Took me some time to get started on this post. I knew what I wanted to write about but didn’t necessarily know how I was going to tap into that place. So I’m writing my Throwback Thursday on a Sunday night or early Monday morning rather. That’s life right? Everything doesn’t always happen how you envision it. I’m sure when my grandfather was growing up he didn’t see himself dying on an autumn day in August of 1976 in his Harlem apartment, from heroin overdose.
Ever since I learned that piece of information I’ve watched several documentaries and biopics about notorious drug king pins like; Bumpy Johnson aka the “Harlem Godfather”, Frank Lucas, and of course the “Mr. Untouchable” Nicky Barnes, founder of one the largest heroin trade organizations in NYC.
I gather based on the rapid influence heroin had on the inner NYC communities back in the 1970’s especially Harlem, I am not the only person who ponders over its gruesome effects on close family members. What a difference a few decades makes right? Harlem went from moving artistic heroes like Countee Cullen and Louis Armstrong to molding community heroes whose heroin flowed through veins like water and nostrils like oxygen. The New Negro Movement became:
Pregnant mothers fiending for another hit.
Spoons being lit…
Naked women packing…
small plastic bags, while wearing masks and do-rags.
Drug lords pushing the potent product out to the masses,
while overused veins and an overworked heart collapses.
Every time I watch American Gangster I think of my grandfather’s life. Could it have been Frank Lucas’s famous Blue Magic that put my grandfather’s heart on overload, causing it to stop forever? Could he have been one of those buyers in the car?
Truth is I will never know. All I am left with is history and my infinite imagination. But what I do know is Black History is not just a month, its a lifestyle. It’s Harlem. It’s my grandfather. It’s where we’ve been and where we’re going. And although I never met him, he is and forever will be my Hero-in Harlem.