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Friday, August 22, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 12 (Crack Attack)

This is the twelfth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 11: Crack Attack

The star of this chapter is Rayful Edmond III, "the capital's first cocaine king" (Kindle location 3475).

Edmond started as a street drug dealer. Starting in 1985, he built an wildly successful crime organization using members of his extended family and childhood friends. His first kilo of cocaine was a gift from his father, a small-time gambler. "With the profits from the first kilo, Edmond bought two more, and an empire was born" (l. 3509).

Edmond operated an open-air drug market on Orleans Place and Morton Place NE from his mother's home in Prince George's County. He favored expensive cars but was also a Robin Hood-figure.

"... He'd make sure neighbors had turkeys on Thanksgiving; he bought meals for the homeless, cars for his top staff, and clothes for his friends. He sponsored a basketball team in the Police Athletic League called 'Clean Sweep', the name of the police operation designed to get drug dealers off the streets" (l. 3556).

The unlikely love interest for the 22-year-old Edmond was 45-year-old white divorcee Alta Rae Zanville. Their first meeting:

"He ran into her one day in the summer of 1986 when he stopped by the Florida Avenue Grill for lunch. The restaurant at the corner of 11th and Florida... is Washington's most celebrated southern food diner. It was also the home of a fencing operation run by the owner's sons" (l. 3563).

"... Alta Rae Zanville was just what Edmond needed at the time. They may have had an affair, but he wanted her for business purposes. His drug-dealing money was piling up. He was not sophisicated enough to lauder the cash through businesses or hide it in foreign bank accounts" (l. 3578).

Zanville started by renting an apartment in Crystal City on Edmond's behalf. She went on to larger operations designed to hide Edmond's mountain of cash.

The media and government began to pay closer attention to drug abuse and dealing at this time, thanks in part to the death by drug overdose of Len Bias, a star basketball player at University of Maryland. But Edmond's business continued to thrive.

"At his peak in 1988, Rayful sat atop an organization of nearly 200 employees that moved an estimated $10 million to $20 million worth of cocaine and crack a month from Columbia..." (l. 3646).

Crack appeared in DC in 1986. "Adding crack to Washington dispossessed neigbhorhoods had the same effect as throwing a match into a bucket of gasoline. Crack tore through other cities, but its impact on the capital was far more destructive. From 1984 to 1987 the number of patients admitted to emergency rooms with with cocaine-related problems tripled, according to criminal justice reports. The number of adults who were arrested and tested positive for cocaine increased by 43 percent between 1984 and 1988." (l. 3652).

"...[C]rack was able to dominate the capital because the metropolitan police department was ill equipped, ill prepared, and morally corrupted by its commander in chief, Marion Barry" (l. 3657).

"Barry cut the number of police officers as soon as he could and kept reducing the force to a low of 3,612 in 1982. At the same time he kept slicing the police department's share fo the city's budget. When he took office the police department got 8.6 percent of the budget; by 1985 it was down to 6.5 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office" (l. 3666).

The police department operated on ancient equipment at shared desks. Top appointments went to Barry cronies or good police somehow beholden to Barry.

"Rayful Edmond was perfectly situated to take advantage of the coming age of crack. His organization was as slick and well run as McDonald's. Morton Place and Orleans Place became so crowded that on some days Edmond's lieutenants had to order customers to form lines that stretched 100 buyers long" (l. 3707).

"Any kind of serious response was more difficult when it became apparent that Marion Barry, the commander in chief, was on his way to becoming a pipe head" (l. 3710).

"No direct connection was ever established between Rayful Edmond III and Mayor Marion Barry, Jr., though there was the odd case of Edmond's beeper that turned up in Barry's possession..." (l. 3772).

Barry also continued to have a stormy relationship with Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore. At one point she refused his sexual advances. He accused her of infidelity.

"Moore denied it. Barry slapped her once. She slapped him back. His second blow knocked her to the floor. He stood over her.

'I haven't hit a woman in 20 years,' he said. 'You bring out the worst in a man. Just get out!' " (l. 3797).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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