On Saturday, December 7th, in Oakland, California (4 -7 p.m.), grassroot activists, in conjunction with artists, including a community of artists who cannot be present, Prisoner Artist, will come together to discuss and raise funds for two print newspapers involved in the prisoner press, the San Francisco Bay View, and the California Prison Focus. One of the means for raising funds will be making publicly available an opportunity to buy original Prison Art. One of the artist who has made a contribution is the South Central Los Angeles, Compton raised, Prisoner Artist, Joedee.
For the uninitiated, 20th century Black Los Angeles is in effect a Southern city. The Second Migration saw a mass exodus from Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas, of Blacks into Los Angeles. Especially as Americans took on a two front war in World War II, one in the Atlantic against the Germans, the other in the Pacific against the Japanese. But the Southern Blacks who moved to Los Angeles went from Jim Crow overt, to Jim Crow covert. They were called Racial Covenants, and deemed progressive at the time. The alternative being race riots. But these weren’t riots, but white mobs attacking Black families through bombings, firing into, and burning crosses on the lawns of Black owned homes. Racial Covenants restricted Blacks into a particular area of Los Angeles. South Central Los Angeles was the only area Blacks could purchase property in Los Angeles prior to 1948. Bisecting the boundary of South Central Los Angeles, was Central Avenue, known as Harlem Renaissance West. Joedee grew up around 41st and Central Avenue, and was living in the area during the 4-Hour gun battle between the LAPD and the Geronimo Pratt lead Black Panthers at the Los Angeles Black Panthers Headquarters. While Joedee’s father was a Black Panther, Joedee latched onto the emerging neighborhood click known as the Baby Avenue Cribs, later to be known as the Crips. When Joedee and his family moved to Compton, he brought with him his South Central Los Angeles Baby Avenue Crib mentality, and was instrumental in the Crips foundation in Compton. Joedee’s lifestyle choices did not go unnoticed by his young nephew, a one Eric Wright, later to become known as Eazy-E. In the 80s, when America became a cocaine obsessed culture; in TV, with Miami Vice; in film, Scarface; in music, White Lies (Don’t Do It), by Grandmaster Melle Mel; it produced a counterculture, or backlash. First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No,” Crime Central Act of 1984, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and 1988, which made mere possession of crack cocaine the only drug a mandatory minimum penalty for a first-time offense of simple possession.
Bruce Lee with Muhammad Ali
In the late 80s, Joedee was brought up on federal charges for being a felon in possession of a firearm. This kind of charge is normally designated for the State courts, but these federal charges were a part of a nationwide gang sweep by the U.S. Attorney General as a part of the 1980s’ version of the War on Drugs. Joedee was federally convicted of being in possession of a firearm that was bought in Compton, but because the weapon was manufactured in Florida, he was guilty of crossing state lines with a firearm. Most of the other defendants nationwide were accepting plea bargains of 15-years. Joedee went to trial and received a 10-year sentence. He only served four before his case was overturned on appeal.
In the Belly of the Beast
When the biopic Straight Outta Compton was released, Joedee was frequently asked by the Compton Street, why wasn’t he in the movie? Other things about the movie began to disturb him, and began to ask MC Ren and Lil Eazy-E, who also weren’t in the movie, how did they feel about it?
Da Pantherlettes: Kathleen Cleaver, Assata Shakur, Elaine (Alatoe) Brown, Angela Davis, and Queen Califia,
Around this same time period, he would become a victim to a snatch and grab. His briefcase was stolen from him by a drug addicted homegirl, and her drug addicted boyfriend. A briefcase containing original works of art, and the cellphone recording of an assault by the police on a minor. When he was able to prevent the female assailant from escaping into the getaway car, the getaway car came back with the police. He was found guilty of assault and given a lengthy life sentence under California’s Three Strikes law.
The Thrice Amigos: Cesar Chavez, Emiliano Zapata Salazar, and Dennis Banks
To the prison administration, Joedee is not viewed as being apart of the first founding generation of Crips in Los Angeles, or instrumental of its foothold in Compton. For his part, Joedee doesn’t like gang banging. He he doesn’t like drug use, and he most certainly does not like the system that has brought about these plagues to his community. When he speaks through his art, prison officials don’t see an artist paying homage to peacemakers, like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, or Nelson Mandela. Nor do they see in his works, distinguished African Americans, such as Educator, Mary McLeod Bethune; Philosopher, Cornel West; Orator, Frederick Douglass; Entrepreneur, Danny Blackwell; Singer, Etta James, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Together We Stand, Divided We Fall
Prison officials see this Prisoner Artist as a Black Panther, and even in their paperwork of officialdom, as a member of the Soledad Six.
To this day, America is still seen as a revolutionary country. From George Washington to Harriet Tubman, and best exemplified in Muhammad Ali, Americans who have exuded the revolutionary spirit have all had public crucifixions before becoming beloved. Joedee’s work exudes Humanity’s revolutionaries. Those who at onetime were deemed Public Enemy #1 before receiving public accolades as an outstanding human being.
The woman in this work, “Serenade of the Black Panther,” was inspired by an image the artist saw in the “San Francisco Bay View.”
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[Editor’s Note]: If interested in reaching out to this artist, here is his California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation information:
P.O. Box 4490
Lancaster, California 93539