BMF: St. Louis – The Interview

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BMF-billboard

As a high school and college student, there weren’t many places, things and people that were not affected by the Black Mafia Family. If I happened to turn on the television, rappers such as Fabolous, Young Jeezy and even Nelly (the most popular artists at the time) were showcasing their affiliation to the organization in some shape, form or fashion to the masses. “Making It Rain” was something that everyone wanted to do, in emulation of the ‘greatest show on earth’. From billboards to award shows and magazine covers, to a 17 year old graduating high school in 2005, the world seemed to be BMF’s.

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing a former member of the infamous Black Mafia family as well as a hustler turned political figure turned author about their upcoming book, Black Mafia Family: . Louis (The Untold Story). Through the memoirs of Danny “Dog Man” Jones, Jerry Haymon is able to re-create the gripping path of Danny “Dog Man” Jones and his is rise within one of the largest and most notorious criminal enterprises in American history while providing a universal view of drug culture and the entertainment industry and how race and politics are affected through a disparity in force.

Sherman: Jerry, How did you come about being a writer and wanting to get into authoring and helping young black males in our community to, rise up and better themselves…to get out of the situations that they have been placed in and placed themselves in?

Jerry Haymon: Well, I’m a single father. My sons are now 27 and 26. I’ve had them since they were 2 and 1 years old. By being a single father and growing up in an urban community, (Gary, Indiana)…I was a part of those struggles. I was once in the street and I left the street. God blessed me and I got into corporate America and into politics and it was the commitment that I had with the community period. With me being into politics and public speaking, I decided that I actually wanted to put it on paper and I started writing.

S: How did the idea of making this book come about? Whose idea was it to use the 17 bullets as a foundation for the memoirs?

J: Danny wanted to use the 17 bullets and I thought it was a great idea. The book is 17 chapters and it also goes back 17 decades to when the first African-American man entered into the first U.S. Prison. I was in St. Louis working on a book called “Just Us or Justice” and I was trying to go through the different urban areas to show the disparity of prison sentences and the educational system of people from urban communities compared to everyone else and I actually ran into Danny “Dog Man” Jones. I was interviewing people but when he started telling me his story I changed the name and concept of the book because I thought that this was more relevant…the man had been shot 17 times and he was still living, God had spared his life. And I really believed that that was a testimony within itself and that would be a more interesting read and at the same time get the message across to young black males.

S: That’s extremely commendable. It takes a lot to actually get up and say, “I need to do something better with myself” and to actually want to help people that can’t help themselves. I’m actually sitting in city hall at the moment, so it’s pretty ironic.
Dog man, I understand that you sold American Bulldogs to members of BMF. How did the initial selling of the dogs come about? Did you all have mutual friends or was it a chance encounter?

Danny: I was out on my front porch. I was staying on 2044 Ann Avenue, on the south side. I was outside with my dogs and a guy pulled up in a white escalade. He asked “Oh, you’re selling your dogs” and I told him yeah, I was selling them and to give me two weeks. He purchased two dogs right there on the spot and said that he’d be back in two weeks. The two weeks went by and I was thinking that he wasn’t going to come back. So, I called him up and told him that his puppies were ready. Meech was the first person that bought two dogs from me and I shipped his dogs out to him. And (sic) told Terry about it and he bought two dogs from me. I ended up keeping his dogs here at a house that they had here in St. Louis.

S: How exactly did the relationship build as you were recruited into the organization? What did being a part of BMF actually mean?

D: I started off with the dogs, getting paid $1000 a week to babysit them …clean up behind them, feed them, walk them. From there I was Juanie’s personally driver. At that time, he was on probation and couldn’t get behind the wheel. He couldn’t leave St. Louis, so he hired me to drive wherever he couldn’t. I was working on the railroad and trying to do both jobs at the same time…I had been at the railroad almost 13 years, but they laid me off repeatedly. Juanie guaranteed that I would make more money with him in one week than in a few months working at the railroad. When the time came for me to get paid, he paid me. He was right. I left the railroad alone and became his personal driver.

S: So you got paid to drive him around initially?

D: Yeah. Once we would go out of town. When we were in St. Louis, I didn’t have to be his personal driver unless he called me. But, in Detroit or Atlanta I would drive.

S: What went into being a part of BMF? Was everybody one family or was it two separate factions? With Terry on the west and Meech on the east coast, how did that all work out? How was St. Louis utilized as a halfway point?

D: Juanie came up with both brothers. Sometimes he would be on Meech’s side and other times he would be on Terry’s side. At that time, Juanie and Meech had a disagreement with one another, so at the time when I was brought in, he was on Terry’s side. That’s the side that I was on and the side that I stayed with.

J: In the book with Danny, I compare the two different factions of BMF with the way that large corporations actually marketed. Meech marketed on billboards, documentaries, DVD’s…He was more of a guerilla marketer…out front, whereas Terry marketed his network in the way that a pre-paid legal service and AMWAY distributors would…word of mouth. IN the book, I show how the different factions operated. They operated simultaneously but they were totally different.

S: Do you believe that kind of drove a wedge between the brothers? I ask that because when there are two separate ways of going about one thing…One person wants things to be ‘low’ because ‘it is what it is’ and another is all about the jamboree and spectacle and bonanza…do you feel that that aided the organizations downfall?

J: Looking at the dynamics of how they marketed, I wouldn’t say that either way was a wrong way. Meech was branding the organization. It was more like a record label. To me, after interviewing different members of BMF it seems that he was branding it in attempts to legalize it. If he would have gotten it legalized and it wouldn’t have crumbled then he would have been successful in business just like he was successful in the streets. It really depends on a person’s perception. During one interview I found that a dispute arose between the brothers in St. Louis. One of Meech’s guys was trying to steal some of Terry’s customers and convert them into Meech customers in St. Louis. It’s interesting how it played out. You have one organization that knew little to nothing about and had little to no dialogue with the other faction, but they were all BMF. Both of their strategies were genius. Look at how Big Meech advertised himself and BMF, it would have led you to believe that he was making his money mainly through the hip hop industry.

Coming from the same type of community, I didn’t demonize any part of BMF. It isn’t something to demonize. I also didn’t glorify it because of the younger generation growing up wanting to be just like them.

S: Do you think that it was such a bright idea for Meech to do so much branding and so much promotion before he was able to become legal?

J: It depends on how you look at it. I was blessed because I got caught up and left the streets over 25 years ago. I had never gotten caught up into the streets. I was on national TV as a millionaire success story, so I understand where he was coming from with advertising and making it a brand name. It was smart, it just depends on out perception. If it would have worked, everyone would have labeled him a genius.

Danny: What Meech did in advertising is nothing short of what Floyd Mayweather has done his entire career. (He) has been promoting himself for years and it wasn’t legal but everybody thought it was legal until he went to jail and 50 cent made it legal. And that why him and 50 broke up because he didn’t want to pay 50 cent that 1.5 million. Meech was doing the same exact thing that Mayweather was doing. But, when you get into that corporate world and you try to legalize stuff, you have to go through a lot of red tape in order to brand yourself and make yourself an entity. Look at how long it took Def Jam to become an entity. Def Jam was on the market 10 years and had #1 hits and they still weren’t legalized.

J: Even in the book, I went all the way back to when they first started legalizing alcohol. I drew the comparison of how those breweries in St. Louis…they are legal now, but during prohibition it wasn’t legal and they were still advertising their product and branding their companies so once the law changed and distribution became legal they succeeded. Before legalization, there were underground tunnels that people used to go through and ship liquor through. The way they ran these businesses was very similar to BMF. It was only a different product, different era, and different color of people.

S: A golden marketing strategy. It’s like a textbook and the info in the textbook can be applied to any situation where there is a serviceable good. Since the factions were so different, was it surprising that their cases were put together when the indictments were handed down? Or even more specifically, were the indictments handed to Meech’s team given out the same time that Terry’s crew or was it two separate times?

D: When the indictments came out, it came down on both at the same time. They hit my house in Jamestown the same time that they hit Meech.

S: Was it surprising that they put them together?

D: No, it wasn’t a surprise.

J: If you look at the conspiracy law, it’s not a surprise they put them together. The bigger the organization, the more time you can give out. If you look at the number of young brothers within the federal penitentiary system that were never even caught with product, it was all through word of mouth…

S: Hearsay…

J: You know its modern day slavery. If you can give someone thirty and fifty years solely based off the word of other people, you have to question what the law is really all about. Was that law all about putting young black men into prison or was it about trying to protect neighborhoods? The book poses questions about the laws and about the indictments and the government handing young black men these lengthy prison sentences.

S: Do you think that the knowledge in this book will actually help young black men to understand what the government is doing to us and the disparities in how we are treated in comparison to everyone else?
Some of us know about these issues yet many of us are completely ignorant to it because of our conditioning…a lot of us are immune to family and friends being handed 10 year and 20 year sentences when our grandfathers are locked up, our fathers are locked up, our brothers and cousins are locked up. Will this book help to understand certain things so that we can help ourselves and change our mentalities?

J: Not only will it help to understand, but I took a story like Danny “Dog Man” Jones role in the Black Mafia Family to use this story to explain to the next generation that this is what can happen when you enter into that life and these are the laws that are completely against you. In the book I describe this disparity…and the things that were put into place to help young brothers. If you begin a small business and you are providing a service and apply for enterprise certifications such as minority-based certifications…these allow you to have an edge at winning contracts instead of being gratified by the street life. A lot of young brothers don’t know this and when they really begin to research is when they are in the law library of a federal prison. I want to give them information so they can start making better decisions before they are put behind a wall. Instead of researching the law, research goods and services that the government pays for everyday and get into a business that enables you to live the American Dream.

S: This resonates with me because of a situation that I found myself in in 2009. It’s a closed case; dope and gun charge…but it still haunts me and hangs over my head. I was blessed in that situation and to actually be speaking to you all about this type of book and to be sitting inside of city hall…

J: To me, God doesn’t make mistakes. There is a reason why you are on this phone and there is a reason why you went and Danny and I have went through…we all have something in common. And we need to pull up the ones that maybe don’t have the experiences that we have. The ones that haven’t experienced the criminal justice system and the disparities…eventually we will save some guys from those decisions. It is all a though process and it wasn’t for your thoughts…they are the reason why you pick up that pack. (silence) For years the media has portrayed it….You look at the 70’s and 80’s. The movie Colors when it came out and then you being to see gangs pop up all over the United States. New Jack City came out and glorified the lifestyle and made people think that they could do it. Now, we have young brothers killing each other and laws like stand your ground that assist white men in killing young brothers, police officers killing young brothers. Where do we end up? Women can’t reproduce without us. So then our whole race becomes extinct. And that is why I am writing these books. If we don’t wake them up, who will?

516752

pretty much a god. or at least a super hero.