with Davis and were coming not to arrest but to kill him, as he had become a security problem. Davis was acquitted of shooting the cops and four drug dealers, but was found guilty of six counts of criminal possession of guns, for which he was given a five-to-fifteen year prison sentence. Later, he was eventually charged and acquitted for shooting a fifth drug dealer - the sixth time, he was arrested for firing a gun through the door of a crack house, hitting and killing a person. Davis was given twenty-five to life for this crime.
Luis, "Blueboy," one of the highest ranking CRIPS in the New York State prison system, stabbed Davis twelve times with a homemade shank, killing him.
Living in a community like the L.E.S., one has to realize that going around the block again is inevitable. You - everyone - should treat others with respect, because you are going to go around the block and meet everyone again (at one time or another). Best to be friends rather than enemies. I document the community, so I try and stay neutral on the side of the community people - my people - my neighbors - my friends.