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Author Archives: Naomi Bonman

Former and Incarnated Philadelphia Mafia Member, John Griffin, Shares Story of Redemption

John Griffin

John Griffin

By Naomi K. Bonman

When we hear of our young Black men and teenagers deterring in the wrong direction, we give them the wrong response by turning our heads and ignoring them. They need solid advice and a positive, but raw message from someone, preferably another Black male, who has been where they have been and has or is experiencing the consequence. This will showcase as an eye opener and wake up call for many.

In lieu of making this happen is through a media platform entitled, Gangster Chronicles. Gangster Chronicles is geared towards giving current and ex-convicts the ability to share their stories, put an end to mythologies by unveiling hidden stories and reach the youth through literature.  The roster consists of men who were leaders of well-known gangs, such as the Vicelords and Black Mafia, and even a man who inspired a character on the popular HBO series “The Wire.”

John Griffin is the former leader of the Philadelphia Black Mafia and is serving 40 years for the most heinous crimes ever committed. His case became known as the Washington, DC Hanafi Muslim Murders. John holds college degrees in both Human Services and Marketing.

What was your life like before you got locked up?

For me, life before incarceration felt promising because of the people in my life, I never felt limited.  My mother was widowed at an early age, but alone, she raised me and my brother to be confident and respectful individuals.  At age 12, I went to work after school so that I could buy my own clothes.  By the time I was 22, I was married to my first wife, had 3 children, and was managing clothing stores in Center City Philadelphia.  Over the next 5 years, my marriage ended in divorce, I remarried and fathered 4 more children.  

What led you to a life of crime?

I grew up in North Philadelphia. In the environment in which I was raised, crime and hustle were synonymous.  From my first employer to my last, hustling was a part of their business practice.  I was taught to pressure-sale clothes that had been stolen and delivered to Center City Philadelphia stores, so crime had always been present in my life.  However, once I and others became aware of the need to control the economy in our communities, we targeted the illegal activities there.  I had always worked with the Jewish jewelers, who resold stolen items, and Italian gamblers, who set up card games and controlled most of the drugs in our community.  So, once we put a dent in their operations, we set our sights on the stores and bars in our neighborhoods.  We felt these business should be Black-owned, so we designed ways to make that happen.  

What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been in prison?

By shackling the human body and human spirit, prisons are designed to demoralize and destroy.  To quote Oscar Wilde, “The vilest deeds like poison weeds, bloom well in prison air.” Though I never committed the murder for which I am in prison, I accepted that my life style made it easier for those who desired to charge me with this crime.

Upon my incarceration, one of the things I discovered was that we still have a responsibility to our families, especially our children,  Those of us who may have been conscious and sincere enough to make positive contributions to our communities, removed and de-legitimize ourselves in the struggle.  We must try harder to show them a positive side of ourselves.  We must try to guide them in a different direction, one that leads away from prison.  

What led you to the Black nationalist ideology of the Nation of Islam?

I was always concerned about the welfare of my people.  Raised at a time when the evening news showed Blacks being beaten, brutalized and shot down in the streets; of course, I was one of those who became angry.  I listened to various black leaders at that time, some not much older than myself.  But, it was Malcom X’s interpretation of Elijah Muhammad’s teachings that I most admired.  As I said earlier, my Mother raised her sons to be confident and respectful.  I saw in the Nation of Islam, at that time, black, confident and respectful acting men, who were not afraid to stand up for what they believed. Basically, I was attracted to the nationalistic ideology of the Nation of Islam, more than the spiritual aspects of it. As a young man, tired of hearing whites refer to us as boys, the Nation of Islam was what I thought was needed in our lives. 

Preachers of LA, Myesha Chaney, empowers women through music and conferences

Myesha Chaney

Myesha Chaney

By Naomi Bonman

If you keep up with any type of reality show then you are probably familiar with Preachers of LA, and if you watch it then you know the name Myesha Chaney, wife to Pastor Wayne Cheney and First Lady of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Long Beach. Mrs. Chaney has more under her belt besides being a First Lady. She is also a philanthropist, author, and singer. Her book Hiding Behind The Lipstick (HBTL) is also a tour where she travels to different cities where she challenges women to reflect on who they really are and what they present to the world. If change is needed in a personal life, though process and relationship with God, this experience is perfect for any woman.

Hiding Behind The Lipstick is truly a breath of fresh air bringing a unique combination of praise & worship, poetry, expressive dance, and a powerful message. This revolutionary concept has changed the way women think, feel, and live life. It is absolutely amazing in form, presentation and spirit.

In addition to the HBTL, Chaney is also a singer. She has been singing for years, but decided to take it seriously in her 20s. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Myesha where she went more in depth to what HBTL is, her inspirations in music, and what she advises to young women who are still hiding behind their lipstick.

To read more please click here

Former and Incarnated Chicago Vicelords Member, Solomon Montague, Shares Story of Redemption

Solomon Montague

Solomon Montague

By Naomi Bonman

When we hear of our young Black men and teenagers deterring in the wrong direction, we give them the wrong response by turning our heads and ignoring them. They need solid advice and a positive, but raw message from someone, preferably another Black male, who has been where they have been and has or is experiencing the consequence. This will showcase as an eye opener and wake up call for many.

In lieu of making this happen is through a media platform entitled, Gangster Chronicles. Gangster Chronicles is geared towards giving current and ex-convicts the ability to share their stories, put an end to mythologies by unveiling hidden stories and reach the youth through literature.  The roster consists of men who were leaders of well-known gangs, such as the Vicelords and Black Mafia, and even a man who inspired a character on the popular HBO series “The Wire.”

Solomon “Chessmon” Montague was one of the core leaders of Chicago’s Vicelords street gang with the rank of a “Five Star Elite.” Now sentenced to life plus 30 years in federal prison, his main objective is to positively uplift the gang culture through his literature.

What was your life like before you got locked up?

My life before this long prison sentence was like a roller coaster ride. The highs and lows were very dramatic. I had rose to the top of gang life with a reputation that even I couldn’t believe! LOL!!

With the life style of being a gang chief, drug dealer and an all American criminal, the streets had created a monster that lived inside of my conscious. Everyday became a battle. I fought demons that tormented my soul when I slept. I had a gun planted in every room of my apartment (even in the kids room). I slept with a gun under my pillow.

 When I was moving in the streets, I always had the feeling that imaginary enemies or police were out to kill me. My head stayed on a swivel and my mind was going a thousand miles per second! I was never big on using drugs or alcohol; however, I started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol to slow down my mind. This went on for about a year before the feds got me.

What led you to a life of crime?

I believe the thrill and the challenge led me to a life of crime. When I was younger, I would steal from my mother and other family members, then I started stealing from stores. I loved to watch gangster movies and I always rooted for the bad guys. I would go outside and watch how everybody respected the criminals. They were treated like royalty! When I became a gang member, in my mind, I was already a seasoned criminal.

What have you learned about yourself since you’ve been in prison?

What I learned about myself in prison is that I don’t have to be a criminal or a gang chief to be respected! And that I’m a child of GOD and a servant of His will and work.

How long have you been writing and how many books have you written?

I started writing in 07, and I’ve written four novels.

Who are you books geared for and what do you want them to take out of them?

My books are geared towards the gang culture, their families, and people who interact with them. I want them to become conscious and aware of the evils of that lifestyle and to flip the tables and fight against the traps and pitfalls of gangs, drugs, and criminal activity.