Chicago’s love of gangsters is misplaced

Posted: April 29, 2013 by Keith Townsend in Uncategorized

Chicago has a very curious love/hate relationship with gangsters dating back to Al Capone.  I remember vividly as a kid watching the hours long Geraldo Rivera special in which he walked through the life of the notorious gangster leading up to the opening of his safe, just to come up with a bunch of empty bottles and stuck wondering if they were actually worth something on national TV.  This whole thing was a big deal in Chicago.  It was the Game of Thrones for the 80’s.

Al Capone

But ,Al Capone was obviously not a man to be honored.  He extorted and killed people for his own financial gain.  There was nothing honorable about his life that calls for him to be a beloved figure in the city.  This got me to thinking about another somewhat renowned gangster in the city, Larry Hoover.  It’s telling that some of his supporters call him the “Honorable Chairman.”

I got into a pretty spirited debate on FB a few months ago with a man that was a friend in 6th grade.  He’s actually pretty bright and I was surprised to see that he actually thought Hoover as someone to be admired for his leadership within the community.  This took me for pause.  Let’s recap Hoover’s history.

Hoover was initially incarcerated for running the drug trade of Gangster Disciples (GD’s) on the South Side of Chicago.  While incarcerated he continued to lead the Gangster Disciples (which changed their name to Growth & Development).  The gang had attributed to them millions of dollars in revenue from the drug trade that ravished many families throughout the midwest.  I’ve shared stories of growing up on the south side of Chicago and I can tell you from my relationships with peers there was no question about who lead the GD’s and what their organization was about.

The argument of many of his supporters was that the teaching of the man were pure yet it was his followers that distorted his teachings leading to the violence and bad representation in latter years.  Further their point was that a man shouldn’t be judged purely by his actions.  I beg to differ.  Your actions is the actual record of your being.  Yet, I don’t see the evidence of this assertion of his teaching being pure in those he led.  It was in the early 90’s that GD’s made an outward attempt at showing that Hoover’s teachings were being applied to the organization.

GD’s formed political action groups and a record label for example.  I lived in Englewood and Woodlawn during these periods.  I remember the conversations of the guys on the street corners and I didn’t hear anything spoken about uplifting the community.  I heard about complaints of paying street taxes to Hoover and his generals on drug sales.

I remember the beatings of drug addicts that didn’t pay debts, I remember my cousin’s boyfriend getting shot in the head over a small amount of crack cocaine, I remember feeling afraid for my life because of the drug trade.  I don’t remember the teachings of the “Honorable Chairman” reaching any streets I lived on that made a positive change in any of my friends and family.

Larry Hoover maybe reformed and preaching non-violence.  However, there one thing his supporters can’t deny, he’s much less effective in teaching non-violence than he was at selling crack cocaine.

Tell me again.  Why do we love gangsters?

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