“Blaxploitation” In the Hood
Around ’88, I got into “blaxploitation” movies(ex. “Superfly”,”Cornbread, Earl and me”, “Shaft”, anything w/ Antonio Vargas in the credits lol) . While in Harlem visiting some family(I like to call it my second home) I got put on to a video store that had a large selection specific to this genre. As I was looking around the store, I started chatting it up with the owner and “happened” to let him know, “Um frum Brooklyn”(you know us Brooklynites WILL let you know we’re from the borough at ANY given oppurtunity lol). He then asked if I ever saw “The Education of Sonny Carson” and stated if I didn’t, it would be a good movie to check out. To be quite frank, in my pre-teen mind, the title did not sound like something I would be interested in. But when the person telling you has a suit on that’s some type of powder blue hue, matching shoes and looks like when they walk, theme music plays in the background…You MIGHT, just MIGHT want to listen to their suggestion of a good “blaxploitation” movie. So I took heed, bought “JD’s Revenge” starring Glynn Turman along with “The Education of Sonny Carson” for a total of 16.00. Next was the trek to the 2-train on Lenox, headed to planet Brooklyn. My stop was Atlantic ave.; from there I walked up Hanson pl. past the humongous empty lot that is now Atlantic Center Mall and went home.
In the 60’s-70’s, gangs were prevalent in the borough and all around the city. Some of the toughest gangs in Brooklyn were The Jolly Stompers, Tomahawks, Black Spades, Pure Hell and The Bishops. Depending on who you talk to, the immediate area of Clinton Hill was The Bishops or Jolly Stompers territory. Over the years I’d heard various stories from this era, either from uncles, my father or oldhead family friends. It was always interesting to me, I’d paint pictures in my head to imagine the stories being told of this time period. After watching “The Education of Sonny Carson”, the paint brush in my mind was no longer needed. This movie is a snap shot of the gang era that preceded my conception.
Now it will NEVER be referred to as a great film(although one of the scenes made The American Film Institute’s book of great moments in film history), but as far as “blaxploitation” flicks go, it’s pretty good. The fact that it was low budget, employed almost all non-actors(never done before…ALL the gang members in this movie w/ exception of the lead are real..one of the cops is really part of NYPD) contributes to it feeling like a documentary at times. The gangs named previously in this post are even credited at the end of the movie minus The Bishops. To see 1973 Bed-Stuy along with the real inhabitants, check out this movie, even if the genre is not your preference. Pictured above is a scene in which the lead character is being initiated into “The Lords” gang, it was shot in Fort Greene park.