2012-03-24 08:00:00

Can a Drug Dealer Be a Saint?

Ed. Note: It is dangerous to be young and black, male, and perhaps so brave the world will see you as cocky. When Rory Jones, a young black man was murdered in San Francisco, he was "just another" young black man killed by another. Throughout America, there is no more common story. But this man who broke the law was also a man of integrity; this man who had enemies also cared for his mother and was loved by his brother.

On January nineteenth, I lost my younger brother and closest friend, Rory Jones, 31, to a senseless act of violence in the Bayview/Hunters Point -- the San Francisco neighborhood that was also our community, where we were born and raised. My brother loved Bayview/Hunter's Point almost too much.

My siblings and I were the children of a drug-addicted, mentally ill mother, and an irresponsible, selfish, and abusive, drug-addicted father. Drugs, sex and guns were rampant in our childhood and adolescence -- the late eighties and early nineties. Oh, and the abject poverty! The one constant, the one assurance that has been in my life, no matter who I lived with, or where, was my little brother Rory. His one constant, the one assurance that was there for him, that he knew would always be there when he needed it, was Hunters Point.

Iʼve written before about becoming homeless at seventeen, thrown out of our "home" by my father and being uncared for by my mother--a homeless schizophrenic. That was the day I became a drug dealer.

Roryʼs day came less than a year later, just after his fourteenth birthday. He arrived home and was informed by our father that the rent hadnʼt been paid in over six months and that the family would be evicted in a matter of days. Rory should “find someplace to live.” What our father meant though, was, “Youʼre a man now son, goodbye and good luck!”

Rory knew that anyone who cared about us and/or had room enough had already taken in one or more of our younger siblings. Rory, being the man he was (even at fourteen) took abandonment in stride. Within two weeks he had a car, and a room that he shared with our mother. Because he was so serious about taking care of himself and our mother, he was serious about his money. Quickly, he gained quite a reputation around the hood as a young hustler.

Dice, drugs, stolen goods -- my brother dabbled in it all. He had met a girl and fallen in love by the time he was sixteen and had fathered his first son, Rory Jr. at seventeen years of age. His motivation to provide for his family increased like a fever. In no time at all, his reputation grew, and so did the jealousy and hatred of rivals.

My brother was never as violent as the men and boys who hated him. He always played the game straight. And though his life was in the criminal/drug world he never really even considered himself in any real danger until eventually someone shot him while he was playing a dice game. He had done nothing to the kid who shot him to deserve it, and though he knew his assailant's name, refused to snitch on him. After wrestling the gun from him, he let the kid go.

My point is, yes, my brother was a drug dealer. But he was also one of the smartest, funniest, kindest, and responsible people I have ever met. He had ethics. He also had a sense of upward mobility. By the time 2005 arrived he was making regular car payments on a Chrysler 300, and a Dodge Charger, annoyed and amused at the attention his cars garnered. He also moved out of the hood (a cardinal sin to most haters) to a suburb of San Francisco.

In December of that year, on his eldest sonʼs birthday, his new home was raided. He was living in Brisbane in an apartment that only close family and friends knew about. During the court case, it was revealed that someone he knew had snitched on him.

He did nearly three years for that case and never once cracked the seal on his paperwork to see who told on him. When he told me this I asked him why, and he said it was because he didnʼt wanʼt to know, because if he knew heʼd want to hurt the person responsible.

He hoped theyʼd gotten all of the hatred out of their system, he said, but he wasnʼt a fool. Violence cut the number of people he ran with by over half.

Upon returning home from jail he became my motherʼs in home care provider, which was perfect because it meant he got paid for taking care of our mother, something heʼd been doing since he was fourteen years old. He was also just as likely to be seen at a casino, or cardhouse playing blackjack as standing on the street corner. Which is what hurts me most about his murder.

He knew that there were "niggas" who wanted him out of the way, so he was slowly making his exit. He only hustled at night, part-time to supplement his wifeʼs income. During the day he was an at-home dad, caring for his then eight month old daughter.

Being an at-home father for years myself, he would regularly call me to get parental advice when the baby was sick, or wouldnʼt sleep. I would also frequently bring my son over to his house and spend the day with him and my niece. Weʼd play video games, watch music videos, movies, listen to music, or just talk about our dreams and goals -- like our family finally making it out of the game, seeing our kidsʼ college graduations, and putting ourselves in positions to help our younger siblings and nieces and nephews accomplish whatever goal they set their hearts to.

Those dreams, goals, and his children have now all been left to me. And I will see them come to fruition, unless someone kills me first.

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