Southside Angel- My Journey through Prostitution, Addiction, and Abuse
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Ivey's life was mostly on the streets, interacting regularly with black and white drug users, dealers and thieves just as his elders had done. Like many of the young black men Ivey got to know on the streets and while locked up, no one either in the system or on the outside tried or seemed to know how to help him choose a different route than crime.
It was just assumed that his life was worthless and hopeless. By then, his parents were fully beholden to their crack addictions. Ivey had been on the honor roll until middle school, he says, and he was talented, even helping lead a rock band, Silent Threat, for a while. He was and is funny and personable, but had no sense he could become more than his parents or escape the hamster wheel that is generational poverty that, in turn, too often leads to addiction.
Ivey had no mentors, no former criminals trying to tell him to do right, no nonprofit trying to get him back into school or to work on his GED.
He once had good grades, but that had gone to hell after all the pretend gang obsession and his tasting drugs for the first time. An actual job wasn't something he considered, nor even getting a driver's license. He wouldn't have known how. Life in the Ivey household was constant parties and cookouts, bouncing from the highs and lows of addiction. Ivey did have some carpentry skills his father had taught him when he was a kid, and he would pick up a day construction gig here or there, but like his father, he used the money mostly for drugs.
His and Danny's only respite, when they had nothing to eat or no bed that night, was to go to their Aunt Peggy's house, in a brick rancher in South Jackson that he still points to fondly while driving by it long past her death. There, the boys would watch their uncle, Russell, pass out every night in his recliner in an opioid haze. Along with Dennington, his brother and many like them, Benny Ivey was a kid without a future. No one could, or would, do anything to change that for many years.
On a driving tour of his old haunts in November , Ivey pointed to a house on Paden Street, near the Southside Assembly of God church, where he kicked the door in and robbed it one day. It was the house burglary—out of around —that got him sent to the juvenile detention center and then the Columbia training school, back before lawsuits led to reform of the abuse-filled facilities with putrid conditions.
The youth facilities provided no real education, counseling, mentoring or efforts at rehabilitation then, just as prison never would later. Ivey faced increasing trauma through his teenage years in the s as his meth addiction and the burglaries he committed to feed it kept him spiraling through a dark abyss that juvenile detention and training school—that brought no actual training—made worse.
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By , he was 21 and living in a South Jackson rental off Old McDowell Road Extension with his young first wife and other meth heads. One of them was his best friend Jimmy, who one day decided to kill himself with Ivey's gun, right in front of him. He lost any remaining control after that, Ivey says.
After he was charged with aggravated assault for "punkin'-heading" a man at a party, breaking his jaw, and then more robberies, Ivey went to the Hinds County Jail before moving to prison. When Ivey met True Love and friends in jail in , he was relieved to discover a brotherhood that understood a redneck like him—his word—and would have his back. His mother didn't have transportation to visit, and he was alone behind bars. The Royals, a national street gang that originated in Chicago in the s and has grown in Rankin County and Mississippi in recent decades, convinced Ivey they could improve his life; like many, he was attracted to the gang from an unstructured life without positive adult influences.
After several months, Ivey was moved to the neighboring Rankin County jail to be processed, alongside True Love and friends, for prison on the burglary charge. By then, he had learned that the Royals were allied with the storied Black Gangster Disciples, another Chicago gang originally started by Larry Hoover, a man born in Jackson, Miss.
As guards watched in the jail, he says, allied Gangster Disciples and Royals moved to one side of the communal zone, and several held up a sheet to block the view. They backed Ivey into a wall. He vowed loyalty "to the death" and to keep Royals rules confidential. Gangsters punched him hard in the chest 12 times—called "catching the gap. Getting "blessed in" to a gang, as Ivey calls it, is not only the initiation, but the mindset of new members like Ivey who are finally part of something bigger than their miserable lives.
Gang members do not usually step down to the life from a structured reality with positive adult influences. They tend to step up into the group from the depths of trauma or abandonment—like watching parents smoke crack or your best friend blow his head off with your gun. The Greene County prison, he says, was filled with gangsters protecting their own and their allies. Behind bars, it takes a village to stay alive and avoid physical and sexual assault. He also did illicit drugs every day in prison. During that two-year bid and soon another two at the Mississippi Penitentiary at Parchman for violating probation, Ivey took the title of Central Mississippi regional captain and then returned home to organize the Royal nation from Rankin County.
Like Ivey, many members suffered from addictions or were the children of addicts, including alcoholics, living life day-to-day, from one high to another. That was the farthest thing from my mind. It was the structure thing, the brotherhood. I had their backs, they had mine, no matter what. Ivey's Royals didn't sell dope as an organization, he said, although many of them sold it to support their own addictions, as he certainly did. By , Ivey ran the gang from Rankin County trailer park where a mother of two called "Spirit"—Thomasa Massey—lived and helped run gang operations.
If they did not repay the money, or violated other rules, other Royals could "smash" beat them. Ivey believed his members needed family gatherings. His first outdoor rally of Royals was in May at the Barnett Reservoir north of Jackson, but moved it south after residents up there complained. Later, he hosted an even bigger gathering in a West Jackson parking lot.
An old photo shows about white men, and a few women, with Ivey beaming front and center. They drank beer and did business. Some Royals were tagging property over in Rankin County. Stop that," Ivey says. He made two members who had jumped a guy in a bar each fight two brothers at the same time. But Ivey's newfound family would not last. By late , some of his members were beefing, which turned into violence—most gang violence in the U.
Then 32, his ERS—freedom due to "earned release"—was revoked due to gang activity, and he was sent to the private Delta Correctional Facility, which was notorious for gang activity and violence. There, he gathered Royals in the yard and told them the feds were after him.
Ivey had his six-point tattoos covered, but left the large Royal shield on his shin, inking "retired" under it. I thought I was doing something. I wasn't doing nothing but prolonging my miserable existence. In , Randy Adams was sitting in a waiting room with his life flashing in front of his eyes when an angel appeared next to him.
Pearl native Randy Adams was almost sent away for 30 years for dealing meth, but rehab saved him. He then did the same thing for Benny Ivey and other addicts. Then 39, Adams was facing 30 years in prison for dealing meth. The Pearl native had worked as a truck driver since he was about 20, soon doing the drug to help him stay awake on long hauls between Mississippi and California. He had been smoking pot since his early teens, so illicit substances weren't new to him.
He soon started buying meth in California and bringing it back to his home state to deal even as his first wife and three daughters waited at home. He got away with it for years, but was finally caught up in an undercover sting, bolstered by audio and video from a truck stop.
He was changed with transfer of controlled substance. But he was sitting outside the courtroom awaiting his sentencing when that angel appeared in the form of Brenda Mathis, program director of the Hinds County Circuit Drug Court. Without him knowing who she was, Mathis just started talking to him, and he told her his whole story. She must've liked what she heard because she soon asked if wanted to attend drug court instead of getting locked up. Hinds Circuit Judge William Skinner approved, and Adams got out of jail, and deputies took him to Common Bond Recovery Center, then a drug-rehabilitation center in South Jackson, in shackles and chains He was under court order to complete 30 days of treatment.
At the point he could leave, though, he decided to stay longer. Because the counseling was so effective, Adams started studying it himself. He went on to get a degree in counseling from Jackson State University, and Common Bond hired him as a counselor.
He worked his way up to admission director and then executive director, wanting to help others like himself. At his home, Adams knocked on his own chest, choked up. Ivey had left Delta Correctional not a gangster, but still an addict. He soon got busted again for driving a woman to a drug deal which he says he didn't know was happening.
At this point, Ivey was 34 and sitting in jail in a state of despair, sick of his years of crime and addiction, but with no idea how to leave it. He had never even had a driver's license, much less a real job. All I knew was dope and gangs, that's all I ever cared about. But I was tired of it, man. She was already a recovering drug addict. Adams remembers first meeting Ivey in the jail and how disgusted he was with his own life choices, as Ivey broke down crying in front of him: There, Ivey worked out, prayed and wrote his story with pen and paper for eight months, as he explained in detail while standing in the parking lot pointing to now boarded-up buildings of the rehab that changed his life.
It later closed due to lack of funding, Adams said. Ivey also met his now-wife, then Kristina Arnold, there as she was visiting someone else. He used his charm on her; she by then was a former addict herself, and she had a young daughter and was suspicious of his past. He and Kristina got married, and he adopted her daughter, now 12, on Valentine's Day Ivey's trajectory had definitely shifted upward since Common Bond: He became a partner in the plumbing business when one of the partners died, lifting his income.
And the couple found a 2,square-foot home on what he now calls "Ivey Hill" in Florence. It was a mess, but he used remodeling skills his father had taught him to fix it up. He and Kristina work out in the garage where he used to have a Confederate flag on the wall—as a sign of rebellion against Yankees who belittle southerners, he said—until photographer Imani Khayyam visited. Since I published a story about Ivey and white gangs in The Guardian in April , his life has made yet another turn.
Due to his life of crime, Ivey has longed to be what is commonly called a "credible messenger" in the violence-prevention world —using his story and experiences to deter young people from making the same mistakes. And now it is happening: Ivey is determined to cross race lines to help deter crime, especially since he grew up knowing that the same forces lead to crime along race lines, especially poverty and addiction. He and Kristina showed up at Jackson City Hall in early June for a meeting about crime, telling his story about stabbing the crack dealer on Marsalis Lane to a mostly black audience.
He also met with A. Mitchell, who leads anti-violence work in New York City and whom Mayor Chokwe Lumumba had invited to Jackson to consult on crime issues. The two bonded as they brainstormed ideas for what would help people returning from prison to re-integrate into healthy lives without re-offending.
Hank Vandenburgh (Author of Southside Angel- My Journey through Prostitution, Addiction, and Abuse)
Ivey is also working with Ronnie Crudup Jr. Facebook is a pulpit for Ivey's ministry, drawing comments from former gang members who are cheering him on and telling him to hurry and publish his damn book because they'll buy it. On June 20, Ivey posted on Facebook that he had run into a former Aryan Brotherhood member who told him, "Yeah, I don't associate anymore, but I'm still white. And Jesus wasn't white, so I don't care nothin' about race. Ivey posted that he then added: I don't wanna hear it lol.
At the June people's assembly at New Horizon Church on Ellis Avenue, Ivey was one of a few white faces in the packed room of people brainstorming solutions to crime. They sat arm-to-arm, using colored markers to earnestly fill big stickies with suggestions. Then they stood together to report out to the group. Photo of Zeakyy Harrington by Imani Khayyam. Integrate into society with sponsored employers," Ivey suggested. Transition meetings to go to upon release Knight, a black man who stands about a foot taller, jumped in to finish Ivey's sentence: Walking sometimes 10 miles during the course of a four-hour patrol, Angels even crossed the Sacramento River into neighboring Yolo County to patrol what were then the communities of Bend and Brite, now incorporated into West Sacramento.
The Crips were identified by blue rags hanging from their pockets; their rival gang, the Bloods , did the same thing but used red rags. Since the uniform of the Guardian Angels is a red and white T-shirt, the Crips at the time considered them enemies while the Bloods saw them as weak fakes of their own gang. On occasion, the Sacramento Chapter patrols used cars to reach areas that were too far to walk, and several times the Sacramento Chapter was called into service in other cities, helping launch the chapter in Stockton CA.
They traveled as far away as Los Angeles, where with the local chapter they officially assisted the police with crowd control during the Rose Parade. The Guardian Angels were mostly greeted favorably in the city, and sought out by the media to comment on crime and local issues.
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Press conferences were held during the tense time before Eric Royce Leonard , dubbed the "Thrill Killer", was arrested in ; and during the controversial Sacramento debut of Colors about the Bloods and Crips. Because of the stance of the Guardian Angels in response to Leonard's murders of three Round Table Pizza employees, the Old Sacramento restaurant offered free dinner for one patrol every Saturday and Sunday night.
The Tampa Bay region of Florida has always been an active area within the group's history. There have been 2 chapters serving the Tampa Bay area since the group was founded. In the first Tampa chapter was established but lasted until A second chapter was established in The Guardian Angels have been active in Orlando, Florida due to the increase in murder and crime rates. Residents of nearby Brockton, Massachusetts launched a chapter in March in response to a rise in street violence, and they were quickly able to build a working relationship with the city's police chief.
In , they started recruiting in Kansas City, Missouri , and a chapter was started with five Guardian Angels in October In , they started recruiting in Portland, Oregon. After being told by the National Training Director that they had to make 3 arrests per month, the chapter asked about this new directive and at that time was told they never even had a chapter, despite reports to the contrary; the Kansas City chapter soon disbanded and now patrol their city on their own from vehicles seeking persons of interest and criminal activity.
Constant fears about street crime led one US Congressman to invite the Guardian Angels to open a chapter in Cleveland. They made 2 arrests and helped police to apprehend 13 people. They disbanded in but a new chapter was formed in and is still active today. A chapter was formed in Bucyrus, Ohio in A community once overtaken by crime and drugs now empowered and thriving.
In , the Washington, DC chapter announced they would increase their presence on the DC Metro System following an increase in violent crime. A local organization of the Guardian Angels was formed in Japan in The Guardian Angels Japan has chapters in most of the major cities and is second only to America in membership and activities. The Guardian Angels concept faced opposition in Japan, but Oda succeeded in convincing Japanese officials that the organization would be run by Japanese members for the Japanese people [ citation needed ] , and the principles of the organization were not just American but universal.
Official acceptance culminated with a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in The Guardian Angels were the first community organization in Japan to be awarded non-profit status. A chapter of the Guardian Angels was established in the State of Israel. The Guardian Angels Israel is led by Jill Shames a social activist and martial artist who had migrated there.
Guardian Angels Israel has completed a few Safety Patrols but primarily works with at risk youth in the Jewish Ethiopian Falasha immigrant population. In London, the Guardian Angels have been active since ; by their numbers had dwindled to a group of around In the United Kingdom , the law requires that people use only "reasonable force" as appropriate to the situation, which leads Guardian Angel training to centre on using the minimum possible force, and to only use force to prevent a dangerous situation from escalating.
All violent crimes are reported to the police, and intervention leading to citizens' arrests legal in Britain or use of force is only employed in extreme cases. Their presence in London was controversial in the first decade of existence, with press articles accusing the group of vigilantism or attempting to avoid paying for travel on the London Underground whilst wearing their colours.
In , discussion in Parliament raised the possibility of American members of the Guardian Angels being declared persona non grata owing to their presence being "not conducive to the public good", but this was rejected. The Manchester Chapter was established around and ceased operating in A Toronto , Ontario chapter was originally formed in and ran until A smaller chapter ran briefly in the Parkdale area of Toronto in — but disbanded. The " Boxing Day shooting " resulted in the death of teenager Jane Creba on a busy downtown street, and provoked renewed attention to law-and-order issues in Canada, and Curtis Sliwa stated that he had been contacted by many Torontonians interested in having a local chapter.
However, both mayor David Miller and police chief Bill Blair stated they were not interested in trying what had not worked twice before. Despite the opposition of the Mayor, community groups, and the police chief, the Toronto Chapter moved ahead. Toronto's first group of Guardian Angels hit the streets Thursday, July 13 for their inaugural patrol in the city's downtown core.
The group's official launch in Toronto came just two days after members were forced to move their graduation ceremony from a seniors residence on Dundas Street.
A Vancouver chapter was in operation as of November There was a chapter there in the early s. Some of the alumni from that group are assisting with the new chapter. An attempt to organize a chapter in Ottawa failed after the police and city refused to cooperate plus a negative reaction and lack of interest from the majority of its population. A Calgary chapter was set up, with the first group finishing its training in March A Halifax chapter is in operation as of May Recent outbreaks of violent crime in Halifax had prompted citizens to contact the Guardian Angels, urging them to start a chapter.
In January , the Guardian Angels opened its New Zealand Headquarters in Henderson, a suburb of Waitakere City west of Auckland , New Zealand's fifth-largest and largest cities respectively to be amalgamated with others into a "super-city" in Since then, Guardian Angels have also been active in South Auckland; however the activities of that Chapter have been temporarily halted for logistical purposes.
This Chapter's first official Patrol was on the following evening. Joint police programs of the Guardian Angels resulted in national awards for officers and local police stations where the Guardian Angels works. The chapter covered Southern Mindanao and recently expanded into Northern Luzon. Today, the Philippines Chapter aims to spread the program in the South East Asia region and is currently developing an independent Citizen Police Organization concept for the region. In , a chapter formed in Mexico City led by the Canadian professional wrestler Vampiro. A Guardian Angels chapter actively patrolled in Sydney in the early nineties, but disbanded after a short time.
A chapter was formed in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, in , but has yet to begin patrolling. Some school and internet-safety programs have been conducted. In a branch formed in the city of Logan in Queensland and are currently the only Australian Guardian Angels approved by the international coordinator and GA headquarters. They started patrolling local parks but have since been patrolling the streets and other public places.
Seven chapters are currently present in Italy, from east to west and north to south: Operations will be starting soon in Udine and Avezzano. The Italian Guardian Angels share the common trait of the organization in serving their communities, but a great deal of their work is focused on helping the homeless and needy elderly, in providing first aid to people in distress. Future developments involve youth programmes. The Tom Skerrit movie Fighting Back shows newsreel footage of them on one of their patrols. One of the story's protagonists is a young Angel reluctant to side with either the Angels' leadership or the subway "survivalists" looking to subvert the leadership, and is as a result spurned and beaten by both groups.
He is subsequently comforted by the Phantom Stranger , whom Moore identifies as a literal angel that neglected to take sides during the "real" War in Heaven. In season 3 of 21 Jump Street , a group of young vigilantes called the "Street Rangers", try to clean the streets of crime in a tough neighborhood. In that episode, their goal is to bring down an untouchable drug dealer , without knowing about the young undercover cops trying to convict him first.
The logo on the uniforms that the Rangers wear is inspired by the Guardian Angels' — instead of wearing red, they wear black. Traylor wore the trademark red jacket and beret of the organization, as well as their T-shirts when competing. Traylor, a former corrections officer, actually went through Guardian Angel training and was inducted into the Angels as part of the gimmick. The Guardian Angels are featured in a FirstRun. In the first episode, Curtis Sliwa opens the series, and it follows the Philadelphia Guardian Angels spread information about a neighborhood rapist and make a drug bust.