WORDS BY KHALID STRICKLAND a.k.a. BLACK PACINO
PHOTOS BY SUNDIATA ACREE a.k.a. THA SNYPER
VIDEOGRAPHY BY CLAYTON DONNELLEY a.k.a. CLAYDOG
MUSIC BY CHRIS CLARKE for CLARKEWORK ENTERTAINMENT
It’s always a thrill when I interview people that I actually respect.
The acclaimed HBO TV series The Wire featured characters based on real Baltimore denizens, one of which was promising boxer turned drug kingpin Avon “Bodie” Barksdale. Actor Wood Harris earned praise for his portrayal of Barksdale on The Wire, a show written and produced by the award-winning duo of David Simon and Ed Burns. Although he approved of Harris’s brilliant acting, the real Barksdale did not co-sign the way Simon & Burns took creative license with his life story.
So on March 10th, E1 Music will release The Avon Barksdale Story: Legends of the Unwired, a hard-as-hell documentary that explores Barksdale’s rise to power on the mean streets of Westside Baltimore. The flick won Best Docudrama at 2009’s NY International Film & Video Festival.
Mr. Barksdale has an intense bio. He lost his leg as his youth, so he basically took over West Baltimore with one good leg. I know dudes with two good legs who can’t capitalize on an opportunity to save their lives. He’s been shot 21 times, twice in the head, but he is still here.
When Law Enforcement finally caught up with him, Barksdale and his crew were resolved with the consequences and served their time like men. Despite facing football numbers and life sentences, not one of them snitched. Nowadays, “gangstaz” break under pressure like high-heels on a fat broad and drop dime on everybody, even they own mama, to avoid the bing.
My interview with Mr. Barksdale is posted at The Smoking Section and it’s a good one. But I’ve got additional uncut raw stashed under the floorboards. Never-seen-before bonus material for my loyal custies. Have a look-see…
If you’re well-versed in gangster s**t or the music industry, you should know Chaz Williams. If not, here’s an abridged version of his illustrious bio: Mr. Williams was one of the most prolific bank robbers in American history. While paying debts to society, Williams earned a Bachelor’s Degree in business and established Black Hand Entertainment after his release. He once managed 50 Cent and Foxy Brown. Black Hand’s roster currently includes rappers Grafh and Prinz, both of whom are known for their lyrical prowess.
In addition to being his friend, Williams is a business consultant to Barksdale and an associate producer of his documdrama. Since Williams is respected by both the streets and the entertainment industry, it makes sense that he’d guide Barksdale through this project. But Williams is also familiar with unauthorized folks benefiting from his life story without permission. In fact, he shared one such story with me that you won’t find in The Smoking Section interview. Here’s what Chaz Williams had to say:
“I was watching the bio channel the other night and they were doing a show about parole and they was actually showing the parole hearings in each jail. And I was watching it like ‘Oh, wow… lemme check this out’ because Judge Mathis is coming and we’re going to meet. He wanted to do a program about going into the prisons and I wanted to copy down some of the prisons that was letting cameras in.
So I’m watching it and in the corner (of the screen) it said go to www.bio.com/gangsters to see real-life gangsters… go to this site or something like that. So I went to the computer, pulled it up and they had (categories) like Serial Killers, Couples, Gangsters. So I hit gangsters just to see it and they had like Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, you know all that stuff. The end of the buttons had ALL so I hit it and they had alphabets.”
“Everything was in alphabetical order so I went to W and saw Williams. So I’m like ‘Oh s**t.’ I saw Wayne Williams and I said, ‘He’s a serial killer.’ I’m laughing and then I see Melvin and then I seen my name. I’m like, ‘No, no, no.” This is what I mean. They take our story and do what they will. When I looked at it, they got like four pages for me from a kid on up, they’re telling my whole story.”
“So I looked at the bottom to see where the copyright is from and it was from A&E. So I did a quick investigation and A&E purchased the rights to the BET American Gangster to show it. So I guess they own the Bio Channel too and they show it on that. Plus they took it step further. They got a whole site and just start adding our stories under… well, I’m actually under the Gangster category. But I ain’t gettin’ a dime for that. Again this is what I’m sayin’. What they do is, they take our stories and they try to use public domain. That’s just where it’s at. And I’m sure they’re getting a lot of traffic there an a lot of advertisement money and nobody’s gonna say anything about them glorifying anything.”
“I did the BET thing, I knew what was done and agreed to do that. But because I told my position in my character and my ideals had to be respected. And the only way that I would go through with it is if I’m on there, personally telling my point-of-view and how I really saw it. You know what I mean? And they agreed to it. They cut some of it ’cause I went hard (laughs). They edited a lot of it out, I went so hard.
It was a way for me to do a documentary because Dame Dash suggested we do a documentary before as a pre-requisite to the film. Like how the Frank Lucas thing came with American Gangster. He was talking about let’s put the money together or whatever and let’s just do it. And what I said to him was, ‘I think I’ve got another idea.’ And I did it. They paid for it without me giving up the rights to my life story.
Cause I was watching it, know what I mean? And I wasn’t feelin’ some of the stuff because they were leaving out a lot of things about different guys. In my mind at that point, I thought ya’all glorifying them because a lot of them had broken the code of what we live by. They leavin’ that shit out like these dudes is all right.”
The Avon Barksdale Story: Legends of the Unwired doesn’t leave anything out; it’s worth coppin’. Both Barksdale and Williams are stand-up guys, unlike those rats given undeserved shine by BET. So this documentary was done right.
Head over to The Smoking Section and read my full interview with Avon “Bodie” Barksdale. Chaz Williams provides more insight there as well. But before you go, let me break you off with a lil’ sample of the product.
My big homie Claydog filmed the interview and a brief nugget is posted below.
Mr. Barksdale in his own words…
Here’s the trailer for The Avon Barksdale Story: Legends of the Unwired.
Link of interest: SMOKING SESSIONS WITH AVON BARKSDALE
For more stories & work by Khalid Strickland a.k.a. Black Pacino visit The Spizzy at http://spizzyblog.com/