In 1924, a postal worker by the name of Samuel Browne would face the hardships of being a Black homeowner in Staten Island. Samuel Browne purchased a home from Klea Evans, a white woman, for $8,500 in the Castleton Hill district. Upon Samuel Browne’s move into his new home, residents of the all white district discovered that a Black family replaced their white neighbor. This discovery resulted in efforts from the white residents to have Browne sell his home at a profit. Browne refused the first offer of $9,000, then refused the subsequent offers of $9,500 and $10,000. Shortly after the first refusal of $9,000, Browne’s home faced its first attack by vandals. Browne’s wife, an elementary school teacher at PS 11, stated that when Samuel was just about to accept the $10,000 offer, the conspirators managed to have the company that held the fire insurance policy cancel it. The fire insurance policy cancellation led to Samuel Brown’s reluctance to sell his home out of principle and refusal of any further offers.
In September 1924, Browne’s home was attacked yet again by a group that broke several windows with sticks and stones. A note marked “KKK” which threatened more violence if the Browne family failed to move out was delivered to the home after the attack. The case was brought to the Grand Jury and District Attorney Albert Fach when the Browne family faced conflict with other residents in the district, such as the cancellation of three insurance policies. Samuel Brown was able to have seventy witnesses called to Grandy Jury to testify for consideration of the case. Amongst the witnesses were representatives of the fire insurance companies, building, and loan associations which Browne held policies with that were canceled; as well as neighbors of Browne.
District Hill residents were concerned that the Grand Jury’s failure to return early indictments would lead to no criminal prosecution. To the surprise of District Hill residents, Musco M. Robertson, a real estate operator, was indicted by the Richmond County Grand Jury, along with five other unnamed suspects, all white men. The indictment of Robertson and the other five suspects came a month after the case was presented to the Grand Jury. Robertson happened to be Browne’s next door neighbor at 67 Fairview Avenue, while Browne lived at 65 Fairview Avenue. Robertson was released on five hundred dollar bail, pleaded “not guilty,” denied involvement, and assured he was ready to go to trial to prove his innocence. Robertson and the five suspects were indicted for the utilization of these four methods to oust Browne from his home and the neighborhood:
Attempting to have Browne transferred from duty in the Stapleton post office much further distant than his home
Committing acts of vandalism on the property from July 1924 to July 1925
Attempting to get fire insurance companies to cancel the fire insurance policies of the letter carrier
Attempting to have the Westerleigh Building and Loan Association foreclose the mortgage on Browne’s home.
With the evidence presented, District Attorney Fach claimed to already know who the five unidentified suspects could be.
Samuel Browne filed a suit with the Richmond County clerk for $100,000 against the nine neighbors he alleged had conspired to oust him and his family from their home. Alongside Musco M. Robertson was his son, Louis Robertson, Edward Hesse, Charles A. Price, William Buon, John Schimel Jr, Louis Spamer, Charles A. Kneisel, and Harry V. Carlier. According to Browne, these men met frequently to conspire against him.
It is believed that the indictment was dropped due to “insufficient evidence.”
On November 1927, the suit filed by Browne against the white supremacist conspirators was discontinued by Supreme Court Justice Scuder. Browne’s lawyer announced that the case was settled out of court without cost to the conspirators.
Since the COVID-19 shutdowns were put into place in New York City this past March, many workers in New York City were affected suddenly. Many workers were unfortunately left unemployed, some were luckily mandated to work-from-home, and others were forced to still work in the public, in proximity with different people daily, at risk of infection. Back in June, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union which represents 900,000 clients stated that about 82 grocery workers have died from COVID-19, with about 11,507 workers infected. In October, MTA reported that 126 workers died from COVID-19. Analysis from New Amnesty reported that 7,000 healthcare workers died from COVID-19 globally.
In the United States, Congress argued back and forth about stimulus packages for all Americans devastated by the pandemic. While Congress settled on a very skimp $1,200 check and unemployment to “aid” Americans in rent, mortgage and bill payments, Congress went on numerous vacations and deliberated for months on the latest stimulus package, which is proven to be even worse than the first one. Many Americans still were forced to work and sacrifice a COVID-19 infection, and be a possible spreader, even with PPE. This ended up being the case, especially in New York City. It became a tradition to make noise every evening at 7PM to show encouragement and praise to essential workers. Even though the gesture is nice, many essential workers still are being mistreated by employers, people they service, and left without any added compensation or benefits for their sacrifices.
I surveyed 7 essential workers in New York City. These are some of their experiences.
A correctional health staff working in Queens, New York:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? No hazardous pay. All I got was free hotel stay from April to June. This was granted to help prevent spreading COVID to my household.
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced?Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how? The employers treated us weird at times, and other times with respect. The population we serviced were very intense and sometimes hostile. After spending time and trying to help we appreciated about the population.
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? Helping people get access to care in life and death incidents.
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? It gave me time to isolate from the general population which I felt good. It also made me feel more resilient in which I can use as motivation in my personal life
A Case Manager working in Manhattan:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? No
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced?Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how?Not drastic, a lot of changes. It actually works in my favor because I get to work at home which I prefer.
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? Some co-workers are becoming very complacent and lazy
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? Working more independently actually helped the most
A Food Worker in Staten Island:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? Hell No!
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced? Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how? Terribly by employers because they didn’t care about how hazardous it was. Not making sure the business followed Covid related laws and restrictions. The customers were rude and ungrateful that businesses are even open during a time like this but I guess privilege and entitlement go hand and hand if you’re white and live on Staten Island. Out of every 25 customers you do get a nice customer that makes your job worth it in the moment if you do enjoy customer service like I do but at this point it’s not worth it.
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? I was laid off of work due to getting tested for COVID when I didn’t have any COVID related symptoms. I was out of work for a total of three weeks with no pay because I had to wait for my results. When I finally contacted Labor Laws that’s when I found out it was put into law that if you are laid off due to Covid related reasons your job has a disability clause to hold you down(forgot the name of it) until you can go back to work but my job never gave it to me, never told me about or made it accessible. Keep in mind you only have a certain amount of time to fill out those forms before the time period to file is expired. I was at a loss because I was uninformed and I am still behind on bills because of it.
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? It’s scared me because as an essential worker you see how careless people are when interacting with you and other people. It’s ridiculous and people need to be more aware of restrictions and staying inside. When the pandemic first began I worked at a Moes Southwest Grill. Please tell me why I was getting customers that came in almost everyday and some even confided that they lived in the area which means they could’ve gotten food delivered. Those same idiots are the reason this thing is still alive and breathing. Having to argue with people while at work who don’t have pre-existing conditions to not wear a mask but just don’t because of their own ideologies is trash as fuck.
A Heating Maintenance worker in Manhattan:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? No
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced? Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how?Employer was very unprepared and protocol was very slow to roll out in dealing with pandemic. Overall less in person contact when troubleshooting problems. No negative or positive change about the same.
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? My employer sending email telling workers to ask tenants do they have COVID or anyone living there and if so they should wait in another room. And worker to open window when servicing apartment. This was a terrible idea and was put out in April or May 2020.
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? Very depressing, less interaction with friends and family. Went from panic or great concern in beginning of COVID outbreak, but now like oh well it is what it is.
A Child Welfare Case Planner who worked in the Bronx and now in Brooklyn:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? Nothing at all
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced? Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how?Negatively, staff concerns ignored by management
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? Being required to do a home visit the day before the shut down in March or face disciplinary action, because I wasn’t able to get in contact with my doctor to get a letter regarding my pre-existing respiratory condition. My doctor was a first responder to the pandemic so I’m sure they had other priorities, but management did not take my concerns seriously unless I had a letter.
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? I was super sad. Isolation impacted my mental health negatively as I lived by myself at the time.
A Downtown Alliance Security Guard in Manhattan:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? No
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced? Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how? I’ve been treated poorly by my employer. They give us the bare minimum of protective gear. They hardly want to give us overtime. Also Allied Universal says they can’t give us the hazard pay but has money to buy a whole company for billions of dollars.
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? Seeing all the businesses close down.
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? I caught Covid 19 back in late March.
A Mathematics teacher in The Bronx:
Were you given hazard pay or any kind of benefits from your job? If so, what kind and how long were they in effect? No
How were you treated by your employers during this time? How were you treated by people that you serviced? Was it a drastic change negatively or positively? If so, how?Having to do double the work to meet the needs of my school. My Principal interest was more on having the schools open then the safety of staff and students. It’s been more negative being blamed for everything. Countless hours at a computer losing motivation to plan. I feel less of a person.
What was an experience that impacted you while on the job? My anxiety has been getting worse as days go by.
How did working during this pandemic affect your personal life? It’s difficult to be positive and feel like a human at the same time. When just so much work is demanded at this given time.
All New Yorkers working in different positions and boroughs, but with many things in common. None of these survey participants were given hazard pay, some were struggling with mental health, exposed to or infected with COVID-19, had concerns ignored by management and ALL expected to perform and produce during a pandemic disgustingly handled by the capitalist class. As an essential worker myself and someone sympathetic to the causes of workers, we deserve more than symbolic praise. We deserve unions that will represent our needs and not sell us out to our employers, and actual benefits that protect us while working in a pandemic that none of us expected or prepared for. With New York strong as a slogan pushed by our beloved governor, we have lost so much and gained so little, while the capitalist class increased their gains at our expense.
On July 13, 1977, fifteen million New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, parts of Long Island and Westchester County were left to endure hot summer weather without power for 25 consecutive hours. Around 8:37 PM, lightning storms in Westchester County knocked out two circuit breakers that might have drawn power from other utilities, then hit a large power transformer that resulted in an explosion. This explosion forced a nearby large plant to shut down with additional lines hit in the process. Consolidated Edison, or simply Con Ed, ordered voltage reductions to keep the power system running. Unfortunately when safety devices meant to protect against overloads stopped working at a plant in Queens, the entire network was shut down at 9:34 PM.
New Yorkers were unprepared for the events that would ensue for the next 24 hours in sweltering temperatures with no air conditioners, low toilet pressure, and food that would spoil overnight. A line of 18 workers had to relay patients’ meals up to the eighteenth floor at Bellevue Hospital. At Shea Stadium, the New York Mets played against the Chicago Cubs with third baseman Lenny Randall at bat. As the lights at the stadium went out, 25,000 fans in attendance broke out into a chorus of “Jingle Bells.” In Grand Central Station, travelers held candles and flashlights for one another at public telephone booths. A spontaneous block party broke out in front of an Upper East Side restaurant where Andy Warhol and Woody Allen were in attendance. Riders were stranded 150 feet on the ferris wheel in Coney Island.
Mayor of New York City Abraham Beame stated he was outraged at Con Edison’s incompetence and lack of reasoning behind the huge power outage of the New York City area. Mayor Beame prompted an investigation and declared a state of emergency: “Con Edison at best has shown gross negligence, and at worst something far more serious.” This caused United States President Jimmy Carter to order an investigation by the Federal Power Commission, which resulted in the Commission’s conclusion that ConEd never undertook any proper precautions since the 1968 blackout in New York City. ConEd attributed the natural occurrences of the three lightning strikes as the cause of the power outages, as they bizarrely called it “an act of God.” At the time, ConEd officials had no explanation as to why the devices designed to specifically protect ConEd from lightning failed.
During the 1970s, New York City faced economic stagnation, which was intensified as large sections of its middle-class left the city for suburbs. By 1975, New York City’s officials and wealthy class saved itself by budget and policy decisions that would consequently harm poor New Yorkers at the time and years later. Conditions for neighborhoods with poor Black and Latino New Yorkers were still devastated from the economic strangulation of redlining, decrease of manufacturing jobs, unable to get high-paid jobs due to being unskilled, and were left to rely on public assistance. The Welfare Rights Movement was on the rise since the 1960s, but Black and Puerto Rican New Yorkers were still faced with urban poverty.
As decades of racist economic deprivation tore through neighborhoods such as Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, South Bronx and Harlem, poor Black and Latino New Yorkers were left to fend for themselves, which resulted in looting of stores throughout New York City.
Harlem’s 125th Street saw stores looted between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue:
There is not a television set left in Harlem,” said Patrolman John Ryan.
The windows of stores in the Bronx were shattered with merchandise taken. Youth in the Bronx went into supermarkets and left with carts filled with goods. The streets of Times Square were filled with youth who stole radios, smashed windows of stores, and opened fire hydrants. NYPD arrested up to 3,500 people, with over 100 police officers injured. The officers profiled lots of New Yorkers and arrested them. The people who were arrested were gathered onto buses for their arraignment at Manhattan’s Criminal Court Building. Many bystanders were caught up in the crosshairs. The city’s jails populations went from 7,000 to 15,000 in a matter of hours. The eight-by-ten “standing only rooms” meant to hold up to 10 people, were packed with up to 40 people. Majority of these people ended up transferred to Riker’s Island.
Mayor Beame used language that dehumanized the poor people who rebelled as “savages,” and dubbed the 25-hour long power outage as “the night of terror.”
On February 4, 1999, four New York City Police Department plainclothes officers fatally shot unarmed Amadou Diallo at 12:44 AM, in the vestibule of his building at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx. Officers Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon, and Kenneth Boss let off 41 shots at Amadou, 19 of which struck him. Officer Sean Carroll claimed that Amadou matched the description of a serial rapist that he and the other four officers of the Street Crimes Unit were in search of. Officer Carroll also claimed that Amadou reached into his jacket to pull out an object that he and the other officers interpreted as a gun, then let off a bombardment of 41 bullets. The object pulled out of Amadou’s jacket was his wallet. Police spokesman and investigator Michael Collins stated that investigators did not find a weapon on Diallo’s body or at the scene of his murder.
Amadou Diallo emigrated to New York City in September 1996 from Guinea, West Africa. Diallo was a devout Muslim of the Fulani tribe from the village of Lelouma, where his mother, Kadiatou Diallo, and most of his family resided. While in the United States, Amadou resided in a community of Guineans who settled in the Soundview section of the Bronx. Described as an extremely kind, shy, and hard-working man, Diallo worked 12 hour shifts as he sold gloves,videotapes, socks, and other items on Manhattan’s 14th Street. He shared an apartment with a fellow Guinean, Momodou Kujabi, and his two cousins, Modousalieu Diallo and Abdou Rahman Diallo. Abdou stated “All he did was go to work and come home.” Amadou’s immediate goal was to obtain a degree in Computer Science, which was cut short due to his untimely death. The surrounding Guinean community responded to Amadou’s death and amongst those included his roommate, Momodou Kajubi:
Mr. Kujabi and other men from Mr. Diallo’s native country, Guinea, gathered outside his apartment building in the Soundview section of the Bronx to express quiet outrage and make grim preparations to collect his body, have it washed in the Islamic tradition and send it home.
A Hard Worker With a Gentle Smile, New York Times, Feb. 5, 1999, Amy Waldman
Immediately after the murder of Amadou, the four plainclothes officers were placed on administrative duty, while NYPD investigated the shooting. Three of the four plainclothes officers who murdered Amadou were involved in shootings at least two years prior:
Officer Boss, who has been on the police force for seven years, is under investigation in the October 1997 fatal shooting of a man who the police said was menacing people with a shotgun in front of an apartment building on Sheffield Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn. Officer Mcmellon, A five-year Police veteran, was cleared after shooting and wounding a man in East New York, Brooklyn last June. The police said the man had a loaded 9-millimeter handgun. Officer Carroll,who has also been on the force for five years, was found to have been justified in firing his gun last August on Wilson Avenue in the Bronx.
3 of the Officers Were Involved in Shootings in the Last 2 Years, New York Times, Feb. 5, 1999, Kit R. Roane
On February 8, 1999, up to 1,000 people angered by Diallo’s murder rallied in front of his home to condemn the racially charged brutal actions of the four white plainclothes officer. In attendance at the rally were community leaders, politicians, and demonstrators from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, with most of them being Black:
Most of those in the crowd were African-Americans or immigrants from countries in West Africa, who said they felt as if they had lost a brother. Professionals stood with blue-collar workers who carried homemade posters of skeletons wearing police uniforms. Retirees and college graduates pumped their fists into the air and shouted ”Black power!” And parents coaxed their children to pay attention.
1,000 Rally to Condemn Shooting of Unarmed Man By Police, New York Times, Feb. 8, 1999, Ginger Thompson
There was a sea of chants that included “No justice, no peace,” “41 bullets,” “four officers,” and “one man dead.” The protestors demanded a federal investigation for Diallo’s murder, as they cited Mayor Giuliani’s failure to condemn the officers for the murder and order their arrests: “Mamadou Ka, who came to New York five years ago from Senegal, said of Mr. Giuliani, ‘When people shoot cops, he is there, but when cops shoot people he doesn’t show up.’”
Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou rejected Mayor Giuliani’s offer for financial help in transporting his body back to Guinea from New York City, as she and her husband preferred the help of other African immigrants and relatives. Al Sharpton spoke to Kadiatou’s rejection of Giuliani’s aid:
‘I hate to blow the Mayor’s bubble here, but they are not preoccupied with the Mayor,” said Mr. Sharpton, who has taken a highly visible role in protests over the shooting. ”They are preoccupied with how they are going to deal with political injustice and how they are going to bury someone who shouldn’t be being buried.’
Slain Man’s Mother Rejects Mayor’s Aid, New York Times, Feb. 11, 1999, Blaine Harden
Workers from the Mayor’s office sent people to pick up Saikou Diallo, Amadou’s father, from Kennedy International Airport, but Saikou decided to leave with Al Sharpton and family attorney Kyle Watters. Saikou spent time in Amadou’s Bronx apartment at 1157 Wheeler Avenue.
New York City’s first Black mayor and Giuliani’s predecessor condemned Giuliani’s reaction as “woefully inadequate,” and had more criticism for the handling of the case: ”This business of, the police always are entitled to the benefit of the doubt, should not operate in every circumstance,’ Mr. Dinkins said. ‘Clearly, the fact of this put the burden on the cops to come forward and explain. The mayor should be asking that question.’” Mayor Giuliani spoke to reporters to explain that he understood the frustration surrounding the case and handling of Diallo’s murder, but stated “there is a tendency of some people in our society to blame the police in broad strokes that is just as vicious a prejudice as any other prejudice.” Mayor Giuliani would double down on his stance on the same day Amadou Diallo’s parents transported his hearse from the National Action Network on 125th Street in Harlem, surrounded by Al Sharpton, community members and angry demonstrators, to Guinea, West Africa for burial. While demonstrators chanted “no justice, no peace,” and “Giuliani must go,” Mayor Giuliani continued to defend the New York City Police Department at City Hall:
”When people in other major urban police departments want to learn about restraint,” he said at a news conference, ”they come to the city of New York and look at the things the Police Department in New York City does to teach police officers restraint, cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity. It’s not done perfectly, it will never be done perfectly, it should be done even better, but the strategies actually are working very, very effectively and almost everybody outside New York City who is in this business understands that.”
He also challenged the notion that the police are disproportionately targeting members of minority groups. When a reporter said that 85 percent of the people shot by the police in the last five years were black or Hispanic, the Mayor responded, ”But that is actually less than the number that are actually shot in society.”
Parents Fly Back to Africa With Body of Son Killed By Police, New York Times, Feb. 15, 1999, Paul Zielbauer
Mayor Giuliani also deflected with a “Black-on-Black crime” argument: “There are more shootings involving black victims and black shooters as a percentage than there are of police officers doing it. So I know those are difficult facts for people to deal with but what we should be about in government and what you should be about in the media is leading people to the truth, not to reinforcing biases and prejudices.”
On February 25, 1999, all four officers were acquitted of all charges for their participation in the murder of Amadou Diallo by a jury in Albany. Diallo’s parent, Saikou and Kadiatou, were described as quiet upon hearing the verdict, with Kadiatou moved to tears as they swiftly left the courtroom. After the acquittal, the lawyers who represented the officers blamed Diallo for his murder and the excessive amount of bullets fired on his “suspicious behavior” and supposed failure to follow orders; rather than the racial profiling, excessive force and abuse of power displayed by the officers.
While Mayor Giuliani, the Bronx District Attorney, and the lawyers for the officers praised the “fair trial” while acknowledging “the mistakes,” former Mayor David Dinkins condemned the acquittal as he stated that ”this will send the wrong message to those members of the Street Crime Unit who walk around saying, ‘We own the night,’ ” and Al Sharpton’s claims that there would be a push for the Justice Department to bring a federal civil rights case. Kadiatou Diallo gave a statement outside of the courthouse: ‘I ask for your calm and prayers.” She added, ”As we go on for the quest of justice, life, equality — I thank you all.”
In 2004, Diallo’s family settled the civil lawsuit against New York City in the case of Diallo’s murder for 3 million dollars. The civil lawsuit was filed in April 2000 and initially aimed for 61 million dollars. Diallo’s family used much of the settlement to create the Amadou Diallo Foundation.
The NYPD disbanded the Street Crimes Unit which prior to Diallo’s murder came under scrutiny various times with criticisms from politicians and community members. The only officer involved in Diallo’s murder still employed with the NYPD is Kenneth Boss. Former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly expressed to Kadiatou Diallo that he would not restore a gun to Kenneth Boss, but in 2012, Kenneth Boss indeed received a fireman. Kenneth Boss briefly served as a Marine in Iraq in 2006. Boss was determined to receive a firearm back after several denials to his pleads for one. Kadiatou characterized it as a betrayal from the NYPD, especially on the part of Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Amadou Diallo’s legacy lives on through his family and the Amadou Diallo foundation at amadoudiallo.org. Amadou’s untimely death has also been honored by musical artists such as Bruce Springsteen, The Strokes, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and several others; as well as in television, movies, and writing. Diallo’s high-profile case has drawn parallels to other deaths due to police brutality and racial profiling such as Sean Bell, and the thousands of cases that occur from policing in the United States.
Dr. Thomas Matthew was an important and controversial figure in New York City during the 1960’s and 1970s, but somehow many New Yorkers haven’t heard of him. Dr. Thomas Matthew was born in a basement next to Harlem’s Knickerbocker Hospital after his mother was refused service due to her being a Black woman. Dr. Matthew’s father actually worked as a janitor at Knickerbocker Hospital. Dr. Matthew attended Bronx Science High School and Manhattan College, becoming the first Black graduate of both schools. He went on to attend to Meharry Medical College in Nashville and completed his internship at St Louis City Hospital. Dr Thomas Matthew successfully became the first Black neurosurgeon in the United States and the head of neurosurgery at Coney Island Hospital.
Aside from his wide array of accomplishments, Dr. Matthew was an activist and founded NEGRO, National Economic Growth and Reconstruction Organization. He advocated against the use of welfare programs for the advancement of Black people and pushed “Black capitalism” as the solution. 63 members of NEGRO squatted on Ellis Island which landed in a victory of the organization’s permission to develop the island as a rehabilitation center for prisoners and people with drug addiction. One of the major focal points of Dr. Matthew’s solution for Black advancement through capitalism was the creation of different businesses to employ Black people through, such as textile factories, chemical plants, and other small businesses in cities such as New York, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. Dr. Matthew would go on to found the Interfaith Hospital in Jamaica, Queens to contribute towards more jobs.
In 1967, Dr. Matthew observed the lack of public transportation in South Jamaica, Queens, the neighborhood his hospital served directly. According to Dr Matthew, 50,000 Black people in the area had to walk up to 10 blocks to reach the nearest line, then transfer to buses, and end up paying up to three fares just to get to the nearest hospitals in the area. Black patients in the area became frustrated with the complicated and costly trips to the hospital. In response to the adverse effects of this lack of convenient transportation in South Jamaica, Dr. Matthew stated “the result is that they don’t come, and they don’t get proper medical care.” Dr. Matthew began running two 1954 Ford school buses to help with community requests of additional routes, that were met with no responses from the Transit Authority and private lines in the area. The bus company only charged 20 cent fares and ran from the predominantly Black neighborhood of South Jamaica directly to Interfaith Hospital, 175-10 88th Avenue, the border of Jamaica Estates, a predominantly white neighborhood.
Dr. Matthew’s reasoning for not applying for a franchise although it was a required by the City of New York was precise and calculated: he simply did not want it to be delayed by “bureaucratic red tape:”
“Detroit is burning with $300 million worth of damage in a ‘hot’ riot, he said. “What we are in the process of doing is creating a ‘cool’ riot. The cool riot, which we purposefully undertake, is doing things that will be productive for our group and all society, but couldn’t be done through bureaucratic red tape.”
Negro Surgeon Starts Bus In Line Without Franchise, New York Times, November 2, 1967
Reporters reached out to Morris Tarshis, the Director of Franchises for New York City, but he was never reached. A representative of the Transit Authority said an application submitted by Dr. Matthew for his franchise, would most likely be discarded to rid the city of competition. Dr. Matthew’s expectation was to be arrested at the inaugural run of his bus operation known as Blue and White bus line. Officers ignored the run of the line as Black people in the neighborhood cheered happily at the sight of the new bus line. A white shopkeeper in South Jamaica stated that he believed the Blue and White bus line would increase more traffic to businesses in the area, with a Black real estate worker also claiming that property values would rise because of it. Dr. Matthew would go on to create a Blue and White Bus Line for Black residents of the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles, California.
In 1969, Dr Matthew was sentenced to six months in prison for willful failure to file an income tax return. After serving 59 days, President Nixon granted special clemency to Dr. Matthew:
Dr. Matthew had contended that he would not contribute money to a Government whose official policy was the continuation of welfare. Since being released from prison he has paid the $9,000 cited in the indictment and says that he will pay the rest, which has been estimated at $150,000, when the Internal Revenue Service sets the amount.
NEGRO’s Tactician, New York Times, August 20, 1970
In September 1972, Interfaith Hospital lost its certification and became defunct. Later in 1973, Dr. Matthew would have yet another run in with law enforcement after being charged with 121 counts of grand larceny and conspiracy, which accused him of taking $200,000 of Medicaid funds from the Interfaith Hospital and diverting it towards several of his two projects: the Watts bus line and a drug-addiction facility in Harlem, known then as Freedom Village. Dr. Matthew acknowledged that money had been spent towards both projects, but stated it provided job opportunities for people who were treated with drug and alcohol addictions at Interfaith Hospital. These charges were announced by Queens District Attorney Thomas J. Mackell. In response to his arrest, Dr. Matthew called it a “political thing to use a popular Black man to whitewash their own problems.” After a three-week trial in October and November of 1973, Dr. Matthew was sentenced to three years in prison: “The truth will come out in the appeal,” the surgeon said. Asked how he felt about going to jail, he said, “If I have to go to prison to establish justice and equality of opportunity for Black America I’ll go.”
On March 3, 1975, an appeals court in Brooklyn reversed the 1973 conviction of Dr. Matthew: “The five-member court unanimously dismissed all 71 larceny counts in the original indictment, threw out a three-year prison sentence pending against Dr. Matthew and suggested that the case against him had been so flimsy that Justice Thomas S. Agresta, who presided, should have dropped it halfway through the trial.” Following the reversal, The Appeals Court stated “there is not one fragment of testimonial or documentary evidence to suggest that the defendant acted with larcenous intent.”
Dr. Thomas Matthew viewed his ventures as preventive medicine: ““I really think that every thing that I do is part of my practice.”
How ironic is it to see people who barely interact with Black people from the neighborhoods they’ve moved into, hang “Black Lives Matter” banners and placards from their windows? Or in front of properties and businesses that have largely ignored the Black people existing around them? Do Black lives matter when you take over the community gardens? Do Black lives matter when that old building is renovated after Black people were evicted to now house others from other cities and different class background and/or race? Do they matter when that group of men are outside loud late at night, drinking, smoking, playing dice, and you’re calling the cops on them because you won’t be able to wake up on time for your fancy job? Do Black lives matter for the people in the NYCHA complex that have no heat or hot water in the winter, dirty building conditions, infestations, and more, while you live in your beautiful apartment in a building across the street from it? Do Black lives matter when you rush to the train to go to work or to a bar or anywhere, and you see a Black person homeless and addicted to drugs?
This may strike a nerve for liberals who are only outraged by anti-Black state violence that is recorded and shared for masses across the country and world to see. An argument against this is that it may be “divisive,” that “it’s not the same,” and “at least they’re standing up for us now,” “or that gentrification is making life better for Black people.”
State violence is not only getting your ass beat and/or murdered by police. Gentrification is state violence perpetrated by local and state officials against poor Black people to “revitalize” neighborhoods that they’ve been red-lined into and economically strangled in for decades. Being pushed in and pushed out is a historical phenomenon for Black people in the United States and the diaspora; we can refer to the Middle Passage.
Again, people will say this is divisive, not the correct time to bring it up, or at least we have “allies,” but none of this can be refuted against actual research. So let the hurt feelings commence.
Let’s look at some statistics from the Furman Center:
While rents only increased modestly in the 1990s, they rose everywhere in the 2000s, most rapidly in the low-income neighborhoods surrounding central Manhattan.
Most neighborhoods in New York City regained the population they lost during the 1970s and 1980s, while the population in the average gentrifying neighborhood in 2010 was still 16 percent below its 1970 level.
One third of the housing units added in New York City from 2000 to 2010 were added in the city’s 15 gentrifying neighborhoods despite their accounting for only 26 percent of the city’s population.
Gentrifying neighborhoods experienced the fastest growth citywide in the number of college graduates, young adults, childless families, non-family households, and white residents between 1990 and 2010-2014. They saw increases in average household income while most other neighborhoods did not.
Rent burden has increased for households citywide since 2000, but particularly for low- and moderate-income households in gentrifying and non-gentrifying neighborhoods. • The share of recently available rental units affordable to low-income households declined sharply in gentrifying neighborhoods between 2000 and 2010-2014.
There was considerable variation among the sub-borough areas classified as gentrifying neighborhoods; for example, among the sub-borough areas classified as gentrifying, the change in average household income between 2000 and 2010-2014 ranged from a decrease of 16 percent to an increase of 41 percent.
This is a broad look at New York City. Now let’s look even more specifically at a neighborhood such as Bedford-Stuyvesant, widely known for its rapid gentrification. This information comes from An Economic Snapshot of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood straight from the New York State comptroller’s office:
The population in Bedford-Stuyvesant grew by 34 percent between 1980 and 2015, faster than the citywide rate of growth
In 2015, there was a wide disparity in median household incomes between new residents ($50,200) and long-term residents ($28,000).
The number of households with incomes below the federal poverty level has increased by 13 percent since the end of the recession.
The share of households that devoted more than 30 percent of their incomes to rent increased from 47 percent to 55 percent between 2005 and 2015.
Residents suffer from above-average incidences of chronic health problems.
Interesting, right? Let’s look into some more information from this publication:
Overall, more than one-quarter (29 percent) of the population had at least a bachelor’s degree. However, there was a disparity between long-term and new residents.1 In 2015, less than one-fifth of long-term residents had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with nearly half of new residents (46 percent).
An Economic Snapshot of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood
It gets even more grim in terms of housing and income. Research from the SAME PUBLICATION notes:
In addition, there is a wide disparity between long-term and new residents with respect to income. In 2015, new residents comprised one-third of the households. The new residents had a median household income of $50,200, compared to $28,000 for long-term residents. This is a relatively new development. In 2010, the household income of new residents was similar to those of long-term residents. The share of households living in poverty has hovered at about 30 percent since the end of the recession, significantly higher than the citywide poverty rate (19 percent). Moreover, the number of households in poverty increased by 13 percent from 13,800 in 2009 to 15,600 in 2015. One-third of all households receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (i.e., food stamps), compared to one-fifth citywide. There were 14,000 senior residents (defined as 65 years or older) living in the neighborhood. Most seniors are long-term residents. Their median household income is low ($25,500 in 2015), and 42 percent rely on SNAP benefits. The number of residents aged 55 to 64 rose rapidly (by 18 percent) between 2010 and 2015.
An Economic Snapshot to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood
It’s even harmed the Black children in Bed-Stuy’s school district:
Rising housing costs and low incomes have contributed to increased displacement and homelessness. Bedford-Stuyvesant has a large number of homeless shelters and other temporary housing sites. School District 16 (which covers most of the neighborhood) has one of the highest concentrations of homeless students in New York City, according to the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness
An Economic Snapshot to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood
This is just a look into New York City as a whole and a brief delve into Bed-Stuy. Think about Long Island City which is facing rapid gentrification and almost had to face an Amazon headquarters funded by New York tax payer money. Or Harlem that is facing a quick demographic shift with conditions becoming worse for long-term residents. Or the South Bronx also facing gentrification, with politicians and artists marketing Hip Hop culture as the gateway to displacement and revitalization.
What are we supposed to do with a street in every borough named “Black Lives Matter?” Sheer symbolism is a slap in the face to long-time residents that are barely living check-to-check, ignored and shunned by local and state politicians, and the new residents who treat them as outsiders. When you’re done with your photo opportunities and feel-good theatrics, your life will remain the same, as Black people who are being gentrified out are facing even worse conditions during a pandemic that has harmed them disproportionately. What about Black and Latino New Yorkers receiving more than 81 percent of social distancing summonses by the NYPD? It is not enough to have our oppression recognized and seemingly funneled into liberal politics and marketing for corporations.
Before Netflix’s “Tiger King,” that follows a white trash gay, drug-addicted, narcissistic zoo owner from Oklahoma known as Joe Exotic, his ally Doc Antle, an exotic animal zoo and sex cult owner, and his arch nemesis Carole Baskin, a “sanctuary” owner, and the unfolding of their melodrama and crimes, a Black man once reigned as the “tiger king” in a New York City Housing Authority complex.
Antoine Yates, a 31-year old cab driver from Harlem, New York, purchased Ming, an 8-week old male Bengal-Siberian hybrid tiger from the BEARCAT Hollow Animal Park in Racine, Minnesota in April 2000. Yates lived in a five-bedroom apartment in the Drew Hamilton Houses on West 141st Street with Ming. On September 30, 2003, Antoine Yates admitted himself to Harlem Hospital for what he described as a bite on the leg from a pitbull dog. Medical personnel from Harlem Hospital were suspicious of Yates’ story, attributing his bites to an animal with a huger jaw than one of a pitbull. It was later found that Antoine was bit as he tried to protect a cat from Ming’s attack.
Yates checked out of Harlem Hospital on October 3rd, and the investigation started as the New York Police Department was anonymously tipped off about Yates’ potentially housing an exotic animal. A day later, officers dramatically raided Yates’ apartment to hear the roars and see the enormous face of a 2-year old 350-pound Ming. A police sniper rappelled the side of the building to fire tranquilizer darts at Ming through a fifth-floor window of apartment 5E. Once inside Yates’ apartment, officers found a 5-foot long alligator roaming.
Ming was subdued as police officers struggled to get him down the NYCHA elevator. By the next day, Ming was sent to the Noah’s Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary in Berlin Center, Ohio and met with journalists trying to break the story.
Antoine Yates faced seven years on reckless endangerment charges. His mother, Martha Yates, also faced charges for endangering the welfare of a child she was babysitting. In 2004, Martha and Antoine reached plea agreements, which granted Antoine five years’ probation and six months of jail time. Martha’s charges were reduced to disorderly conduct and no time served.
Antoine expressed the sorrow that came with the raid of his Harlem apartment that resulted in the loss of Ming and his personal life:
”I feel hurt, torn up,” he said. ”I have lost everything: my house, the only friend I had — Ming — and I lost my honor, so that my mother could be free.”
Antoine has maintained that he shared a bond with Ming, as he fed him 20 pounds chicken parts daily, built him a sandpit and even shared his bed with him. Animal advocates and city officials condemned the ownership of big cats as pets:
Ellen Whitehouse, who runs the sanctuary where the tiger is now being kept, says all but one of the 22 tigers at her sanctuary were kept as pets, including one who was kept chained in a basement.
“There are a lot of people out there that think they can be tamed,” she said. “And they can’t. They are wild animals and wild animals can’t be tamed.”
Housing authority spokesman Howard Marder also condemned it:
“It’s under investigation,” spokesman Howard Marder said. “We were incredulous to learn that someone residing in public housing could have such disregard for the safety of his neighbors. … It’s not to be tolerated.”
Friends of Antoine supported him and lauded him as someone who deeply cared for Ming:
Jerome Applewhite, 43, who lives on the 18th floor, first encountered Ming about three years ago, when he stopped at the apartment for a visit and saw Mr. Yates sitting with the tiger cub cradled in his arms.”
He was feeding it with a bottle,” Mr. Applewhite said. ”He cared for his pets.”
Some even suggested he treated Ming better than those at the Bronx Zoo:
Darryl Windwood, a childhood friend of Mr. Yates, said any punishment seemed excessive. ”He was unjustly done,” said Mr. Windwood. ”He wasn’t being cruel to his tiger. The tiger was healthier than some animals at the Bronx Zoo.”
In February 2019, Ming reportedly had a harmonious ceremony with his cremated remains sent to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, with a beautiful memoriam.
Antoine Yates and Ming’s story is one that has become city lore, a story that doesn’t seem odd or an anomaly in a city such as New York.
Rest in peace, Ming and much peace to Antoine Yates.
The Grand Concourse, one of the Bronx’s most famous thoroughfares, has gone through a tremendous transformation in terms of class character and race in over a century. Conceived by French engineer Louis Aloys Risse in 1870, the Grand Concourse was built between the years of 1902 and 1909. It extended only as far as 161st Street until a widened portion of Mott Avenue was included. As the Grand Concourse became a prime location for government, entertainment and shopping centers, the main route for parades and a plethora of other events and commercial buildings, it attracted wealthy residents. The Interborough Rapid Transit, also known as the IRT, was the gateway that would allow people to move from Manhattan to the Bronx’s Grand Concourse. The IRT Jerome Avenue line opened in 1917 and allowed for a housing boom amongst wealthy Jews and Italians who fled the tenements of Manhattan.
By the 1950s, the racial demographics of the Grand Concourse started to transform. Blacks and Puerto Ricans gradually began their migration from the hoods of Morrisania and South Bronx to the north and west, in search of better living conditions on the white, wealthy, maintained avenues parallel to the Concourse: “A recent study by a social service agency predicted that the area, 98 percent white in 1950, would be less than 50 percent white in 1975.” With this emergence of Black residents in the area, the white residents started to seek elsewhere as their presence on the Grand Concourse declined swifter than imagined:
The builders of Co-Op City, a 15,000-unit middle-income development planned for the Northeast Bronx, have reported that a ‘sizable’ number of their first 5,000 applications came from the Concourse area.
This report paired with the numbers of whites who fled the Concourse, city officials feared that the area was on a decline and wanted to save the Concourse, “not as a white preserve, but as a stable, integrated community.” Whether the city officials actually were for integration or not, they definitely sought to keep the neighborhood from deterioration due to white flight:
Thirty building inspectors are thoroughly examining an area four blocks on either side of the Concourse from 138th Street to Burnside Avenue. The area from Tremont Avenue just south of Burnside at 177th Street to Fordham Road will receive city and Federal aid for rehabilitation and new construction under the low-rent public housing programs.
The white flight of the Grand Concourse began with white families who sought “better areas” to raise children in, elders who retired to Florida and adults raised in the area as children who sought to break from the area’s bourgeois character. With the loss of residents, vacancies occurred at a rapid rate. Rather than losing out on money from vacancies, the landlords decided to rent to Black people: “The landlords decided to accept Negroes rather than vacancies,” said a real estate man.”
City officials claimed they did not believe that Black people’s move into the Grand Concourse area caused the area to deteriorate but that the reaction to the Black migration produced reactions that lead to decline: “People have become afraid simply because there is change,” said one official, “and it is intensified if the change is also racial.” Whether the officials believed that Black migration into predominantly white neighborhoods directly caused the areas to collapse, the officials openly admitted to the racist reactions from long-time white residents. The acceleration of Black migrants to the concourse area led to building managers’ careless approach to maintenance. Sanitation workers, police protection and recreational facilities grew unreliable to the community.
The flight led the Grand Concourse to become susceptible to predators that suddenly appeared in the area to play on the fears of racist white residents to employ the use of blockbusting. These same predators exploited poor Black families :
“When someone dies they move in an undesirable family, one on welfare with three kids in a bedroom. They cut services to the bone. Less stable families come in, sometimes several in one apartment so they can pay the rent, which of course goes up 15 percent.” – Aide to Representative James H. Scheuer
Racist white residents chose who were the “acceptable” and unacceptable Blacks in their eyes: the acceptable Blacks were “the new neighbors who can afford the rent in their buildings,” but the poor Blacks from the ghettos from the east and south were a problem: “There is no wall between us and the slums.” The residents could not separate the acceptable Blacks and the Blacks from the slums who they feared, especially at night as businesses employed the use of metal screens to guard their windows. The fear of integration with Blacks and Puerto Ricans, especially if poor, was the core of white residents’ white flight and pushback. A school teacher from the Concourse said: “for most of these parents, a good school is a white school.” Others in the neighborhood chimed in about the ongoing demographic changes to the concourse:
It’s too late to save the area. We’re not going to stop it. If Negroes and Puerto Ricans come in, there is no incentive to keep up the buildings. Maybe that’s prejudice, maybe that’s bigotry, but that’s what happens.
The quote was proven true by the city officials in the decades that came. By the 1970s, the Grand Concourse area eventually faced an era of decay due to neglect for its Black and Puerto Rican constituents, which was a trend in neighborhoods in New York City such as Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Blocks were abandoned with vacant buildings left unattended by landlords who fled the Bronx and the decay of the Grand Concourse. During the 1980s, landlords worked with private developers, tenants, and community organizations in hopes of neighborhood resurgence. On December 18, 1987, New York City officials transferred the last five vacant apartment buildings on the concourse to developers in hopes to aid a revitalization of housing needed in the area.
Present-day, the Bronx has become the subject of gentrification as politicians and developers have used its history as the birthplace of Hip Hop to market the borough as a new hot-spot. The gentrification comes with an ethnic change in the racial demographics of the Concourse that actively displaces Blacks and Puerto Ricans: “The elevated housing demand in the neighborhoods around the boulevard pushed the median home sale price to increase 68% in just 5 years—from 2014 to 2018.”
Celebrated as the most diverse place in the world, the borough of Queens has a dark history under its melting pot of nationalities.
On July 4th, 1989, a group of eight young Black family members decided to celebrate the holiday with fireworks on the Public School 195 playground on 253rd Street and 149th Avenue, in Rosedale, Queens. A 22-year-old white man by the name of Michael Sims, a former Rosedale resident, falsely posed as a police officer and demanded the group stop setting off firecrackers. Sims then proceeded to tell the group of Black youth that he can have them killed “at the snap of his fingers.” When asked for identification, Sims left and returned with a group of estimated 35 white men, wielding bats and sticks. The white supremacist mob taunted the group and said “this is our park!.” and chased the group of Black youth out of the playground.
The group of Black youth was able to retreat to a house on 254th Street where one of them, Fabrice Thembaud, was actually visiting. Unable to get inside, the white supremacist mob surrounded the house, shouted racial epithets, and pounded on the door before they ran off.
Five men apart of the white supremacist mob were arrested and indicted for the harassment and assault on the eight members of the Black family. Prior to being charged with first-degree assault and facing 15 years for a felony charge, the first arrest in the mob attack, was charged with just second-degree aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor with a punishment of only one year in jail. This charge was given to 17-year-old James La Greca, the son of the Assistant District Attorney of Queens, Linda La Greca. Theodore Wellington and Stephen G. James, lawyers for the Black family, said the charges were way too lenient and at the very least, La Greca should be charged with assault and attempted murder for using a stick on one of the victims.
Alongside the upgraded charges for the five men arrested, was police Captain Robert Cividanes’ public acknowledgment that it had been about 35 minutes between the time the police received the first 911 call about the mob attack on the Black family, and the time that the first police car was assigned to respond to the incident. Cividanes’ excuse was that the 105th Precinct “was in a backlog condition.” The Black family stated that “a police car didn’t show up for an hour or two.”
The lawyer for James La Greca proclaimed he was being treated unfairly due to being the son of the Assistant District Attorney after the charges were sharply upgraded but the prosecutor James Hubert, told Justice Charles J. Thomas that La Greca “clearly acted in concert,” with the other defendants. James Hubert also said that La Greca made incriminating statements in his testimony and to the police.
One of the five defendants, Robert Gadero, a 24-year-old from The Bronx, was found to not be a participant in the July 4th white supremacist mob attack, lessening the defendants to four in total. The four defendants, James La Greca, Gary Santanastasio, Michael Sims, and Richard De Curtis, had their bails set at prices ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, and not-guilty pleas entered by their defense lawyers.
The sentiment from the white residents of Rosedale remained on the side of support for the participants in the white supremacist mob attack:
”They’re trying to make it a Howard Beach and it has nothing to do with Howard Beach,” said Kenneth Gallub, a 22-year-old who had lived in Rosedale and had returned for a visit. He was referring to a 1986 racial attack in another Queens neighborhood in which a black man was struck and killed by a passing car as he sought to escape from a group of whites chasing him.
”It wasn’t racial,” Fran Jannello, a 20-year-old white resident of the area, insisted heatedly as she and a group of friends stood outside the yard of Public School 195 at 149th Avenue and 253d Street, the site of the incident.
Denise Zumpano, also 20, said James La Greca, a 17-year-old who lives across the street from the schoolyard and has been charged with aggravated harassment in the case, ”had nothing to do with it,” Mr. La Greca was the only person arrested as of last night.
– The New York Times
The white residents deflected and despised being seen as another Howard Beach. On the flipside, Black residents of Rosedale told a different narrative that contradicts and tells the truth about the reality of race-relations in Rosedale:
“Black residents of the area interviewed as they stopped by the schoolyard said they had not witnessed the incident, but spoke of the sometimes uneasy proximity in which whites and blacks lived in Rosedale, a working-class and middle-class community of predominantly private homes, which lies along the Nassau County border.
”When a black moves in, you can feel the tension,” said Harold Weekes, a 36-year old employee of a car-rental agency who also lives down the block from the schoolyard. ”People stand around and point.”
– The New York Times
Despite Queens and New York City as a whole being seen as a melting pot multiracial paradise, the history of race relations needs to be examined and not swept under the rug. As white people fled neighborhoods due to the rise of Black and other ethnicities moved in, they continued to engage in violent acts such as the mob attack in Rosedale, Queens to strike fear in the hearts of non-whites who dared to move in “their neighborhoods.”
Usually, when horrorcore is a topic in rap discussions, lyricists such as Brotha Lynch Hung, Geto Boys, Three 6 Mafia, and even Eminem are the subjects; and rightfully so. Defined perfectly by The Michigan Daily:
Marked by harsh, aggressive beats and over-the-top depictions of taboo subjects, horrorcore is hip hop’s foray into the supernatural. Often it was an outlet for their twisted fantasies. Drug abuse, slasher-style murder, mental derangement, and satanic messages all found a home in horrorcore.
With horrorcore’s huge presence in Midwest, West Coast and South, New York’s participation and pioneering in the horrorcore subgenre can be traced back to Kool Keith and Jimmy Spencer before the term was even invented. Gravediggaz, as pioneers of horrorcore, were composed of The Undertaker, The RZArector, The Grym Reaper, and The Gatekeeper. Gravediggaz’s music was filled with themes of black humor, death, suicide, and more taboo subjects that were met with criticism by the media upon the release of their first studio album in 1994, “6 Feet Deep.”
Another pioneering group, Flatlinerz, composed of Tempest, Gravedigga and Redrum, meshed hardcore and horror to create some horrific rhymes and visuals.
Although horrorcore is largely known for its gruesome lyrics and themes that can be deemed as “cartoonish,” as the use of imagery can paint scenes straight out of a slasher flick, New York’s horrorcore often used dark realities of the poor Black experience as its “horror.” Here are a few of my favorite examples:
Big L – “Danger Zone”:
Still, one of the most creative ways to explain the horrors and ills from the poverty he experienced in Harlem. He metaphorically treats Harlem as “hell” due to all of the occurrences stemming from such poverty and placed himself first person as the “Devil’s Son.”
2. Mobb Deep – “Survival Of The Fittest”
All throughout their second album, “The Infamous,” Prodigy and Havoc explore the dark days they’ve spent throughout Queensbridge. In “Survival Of The Fittest,” the duo spit about the depression faced as they casually hustled for money, sported bulletproof vests to see another day in conditions “similar to Vietnam.”
3. Onyx- “Last Dayz”
The gritty and raspy trio from Queens which composed of Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza and Sticky Fingaz was also spitting about the dark realities of incarceration, committing crimes against their own, and wishing for riches.
4. DMX – “Damien” trilogy
DMX’s Damien trilogy starts in his debut album, “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot,” continues as “The Omen” featuring Marilyn Manson in “Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood,” and finishes as “Damien 3” in “The Great Depression” album. DMX commits acts of violence for Damien, a character that symbolizes the devil, in exchange for fame and fortune, even being convinced to shoot a friend. The Damien character references the movie “The Omen.”
New York horrorcore has proven that life’s ills create some of the scariest realities that one could imagine, and laying it on wax gives listeners the chance to hear the horros for themselves.