Crack: The Drug That Consumed The Nation's Capital (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Crack: The Drug That Consumed The Nation's Capital (Transcript)

00:00:06 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome to "Crack, The Drug That Consumed The Nation's Capitol," a special production of WAMU 88.5 News. I'm Rebecca Sheir. Today, we're traveling back in time to the late 1980s and early 1990s, an era when crack cocaine swept into D.C.

00:00:22 UNKNOWN MAN #1

D.C. was barraged with crack. People would be lined up, like at a car wash.

00:00:28 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

An era when open-air drug markets became common in many neighborhoods.

00:00:33 UNKNOWN MAN #1

Leaving school and becoming a full-time drug dealer just seemed the way of somebody that wanted to be a future millionaire.

00:00:40 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Coming up this hour we'll look at the impact of that era, how it ravaged families and deepened a cycle of poverty and prison in some communities.

00:00:48 UNKNOWN MAN #3

The households with no leadership, no men, mothers that are addicted to drugs, that's a disastrous combination. It's a prescription for death. And that's what happened.

00:00:59 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

We'll explore the contrast between the struggling Washington of the past and the increasingly affluent city of today. We'll ask whether D.C.'s darkest days are forever behind it, and whether the shadow of that era will continue to follow us in the years to come. Jacob Fenston begins our story on September 5, 1989, when President George H. W. Bush took to the airwaves from the Oval Office to warn of what he called the gravest domestic threat facing the nation.

[soundbite of president bush]

00:01:29 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

Good evening. This is the first time since taking the oath of office that I felt an issue was so important, so threatening that it warranted talking directly with you, the American people.

00:01:40 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Gazing into the camera, the president turns and pulls out from under his desk a small plastic bag.

00:01:47 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

This is crack cocaine, seized a few days ago by drug enforcement agents in a park just across the street from the White House.

00:01:59 MR. JACOB FENSTON

The camera zooms in to show the hard white crystals.

00:02:02 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

It's as innocent-looking as candy. But it's turning our cities into battle zones.

[soundbite of music]

00:02:09 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Washington, D.C. had become the nation's murder capital, with the highest homicide rate anywhere in the country.

[soundbite of protestors]

00:02:19 MR. JACOB FENSTON

The troubled city became a punching bag in Congress.

00:02:22 SEN. PHIL GRAMM

This is the capital of the United States of America, we have to have standards here that are reflective of the country as a whole, that this is not some third-world country.

00:02:32 MR. JACOB FENSTON

President Bush announced he was renewing the war on drugs.

00:02:35 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

We can and must win that war.

[soundbite of police radios]

00:02:40 MR. JACOB FENSTON

The opening salvo would be against Washington, D.C.'s crack addiction. Bush's lieutenant would be recently-appointed drug czar.

00:02:47 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

My friend, Bill Bennett.

00:02:49 MR. BILL BENNETT

To all Americans it is a shame, and it is a cruelty for hundreds of thousands of D.C. citizens -- law-abiding citizens -- who must live with this nightmare every day of their lives.

00:03:00 MR. JACOB FENSTON

But let's back up a few years, to the early 1980s, before crack cocaine had entered the nation's lexicon. For three decades, the middle class had been fleeing Washington, leaving behind pockets of deep poverty. But now, those suburbanites were coming back -- to buy powder cocaine.

00:03:18 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

This place was the epicenter.

00:03:22 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Tony Lewis Jr. is standing outside his house on Hanover Place Northwest. It's a narrow, dead-end street on the edge of what's now D.C.'s booming NoMa neighborhood.

00:03:32 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

The way the block is set up, you can see the cops coming. You know what I mean? You can't sneak in here. I think that's what made the block so successful, the way it's positioned.

00:03:43 MR. JACOB FENSTON

When Lewis was a toddler, Hanover Place was the spot to buy cocaine. Newspapers called it the city's cocaine supermarket.

00:03:51 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

When I was little, I can't remember being able to see to the corner, it was just that many people, all the time.

00:03:57 MR. JACOB FENSTON

D.C. was hooked on coke. Between 1983 and 1985, cocaine-related emergency room visits doubled. But cocaine was still seen as an elite drug, favored by yuppies. The smallest half-gram bag cost about $50.

00:04:11 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

Cocaine, that was still an adult's world. You didn't really get too many younger guys. But when crack came, it changed things.

00:04:18 MR. JACOB FENSTON

When crack hit the streets of D.C. in 1986, suddenly you could get high for $5 or $10. Demand surged, and for street entrepreneurs, business was booming.

00:04:30 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

Even starts out with people just selling fake crack, the demand was so high. You could use drywall or soap or we even make stuff up that looked like crack, and you could sell it, just to get enough money to buy real crack.

00:04:42 MR. LAMONT CAREY

When I started dealing crack, I had just went to the 7th grade.

00:04:50 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Lamont Carey grew up across town from Lewis, in Southeast D.C. He says he learned the trade as a kid, just playing outside in his neighborhood, where drugs and cash were changing hands constantly.

00:05:02 MR. LAMONT CAREY

Sooner or later, the drug dealers that are familiar with you will say, "Hold this for me." Or they'll say, "If you see the police coming, say ooh-ooh, make some kind of sound, or say 5-0 or something." And so I was being groomed as a drug dealer without knowing that I was being groomed as a drug dealer.

00:05:24 MR. JACOB FENSTON

He came up in a world where he didn't see a lot of options. Everyone seemed to be either using drugs or selling them.

00:05:31 MR. LAMONT CAREY

Either my future's going to be the alcoholic or the junkie that hangs around the liquor store, lays up in the hallway, or my future's going to be this drug dealer, with the fancy cars, the nice clothes, and doesn't live in my community.

00:05:48 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Smoking crack produces an intense, euphoric high, but it's gone in just five or ten minutes, leaving users desperate for more.

00:05:56 MR. NAJIY SHABAZZ

The drive behind crack was so strong that you didn't care about anything else.

00:06:03 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Former addict Najiy Shabazz.

00:06:05 MR. NAJIY SHABAZZ

I cut off my family, you know, I cut off my job. Nothing was important to me, except for getting more crack.

00:06:13 MR. LAMONT CAREY

This little white, hard drug, isn't even as big as the middle of my palm, right?

00:06:20 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Lamont Carey began to despise his customers.

00:06:23 MR. LAMONT CAREY

You would have sex with me. You would sell me whatever -- your guns, your microwaves, your TV, the clothes off your back -- for this little crack. You're going to smoke it and be begging me again after five minutes. So why should I respect you?

[soundbite of music]

00:06:47 MR. JACOB FENSTON

It was a dangerous combination. Young men with nothing to lose, a lucrative black market, and thousands of illegal guns flowing into the city from nearby Maryland and Virginia.

00:06:57 MR. LAMONT CAREY

Sleep with a gun, shower with a gun next to the sink, carry a gun in the waist of my pants or in my pocket at all times.

00:07:08 MR. JACOB FENSTON

As violence mounted, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department responded with of mass arrest campaigns.

00:07:14 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

Go into the neighborhoods, do buy-busts, and make all kinds of arrests.

00:07:19 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Isaac Fulwood was police chief in the late '80s and early '90s.

00:07:23 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

We were arresting, literally, on the weekends sometimes, 800 or 900 people.

00:07:28 MR. JACOB FENSTON

In 1986, D.C. police invaded Hanover Place, where Tony Lewis lived. It was a year-long, 24-hour-a-day occupation. There was a command-center in a trailer, and a daily rotation of 60 officers patrolling the immediate area. In overtime hours alone, it cost MPD more than $2 million.

00:07:47 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

You would walk away from there and say, "Gosh, we've done all these things and yet we're still having some of the same problems." Because now the problem has moved from Hanover Place, to P Street, which is a block away.

00:08:02 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Even though Hanover Place was closed for business after 1986, the same dealers found new locations. Tony Lewis's dad, Tony Lewis Sr., was one of them. He became one of the two dealers of the city's biggest crack-dealing organization, which controlled as much as 50 or 60 percent of the local market, and could move more than 400 pounds of cocaine a week.

00:08:23 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

You know, he was drug dealer, but he was also a dad. Right?

00:08:25 MR. JACOB FENSTON

On April 15, 1989 police and federal agents arrested Tony Lewis Sr., his partner Rayful Edmond and 16 other associates. Eight-year-old Tony Lewis Jr., heard about his dad's arrest on the evening news.

00:08:39 MR. TONY LEWIS JR.

We saw him in handcuffs, like that was it. And it was everywhere, Rayful Edmond and Tony Lewis, leaders of the biggest drug network in D.C. history, arrested tonight. And he never came back home.

00:08:52 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Lewis was sentenced to life in prison. That same year, Lamont Carey went to jail, too, charged with attempted murder.

00:08:59 MR. LAMONT CAREY

I was 16, when I caught the charge, so I ended up doing total incarceration 11 years.

00:09:08 MR. JACOB FENSTON

But arresting kingpins like Lewis and street soldiers like Carey didn't seem to make a difference. New dealers stepped in to take their places, and the killings continued.

00:09:18 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

Our response is like putting a Band-Aid on a cancer.

00:09:21 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Police Chief Isaac Fulwood had been on the police force for nearly three decades. And now, the city he grew up in was coming apart under his watch. So was his family.

00:09:31 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

When I was chief, my brother got arrested for crack cocaine.

00:09:35 MR. JACOB FENSTON

His brother Theodore. When he got out of jail, he got treatment, got a job.

00:09:39 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

And he did pretty well for about three years. I used to see him every week, and we'd talk. And then one day he didn't call. And I said, "I wonder what the hell is going on?"

00:09:52 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Fulwood went looking for his brother, and finally tracked him down.

00:09:56 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

Over near Potomac Gardens.

00:09:57 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Public housing in Southeast, known as a drug market.

00:10:00 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

He ran. And I never caught back up with him.

[soundbite of music]

00:10:06 MR. JACOB FENSTON

On November 19, 1992, Fulwood's brother became the District's latest homicide victim. Fulwood resigned as police chief that fall. As police and federal officials struggled to get control of the city, their efforts were undermined by political turf battles. When President Bush's drug czar, Bill Bennett, announced his plan for tackling crack in D.C., he didn't invite Mayor Marion Barry or anyone from the local government.

00:10:35 MR. JACOB FENSTON

At the press conference, a reporter asked Bennett whether he'd even informed the mayor.

[soundbite of press conference]

00:10:40 MR. BILL BENNETT

Yes, I briefed Mayor Barry today.

00:10:43 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Much of the drug war in D.C. seemed to be staged. When President Bush addressed the nation, holding up that little plastic evidence bag…

[soundbite of president bush]

00:10:51 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

This is crack cocaine.

00:10:53 MR. JACOB FENSTON

…the drugs were a prop. The drug sting…

00:10:56 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

…in a park just across the street…

00:10:57 MR. JACOB FENSTON

…had been engineered to match the president's rousing words. A few weeks after the speech, The Washington Post reported federal drug agents had lured the dealer to the park from a different neighborhood -- he'd even needed directions, asking the undercover agents, "Where the [expletive] is the White House?"

[soundbite of music]

00:11:16 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Three blocks from the White House, at D.C.'s city hall, Mayor Marion Barry was fighting his own drug wars -- against crack dealers who were taking over city streets, but also against rumors that the mayor himself was one of their customers.

[soundbite of mayor barry]

00:11:31 MAYOR MARION BARRY

The issues is, again, not Marion Barry. It's not me personally. It's crack and violence.

00:11:38 MR. JACOB FENSTON

Elliott Francis takes the story.

00:11:45 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

By the late 1980s, Marion Barry was clearly the dominant force in D.C. city politics. He easily won a third term as mayor in 1986, and later that year launched Operation Clean Sweep, an aggressive new campaign to arrest drug dealers. But in political circles, there were persistent rumors that Barry was using cocaine.

00:12:06 MR. TOM SHERWOOD

The famous story is when Barry walked through one of the public housing projects as he often did to rail against drugs and crime and all of that.

00:12:16 MR. TOM SHERWOOD

Political reporter Tom Sherwood covered the mayor, first, for The Washington Post, and then for WRC-TV Channel 4.

00:12:22 MR. TOM SHERWOOD

Some of the people there would shout out Crackhead. And I think there was once a sign even somebody hung out of a window, Crackhead mayor, or something like.

00:12:31 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

During a March 1989 presentation at the National Press Club, Barry faced questions about possible drug use.

[soundbite of mayor barry and press]

00:12:37 UNKNOWN MAN #4

How do you address charges that rumors about your own drug problem and other such allegations are impeding your ability to lead the city?

00:12:47 MAYOR MARION BARRY

Well, first of all, I don't think they impede my ability to lead the city. We have the same powers as mayor that we had two years ago, or four years ago, or six years ago. I think what's happened here, in terms of myself, I've stated unequivocally my lack of drug use, in terms of my own philosophy about it and my actions about it. And those who know me well would make the same conclusion. But I think we're also a victim of guilt by association.

00:13:13 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

Even as Barry denied using drugs, federal investigators were prepping a sting operation.

[soundbite of music]

00:13:20 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

On January 18, 1990, a former model named Hazel Diane Moore, who went by the name Rasheeda, invited Mayor Barry to the Vista International Hotel in downtown D.C. In FBI surveillance video from that night, Barry takes two drags of crack from a pipe. Federal agents quickly swarm into the room.

[soundbite of fbi video of barry arrest]

00:13:43 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

The mayor was arrested on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. At a press conference the next day, Barry said he had to look his human weaknesses straight in the eye.

[soundbite of mayor barry press conference]

00:13:53 MAYOR MARION BARRY

I've had to realize that God made Marion Barry the same as he made other people, a flesh-and-blood creation who rises and falls just like any other human being.

00:14:06 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

The news was stunning to D.C. politicians, including former Congressional Del. Walter Fauntroy.

[soundbite of rep. walter fauntroy interview]

00:14:11 REP. WALTER FAUNTROY

Let me say first that I would be less than candid if I did not admit that like so many of our citizens I am in a state of shock over the developments of last night. A shock that comes when any family member who has been told repeatedly by someone about whom he cares that he's not using drugs, finds out that that's not the case.

00:14:38 MR. STERLING TUCKER

Well, I mean, who wants their mayor to be arrested?

00:14:44 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

Sterling Tucker was D.C.'s drug czar at the time. He says Marion Barry's arrest made it a lot harder for the city government to handle the crack epidemic.

00:14:52 MR. STERLING TUCKER

It was a distraction which was going to take up a lot of time, his time and lots of other people's time.

00:14:58 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

In the weeks that followed his arrest, the mayor was indicted on 13 additional charges, including three felony perjury charges. His trial lasted 10 weeks.

[soundbite of music]

00:15:13 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

In the end, he was convicted of only one misdemeanor drug possession charge. The jury deadlocked on 12 offenses and acquitted him of another. He served six months in federal prison. Decades later, some D.C. residents continue to feel Barry was unfairly targeted by the FBI. Frank Smith served on the D.C. Council from 1982 to 1998.

00:15:37 MR. FRANK SMITH

That's the way many African Americans feel about Barry. That these people took advantage of his flawed characteristics and set him up, because they wanted to get him out of office.

00:15:49 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

Smith says he thinks history will remember Barry, who served another term as mayor after prison and is today a member of the D.C. Council, for far more than just the crack scandal.

00:15:59 MR. FRANK SMITH

So I think this is a mixed story, because one, I think in Barry's case, he does have a track record. And I think that record, just like all of our presidents and ex-presidents, when Barry's gone, the more time passes, the more people are going to appreciate what he did.

00:16:21 MR. elliott francis

WAMU made repeated requests to talk with Barry for this story, and, after several months, we were granted a brief phone interview. The former mayor declined to discuss how crack had touched his own life, but said he wished he could have done more as the city's mayor to address the epidemic.

[soundbite of barry phone interview]

00:16:37 MAYOR MARION BARRY

None of us knew a lot. We had meeting after meeting with the Conference of Mayors, what do we do about this, and nobody had any real solutions.

00:16:47 MR. elliott francis

Looking back, former Police Chief Isaac Fulwood says Marion Barry's fall was both a personal tragedy for the mayor as well as a symbol of broader problems that emerged in the 1980s and 90s.

00:16:59 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

We lost our sense of purpose, which was really crazy. And if there's anything I ever really got mad with Barry over, was the fact that this man was in the civil rights movement, and fought like hell to get blacks a fair shake. I mean, he was hell bent on that, and then the fall from the grace because of that was just unforgivable.

00:17:26 MR. ELLIOTT FRANCIS

I'm Elliott Francis.

[soundbite of music]

00:17:32 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Up next, how crack affected the District's families.

00:17:36 UNKNOWN WOMAN #1

They were looking for drugs, so they were putting holes in like the furniture. They dumped out sugar, flour, anywhere where you can hide drugs they tore it up.

00:17:46 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

You are listening to, "Crack, The Drug That Consumed The Nation's Capital," a special production of WAMU 88.5 News. I'm Rebecca Sheir.

[soundbite of music]

00:18:02 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome back to, "Crack, The Drug That Consumed The Nation's Capital," a special production of WAMU 88.5 News. I'm Rebecca Sheir. Today we're following the path that crack cocaine tore through Washington, D.C. during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was a drug that altered entire neighborhoods, wreaked havoc on many families and put tremendous pressure on schools. And as Kavitha Cardoza reports, many of the ripple effects from that time are still being felt among generations of Washingtonians.

00:18:40 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Evelyn Green is serving lunch at the N Street Village in Washington, D.C. It's a non-profit that works with women who have drug and alcohol addictions. Her journey has been a long one. She ran away from foster care in Baltimore when she was 15, and started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. Soon after that she moved to the District and was introduced to crack cocaine.

00:19:02 MS. EVELYN GREEN

That first night I got there, in the apartment building, people were smoking PCP and drinking liquor, and I fit right in. I started smoking crack around about six months later because the lady down the street gave me a pipe. And from that day, until I came into recovery the first time, I never looked back.

00:19:28 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Green was receiving approximately $300 a month in government assistance for herself and her 10-year-old daughter.

00:19:34 MS. EVELYN GREEN

Every penny that I got from my daughter's check, it was going into crack.

00:19:40 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

She was so consumed by her addiction Green says she wasn't a mother at all.

00:19:45 MS. EVELYN GREEN

I couldn't send my child to school, I couldn't make sure my child ate, went to bed, I couldn't make sure that she woke up. I stayed up all night to get high, I stayed out all day to get high. I didn't care about nobody else.

00:19:59 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Green's story is a familiar one to Schroeder Stribling, the executive director of N Street Village. Stribling says approximately 75 percent of the women she works with have been addicted to crack.

00:20:11 MS. SCHROEDER STRIBLING

Many of the women that we serve are older and they would've come of age and been in their teens and 20s during the time when the crack epidemic was really just exploding in our region.

00:20:23 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

She says staffers at N Street Village recently interviewed nearly 300 women who struggled with crack addiction.

00:20:29 MS. SCHROEDER STRIBLING

Many of them had related health and other risk variables, such as 22 percent have Hepatitis C, 17 percent are living with HIV or AIDS, and 75 percent of them are tobacco smokers.

00:20:44 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

But she says one of the most profound challenges these women have to confront is that they were not good mothers.

00:20:51 MS. SCHROEDER STRIBLING

The shame and the despair and the sadness over this is really very, very deep. The loss of those relationships is not only very painful but also obviously has an effect on our future, the future of our community.

00:21:06 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Joyce Thomas witnessed what those fractured relationships meant for the District's youngest residents. At the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, she ran the Center for Child Protection at Children's National Medical Center in D.C.

00:21:21 MS. JOYCE THOMAS

We were seeing large numbers of very unusual kinds of injuries to children that were coming to the hospital. We saw a high number of children, believe it or not, with sexually transmitted diseases.

00:21:32 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Thomas remembers a time she went on a house call with the police and found a two-year-old toddler, the child of a crack addict.

00:21:40 MS. JOYCE THOMAS

She had fractured arms, she had blunt force trauma to the abdomen, she was developmentally delayed, she was sitting in her own feces.

00:21:48 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Thomas says neglect, which she refers to as the hidden monster, was common among addicts' children.

00:21:55 MS. JOYCE THOMAS

People were going out to use drugs, leaving small children alone. Sometimes nothing happened, sometimes the house caught on fire. This is how we knew.

00:22:07 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

The craving for crack cocaine seemed to override any parental instinct. By 1989 a new trend emerged, mothers abandoning their newborns, a phenomenon that was known as the boarder baby crisis.

00:22:19 MS. JOYCE THOMAS

I had a situation I recall of a young woman who was on crack cocaine. The baby was 10 days old. She was not able to care for that baby. She had the wherewithal to leave the baby in a telephone booth. She wrote down the number of that telephone booth, left the baby there in a baby seat, went close enough distance away to see the booth, made the phone call, so the phone ringing and ringing and ringing, someone looked in the booth and saw the baby, who had been abandoned. They never did find that mother.

[soundbite of music]

00:23:01 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, fears about crack ran high. Many people worried that pregnant mothers using crack cocaine would give birth to children who had serious problems, including poor health, academic challenges, behavior issues, and that the cycle of addiction would continue. These children were dubbed crack babies and a bio-underclass in the media. But a 2010 University of Maryland review of studies found that while school children who were exposed to cocaine were negatively affected in areas such as sustained attention and behavior, there was little direct impairment in areas of growth, IQ, achievement and language.

00:23:44 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Research suggests the challenges students face are more often because of the home environment and related poverty than the drug itself. But even if the dire predictions didn't come to pass, children of addicts struggled to thrive in dysfunctional circumstances. President George H.W. Bush talked about the impact of drugs on children in his nationally televised speech in September 1989.

[soundbite of president bush]

00:24:09 PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH

Not long ago, I read a newspaper story about a little boy named Dooney who, until recently, lived in a crack house in a suburb of Washington, D.C. In Dooney's neighborhood, children don't flinch at the sound of gunfire. And when they play, they pretend to sell to each other small white rocks that they call crack.

00:24:34 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

NPR's Michele Norris wrote that newspaper story. At the time she was a reporter for The Washington Post.

00:24:40 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

My original goal was to write a story about Isabelle Field, who was Dooney Waters' teacher. And I was spending time with her in her classroom. And there was one child in particular. You just noticed him. He was just a really cute kid with a big personality. And one day we rode the bus home with him. And when we home with him and saw his community, we realized that the teachers are part of the story, but the real story is really to focus on the kids. They are the story. And that was a story that really was not being well told when Washington was in the middle of the sort of ravages of the crack epidemic.

00:25:18 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

The details of his life were just heart-stopping. He draws a stick figure of someone smoking a crack pipe. He describes how to cook crack to you. He was burned when his brother handed him a soft drink can that had been used to heat crack on the stove.

00:25:32 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

He was right in the center of the action, and he was being raised by someone who just fell totally into the rabbit hole of addiction. He could describe how to make crack cocaine because he saw people cook up rocks in the kitchen. He saw people use cocaine on a regular basis. And if you talk to most six year-olds, they could describe the process for maybe, scrambling eggs, you know, or the kinds of things that they see all the time. That was just his world.

00:26:00 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Dooney once said, "Drugs are why my mother don't take care of me." And he wrote about the drug, saying it had obliterated his mother's maternal instinct. How did the children whose parents were addicts, how did they kind of understand this world? Cause three years earlier, he had a very, kind of, I would say middle class family.

00:26:20 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

He had a total middle class life. I mean, but three years earlier, he was three years old, so, you know, it was harder for his older brother, who understood the slide into addiction, who remembered a parent who was much more attentive, who remembered a household that was filled with nice things. In some ways, Dooney was protected from that, because he was so young. You know, and the parents had interesting ways of dealing with it also. They weren't necessarily proud of where they found themselves.

00:26:49 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

They were struggling with this also. They had a monkey on their back.

00:26:53 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

I interviewed several children of women who used to be addicts, and they talk about how school was often a refuge from the chaos at home. Some children have parents who overdose, some were locked up, some disappeared for weeks on end. What were some of the pressures on the school system, and how did teachers cope with this? Because it wasn't just this one child.

00:27:13 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

No. There were -- and this was not just in D.C. It was not just in Prince George's County. It was really, you know, all over the country. And a lot of the schools that were most successful were just winging it, were just sort of figuring out, you know, what do these kids need and how do we do this? And that was really impressive to see.

00:27:32 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

And the end of one of the articles, Dooney says, I don't want to sell drugs, but I will probably have to. Do you know where Dooney is now?

00:27:41 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

I don't. I don't. I don't know why, but I've been thinking a lot about him lately. And maybe it's because of the changes that have taken place in the Washington area. I drive through some of the areas in D.C., and in Prince George's County that used to house these big open air drug markets, and they are completely gentrified now. The place that he lived is now right next to the football stadium where the Washington football team plays. So, I've been thinking about him a lot, and I would love to know where he is now. I'd love to know what happened to his life.

00:28:19 MS. MICHELE NORRIS

I think I just created an assignment for myself.

00:28:26 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

There were many children like Dooney Waters, struggling to survive in families consumed by crack. And decades after the worst of the crack era ended, some researchers now think the drug is partly to blame for one of the most stubborn and persistent problems in education today. The black/white achievement gap. Tim Moore is an Assistant Professor of Economics at George Washington University. He says the Civil Rights Movement led to big changes in education. Increases in school funding, better access to healthcare, and improved parental education. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, he says, the achievement gap was cut in half.

00:29:05 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

But then just before 1990...

00:29:08 MR. TIM MOORE

The progress stopped.

00:29:09 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Moore and his colleagues say that's in part because crack cocaine use, as well as the associated violence, increased incarceration and drug dealing opportunities made students, especially African American boys, see their future very differently.

00:29:25 MR. TIM MOORE

Suppose you're a 15-year-old black male living in a place like D.C., and you looked at the people older than you, and you worked out, OK, what's the probability that I'm going to die before the age of 30? In D.C., it went from around a four percent chance of dying before age 30 to around 12, 13 percent.

00:29:46 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

For white men and women, the probability of dying before 30 was well under one percent. Moore says the idea of education is based on working hard now and seeing the payoff later. But if you believe there is no later, why would you study?

00:30:01 MR. TIM MOORE

It changes peoples' decisions about the future, because that future doesn't look so bright. And the benefits of getting more education or doing better at school is reduced.

00:30:12 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Moore estimates that the crack epidemic is responsible for 40-75 percent of the drop in the high school graduation rate for black males.

00:30:20 MR. TIM MOORE

If you're on the margin between deciding to stay that extra year or get some immediate cash, the idea that you might be locked up or dead in a few years really can affect which way you go.

00:30:35 MS. latasha GREEN

She don't know how to text, so sometimes when she text me, I be like, what is she talking about?

00:30:41 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Evelyn Green, the former addict, who's now a manager at N Street Village, laughs a lot these days with her daughter Latasha. But Latasha says, it wasn't always like this.

00:30:52 MS. LATASHA GREEN

I was angry at the fact that she was on drugs.

00:30:56 MR. CHARLES MURRAY

One time, after the police raided her house, Latasha went to live with relatives. She eventually dropped out of school.

00:31:02 MS. LATASHA GREEN

I never did homework. I didn't have anywhere to sit down and concentrate to actually sit and do homework or no one to help me do my homework. So, I just didn't do it.

00:31:12 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

At 17, Latasha got pregnant. That was a turning point for Evelyn. She got clean. And now, Latasha says, her mother is really involved in her grandchildrens' and great grandchildrens' lives.

00:31:25 MS. LATASHA GREEN

From my first child on up, she's been there 100 percent. It's like she's trying to make up from when she was not there.

00:31:36 MR. CHARLES MURRAY

Evelyn Green says, there's another part of that making up. Helping other women, who are struggling to stay clean, because she says her life could have turned out very differently.

00:31:47 MS. EVELYN GREEN

I could have been dead out there on the streets, because when you get the guns pulled to your head, knives to your throat, a lot of people that I got high with is dead. I'm still alive.

00:31:59 MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Green says there's still hope, even for people who've been struggling with crack for decades. She tells women living with addiction that the first step is to give themselves a chance. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.

00:32:16 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Coming up, how residents pushed back against the wave of crack coming into their neighborhoods.

00:32:21 MS. JOYCE HARRIS

If you wanted to block access, all you had to do was have 50, 60 people right here on this corner.

00:32:28 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir, and you're listening to "Crack: The Drug That Consumed the Nation's Capital," a special production of WAMU 88.5 News in Washington. We'll be right back.

00:32:47 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome back to "Crack: The Drug That Consumed the Nation's Capital," a special production of WAMU 88.5 News. I'm Rebecca Sheir. We just heard about how crack cocaine affected District families. Now, we'll look at how the drug affected entire neighborhoods, and how a grass roots network of ministers, activists and residents rose up to confront the crisis. We begin in Shaw, a historic area that's seen its share of ups and downs over the years, but is now one of the fastest growing parts of the city.

00:33:20 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Just a couple months ago, a new grocery store opened in Shaw, at the corner of 7th and O Streets Northwest. It's part of a new development called City Market at O, a complex that includes high end condos, a yoga studio and a rooftop dog run. Fans and critics alike say the development, one of many new buildings to spring up in the neighborhood in recent years, is truly a symbol of how times have changed since the late 1980s, when a man named Ruben Castaneda moved to Shaw. Emily Berman takes it from there.

00:33:51 MS. EMILY BERMAN

In September, 1989, Ruben Castaneda had just landed a job as the overnight police reporter for The Washington Post. He was a middle class kid from Los Angeles, and no one, not his friends, not his new boss, not even his family, knew he was a serious drug addict.

00:34:08 MR. RUBEN CASTANeDA

I arrived on a Tuesday. By Saturday, I had found my way here to S Street, and I very quickly found out this was a great place to buy crack cocaine.

00:34:21 MS. EMILY BERMAN

It was right here, on the corner of S and 7th Streets NW, that Castaneda made his first buy.

00:34:27 MR. RUBEN CASTANEDA

I drove up on a sunny afternoon with somebody who agreed to buy crack for me. And when I drove up, I parked my car over near the corner of 7th and S NW, there were at least 10 drug dealers just hanging out in front of the abandoned bakery.

00:34:48 MS. EMILY BERMAN

No one, he says, looked concerned about getting caught.

00:34:51 MR. RUBEN CASTANEDA

The drug dealers here, on S Street, did not seem to care at all about anybody watching them, whereas in Los Angeles, the drug markets, where I made most of my purchases, were controlled by Central American gangsters, and they at least bothered to look over their shoulder to see if there were any LAPD black and whites nearby. None of that was happening on this street. It was very brazen.

00:35:16 MS. EMILY BERMAN

WAMU host Kojo Nnamdi moved to Shaw in the early 1970s, and says, by the mid 80s, gangs, or crews, as they were known, formed on each block, including his own, on 8th Street.

00:35:30 MR. KOJO NNAMDI

There would be literally drug battles that would be going on on our street. And we'd be walking down the street, and they'd say, stop, stop, stop fighting. Here comes Mr. Kojo. They would almost literally part, and we would walk past them and say, hello Mr. Kojo, how are you doing? And we'd walk past, and then they'd start fighting again, just as we got past.

00:35:53 MR. MELVIN SCOTT

Now you're talking about kids with a lot of money and no conflict resolution, and everybody's telling you that you're the biggest, baddest man because you got a pocket full of money.

00:36:01 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Commander Melvin Scott now runs the Metropolitan Police Department's Narcotics Unit. But, during the crack epidemic, he was on the street, working on exactly these sorts of cases. Often, Scott says, the close relationships among these neighborhood kids, turn dealers, made the violence even worse.

00:36:18 MR. MELVIN SCOTT

Long time friends would kill each other over who knows what. The body count started. It just -- it blew up.

00:36:27 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Kojo Nnamdi and his neighbors in Shaw did all the things you'd think to do. Call the police, reach out to their members of city council, but none of it was working. Then, in 1988, a young civic activist named Leroy Thorpe, Jr. decided to take matters into his own hands, by forming a neighborhood patrol.

00:36:49 MR. LEROY THORPE, JR.

So, we'd go out in the daytime to move the people off. We'd see them, suspecting that they're using drugs or whatever. We want them out of here until they get the point. I would tell them, we're gonna get a bat, bust them upside the head. We were gonna blow their house up. We were gonna have you locked up. I mean, I was raw then. I wasn't even thinking about the legalities of possible threats or whatever the situation may be.

00:37:12 MS. EMILY BERMAN

We're sitting on a couch in his living room at the corner of 5th and R, hunched over his laptop as he clicks through DVDs of his anti drug rallies.

00:37:20 MR. LEROY THORPE, JR.

This is me right there. This is 7th and O, right here. And these are the anti drug rallies from day one.

00:37:29 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Thorpe organized more than 100 rallies, and keeps a hand written spreadsheet of each of the dozens of crack houses he helped raid.

00:37:37 MR. LEROY THORPE, JR.

The people that's inside, that are actually have had a connection to the house. Are they selling drugs? How do you shut that down? You gain intelligence, see that they're actually doing it, turn the information over to the vice unit. The vice unit goes in there. Boom. They bust them.

00:37:56 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Shaw's Red Hat Patrol inspired similar groups all over the city. Although, Thorpe admits that dealers and addicts pushed out of one neighborhood often moved just a few blocks over. It didn't truly solve the problem, but it solved his problem, for the time being. By the early 90s, the number of murders in Washington, D.C. was at an all time high. Washington Post reporter Ruben Castaneda recalls some nights, he would be out covering one crime scene when another shooting would come through over the police scanner.

00:38:33 MR. RUBEN CASTANEDA

The most dramatic example occurred in early 1990. A call came over the police scanner for a shooting at the corner of 7th and S Street NW. And right away, I thought, oh, I know that block. It turned out that it was a quadruple murder that had started inside the nightclub. Six men had been shot, and it was my very first front page story, and it happened on the very same block, almost on the same location where I was making my drug buys.

00:39:13 MS. EMILY BERMAN

The homicide rate ticked higher and higher, from 194 in 1986 to 434 in 1989 to 482 in 1991. There were shootings in broad daylight at swimming pools, school yards and funeral homes. Lou Hennessey ran the NPD's Homicide Unit from 1993 to 1995.

00:39:36 MR. LOU HENNESSEY

We had cases where guys would shoot somebody. The ambulance would come and pick them up. They'd follow the ambulance to the hospital. If they were still alive, they'd run up on the ambulance and start shooting the guy on the stretcher.

00:39:47 MS. EMILY BERMAN

The shootings were mainly in the Eastern half of the city, which was predominantly African American and poor. Because the violence was so concentrated, Hennessey changed the structure of the homicide unit, letting cops stay in one neighborhood and develop sources, rather than chasing whatever came up next. He invited detectives from all neighboring counties to his weekly meetings.

00:40:10 MR. LOU HENNESSEY

And we would talk about who our suspects were, who were killed, what type of weapon was used. I can remember telling Chief Thomas, we're gonna get this murder rate under 400. And he was joking with me. He says, you know, if you get the murder rate under 400 in the city, you'll win the Nobel Peace Prize. It wasn't so much the crack, because there are fads that come and go. But it was the violence associated with the crack that just became so obvious. I mean, it wasn't an unusual weekend to have 10 murders over a weekend. And this is not a big city.

00:40:46 MR. LOU HENNESSEY

People compare it, well, Chicago and New York had 12 over the weekend. Well, you know, New York is 16 times as big as D.C. You know, I mean, it was unbelievable. But, you know, the thing that really irked you about it is we had this terrible problem. As long as it was poor, young black people being killed, nobody really cared.

00:41:15 MS. EMILY BERMAN

But within individual neighborhoods, people did care. And local churches began to intervene.

00:41:23 MS. JOYCE HARRIS

There were constant drive by shootings, lots of murdering going on.

00:41:25 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Joyce Harris was the Church Secretary at A.P. Shaw in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast D.C. The church was just across the street from Stanton Dwellings, a large public housing project. One Sunday morning, she was sitting in services when a friend tapped her on the shoulder.

00:41:43 MS. JOYCE HARRIS

He beckoned towards me, and he says, a young man that's collapsed out front. He's been shot.

00:41:49 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Harris left the service, called an ambulance, and went outside to try to help.

00:41:54 MS. JOYCE HARRIS

I remember the paramedics. They were just pointing to the bullet holes. I mean, they were in the back. And it was too close to home.

00:42:03 MS. EMILY BERMAN

A.P. Shaw's pastor contacted other clergy nearby, and coordinated a schedule of marches to block drug dealers from coming in to that area.

00:42:12 MS. JOYCE HARRIS

If you wanted to block access, all you had to do was have 50, 60 people right here on this corner. If you did that enough, then you have messed with the flow of that man's business.

00:42:25 MS. EMILY BERMAN

A.P. Shaw also advocated for more rehab facilities at a time when thousands of people were on waiting lists for treatment. And for the children of addicts, the church provided a safe, positive environment after school.

00:42:38 MS. JOYCE HARRIS

Well, we just wanted to let them see that you didn't have to get on that corner and deal drugs for these people. They didn't care about their lives. They didn't care about their lives.

00:42:49 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Nearby, Reverend Anthony Motley addressed the drug abuse and the violence with bi-weekly Bible study.

00:42:56 REV. ANTHONY MOTLEY

Valley Green was a notorious place for crack cocaine. That was a public housing complex. And what I did was I went over and did Bible study. A lot of times, people find themselves in situations because they don't know anything else. Yeah, they began to, you know, think more, of having more of a principled life, a life that was more hopeful.

00:43:22 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Though the study sessions were almost always packed, to reach those who didn't attend, Reverend Motley would head out to the streets. The middle of the night, he says, was when he did his most effective ministering.

00:43:34 REV. ANTHONY MOTLEY

We would show up and they would tell the customers that would drive up and say, the shop is closed right now, cause we were there, praying. And asking God's intervention.

00:43:46 MS. EMILY BERMAN

When it came down to it, Motely says, many of these guys wanted someone to guide them. Some were the sole breadwinners for their families. Occasionally, a young man would approach Motley and ask, how to stop selling drugs.

00:43:59 REV. ANTHONY MOTLEY

My first question to anybody, do you owe anything? Do you owe anybody any money? And I've had them tell me, no. And I say, well, let's flush it down the toilet, if we're serious about it. You know, I'd stand there with them, and watch the drugs go down the toilet.

00:44:20 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Between 1986 and 1993, more than 3,000 people were killed in the District. The deaths weren't all drug related, but police say many of them can be directly linked to the turf wars of that era. But by 1993, city officials began reporting a glimmer of hope. The percentage of arrestees who tested positive for cocaine was leveling off. It was 50 percent, down from 67 percent in 1988. By the middle of 1994, the following year, local teenagers told The Washington Post that crack was passe. And by 1997, the city homicide rate began a downward slide that has mostly continued to today.

00:45:08 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Still, no one has a precise date of when, exactly, the crack cocaine epidemic ended, or why. Some people point to a federal initiative called Hope Six, which funded the demolition and redevelopment of low income housing projects nationwide, including several here in the District. Former Police Chief Isaac Fulwood.

00:45:28 MR. ISAAC FULWOOD

The city has changed. The demographics of the city has changed. The construction. You know, I always say, you know, jokingly, a good police officer and a bulldozer solves all problems.

00:45:43 MS. EMILY BERMAN

While Hope Six remains controversial, law enforcement officials say, it did cut back the city's drug activity. Some say crack was so destructive, it had burned through the lives of everyone it was going to attract, yet Commander Melvin Scott, head of MPD's Narcotics Unit, says the legacy of crack continues to haunt many District residents.

00:46:05 MR. MELVIN SCOTT

A lot of people went to jail for life over what they created and the havoc that happened in the D.C. in the 80s and 90s. You know, people are paying the price for that. The sentencing laws of that time meant people caught dealing a small amount of crack spent as much time in prison as someone dealing 100 times as much powdered cocaine. And African Americans are affected by that disparity more than anyone else.

00:46:33 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Of the 30,000 people in federal prison on crack related charges, more than 80 percent are black. And for those who didn't go to jail for life, the crack era still lingers. An estimated 60,000 Washingtonians have criminal records, and among that group, the unemployment rate may be as high as 46 percent. That's according to a study by the Center For Court Excellence.

00:46:57 MR. LAMONT CAREY

So if I can't get a job because of my felony convictions, then you're telling me the only place I’m allowed to work is the streets. Right?

00:47:06 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Lamont Carey dealt crack for five years before he was arrested on an attempted murder charge. He was in prison from 16 years old until he was 27.

00:47:15 MR. LAMONT CAREY

And some of us don't have, like, the patience, and so they succumb to that. But because what we did, when was 16, 15, 20 years old, even though we paid our debts to society, society is rejecting us.

00:47:34 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Many of these ex-offenders, thousands every year, return home to neighborhoods most affected by the crack epidemic. In wards 7 and 8, east of the Anacostia River, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. And more than 40 percent of children there are living in poverty. Here's Commander Melvin Scott.

00:47:54 MR. MELVIN SCOTT

The model then became, it takes a village. And it actually did. You couldn't leave a law enforcement agency to try to figure this thing out all on its own. You know, everybody had to kind of figure out what their place in this thing was.

00:48:09 MS. EMILY BERMAN

Because, while those days may seem like they're long gone, Scott and others who witnessed the crack era say it's not impossible for out increasingly wealthy city to relapse. Maybe with crack, maybe with some other drug. And if that happens, he says, it'll be up to everyone, neighbors, police, politicians, health officials, schools and religious leaders to step up together. I'm Emily Berman.

00:48:51 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

You've been listening to "Crack: The Drug That Consumed the Nation's Capital." Our reporters are Emily Berman, Jacob Fenston, Elliott Francis, and Kavitha Cardoza. Tara Boyle is our Managing Producer. She and Rebecca Blatt edited the program. Our interns are Steven Yenzer, Yi Chen, and Andrew Katsmozis. Our theme music was produced and performed by Eric Shimelonis. Special thanks to WAMU's Memo Lyons, Mark McDonald, Kathleen Allenbaugh, Chris Lewis, Seth Liss, Martin Austramule, Carrie Moskal, Karen Munson, Kellen Quigley, and Andrew Chadwick.

00:49:25 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

We'd also like to thank C-SPAN for the use of archival footage, as well as The Washington Post, the D.C. public library, and the staff of the American University library for their help with research. Kavitha Cardoza's reporting is part of "American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen," a public media initiative to address the dropout crisis, supported by the corporation for public broadcasting. Additional sound for this project was provided by documentary filmmaker Curtis Mosey, who's been recording drug related violence in D.C. for more than 30 years.

00:49:56 MS. REBECCA SHEIR

We have more info. about his work on our website, wamu.org/crackdc. While there, you can also find videos, extended interviews, and a timeline of key events from that era. I'm Rebecca Sheir, and thanks for listening to "Crack: The Drug That Consumed the Nation's Capital," a production of WAMU 88.5 News in Washington.

Additional sound for this project was provided by documentary filmmaker Curtis Mozie, who’s been recording drug-related violence in D.C. for more than thirty years. You can learn more about his work at http://taleofthetape.tripod.com/

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