We spoke to ex-gang leader, Solomon â€œChessmonâ€ Montague and former drug lord Rudy Williams regarding violence in America and the recent rulings that has spurred a racial dialogue across the country.
Williams is currently serving 130 years plus life in prison, and since being incarcerated has devoted his life to speaking out against the genocidal trap that is gang violence. Montague was one of the core leaders of Chicagoâ€™s Vicelordâ€™s street gang and has been sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison. Montague is a writer and hopes to positively uplift the culture by sharing his stories and past experiences with the worldâ€™s cruelest gangâ€™s.
Have you been surprised by the protests and riots that emerged after the Ferguson Grand Jury ruling?
Solomon â€œChessmonâ€ Montague (S): No I’m not surprised.These types of incidents have been going on since I can remember. Society is wondering why street gangs are flooding this country like cockroaches! Every real leader that ever made a stand for the minority was either murdered or wrongfully imprisoned! The riots & protests are avenues to release anger & frustration.
Media has been an important component in this case often painting Mike Brown as a larger than life criminal. When we see gang violence in the media, in news, television and film, we are left with a similar superhero complex. How does this image contribute to gang culture both in the minds of its member and from the outside viewing public?
(S):Â The gang culture looks at this as a “win” for them-it’sÂ the perfect opportunity to get media exposure. They believe theÂ entire system is crooked. So when incidents like this happens, they stick out their chests & shout-“We told you!”Â The outside viewing public in my opinion sees it like a jungle full of dangerous animals until the drama hits them or family members.
Rudy Williams (R): Glorification of senseless violence to puerile minds, in the first instance.
America has a long history of police brutality against minorities. Do you think police brutality further perpetuates a violent culture within communities who feel wronged by the people who are supposed to protect them?
(S): Personally, I’ve heard police say, â€We have the biggest gang in the city!” I’m from Chicago, arguably the gang capitol. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the mindset of police all over the Country. However, I think violent criminals have set the tone for most police brutality. Go back to the roaring 20’s when criminal gangs used brutal tactics & fully automatic machine guns to further their objectives; & if they had to, they would use them on law-enforcement. As opposed to the “friendly” cop walking the beat with a night sick & a standard issued 38 revolver. And it makes it worse when the police see the communities turn on each-other i.e. (snitching, domestic violence, rape, & the senseless killings of innocent children etc…) However! out of all the madness that goes on, I’ve seen officers risk their lives to protect people from urban communities.
(R): Yea, black-on-black violence is a form of “ego compensation” in response to police violence. Big fish eat little fish and little fish eat whatâ€™s left.
News recently came out that there will be no indictment in the Erica Garner case in Staten Island. Video footage has been released of the police brutality. Do you think increased video footage required on officers will decrease these kind of incidents?
(S): No, I don’t think increased video footage on police will decrease these kinds of incidents. How many times have we seen evidence of police being caught with their hands in the “cookie jarâ€? Police brutality is like the crack cocaine in an EPIDEMIC! Congress slammed the hammer on crack dealers in the 1980’s & 90’s with the 100-to-1 ratio. The judges were giving out mandatory sentences including life like candy on Halloween. Congress has to do the same with these cases of police brutality. I received life plus a 30 year sentence for crack cocaine, I’ve been incarcerated since 1997 & I woke up quick!
(R): Absolutely not. History has shown time and time again that the police is a colonial occupation force with a license to kill in poor nonwhite neighborhoods. Let’s be brutally honest here:Â the government and the ruling class have always waged an undeclared war on the under classes — red, white, black or blue — through divide and conquer, and the first casualties of war are the facts and the truth, aka Rodney King. We live in a modern technocratic-nihilistic-economic-tyrannical neon jungle, plain and simple. For a better term, call it Oz.
In your opinion what do you think feeds the attraction to gang culture in underprivileged environments? What sustains this violent culture and why?
(S): The gang culture feeds off anything that goes against the “system.” The system has been rearing it’s ugly head since slavery-look at the KKK, the Mafia, Bumpy Johnson etc… Gang members learned the blue print from them! Look at the Black Panther Party who were really trying to clean up the communities, and the feds tore them apart. This is one of the major reasons urban communities don’t trust police. This Country was built on fear, violence & corruption. Why change something that’s been laid down for centuries? Why? because they see immediate results.
(R): Media propaganda, promotion and perpetuation.
Do you think the prison system thrives off the criminalization of minority youths? How do you view the systemic prison cultures in America from a racial standpoint? Penalties, sentences, trials etc.?
(S): I do believe the prison system thrives off the criminalization of minority youths. When I was coming up & I know this may sound crazy, but it was considered a badge of honor to go to prison. Everyone I knew became a punk or a solider. The judges, prosecutors, & public defenders teamed up, forcing the defendant to plea-bargain/cop-out. It’s all about mass incarceration & bleeding the tax payers out of their hard earned money. From a racial stand point, itâ€™s sad! It’s all about convict the minority & throw away the key. And free their counterparts at all costs! Even at the expense of rioting & looting.
Why has it been an important part of your life and rehabilitation to educate youth and tell your story?
What is the hardest part in educating young minority males against violence?
(S): It’s been an important factor in my life & rehabilitation to educate youth & tell my story because-first I had to get right with GOD! This life sentence had crushed me. They can’t see the consequences because the drugs, fast money, big booty girls, & the fake image of these so called gangster rappers has clouded their minds. Many of the youth know of my past & consider me as an “O.G.” or an uncle figure. Since I’m here with them, they witness my spiritual walk first hand. It’s all about having a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE. Now when they see these fake gangster rappers (who care nothing about them!) then look at me (someone who does care & I’ve been where they’ve been.) They see the difference & the light begins to turn on in their confused & troubled minds. The hardest part in educating young minority males against violence is that all their lives they’ve been taught violence is their only way to survive. It starts in the household with domestic violence, then on TV, and then on the streets where they get the chance to participate in violent activities. Many of them got beat into their respective gangs, and this was part of their initiation called, being “jumped in.” This is what I’m up against everyday. I called it being “SPIRITUALLY DEADâ€! Somebody’s got to do it & I love the challenge!
(R): A realization of a basic spiritual love and respect for self and life in general, and genuine human dignity.