by Willie Hill
With the recently released “Colors,” I’ve written a book that has potential to stem the tide of gang warfare between the Crips and Bloods and other street gangs identified by the colors red and blue. It’s a story linking present day Crips and Bloods with two ancient African warrior tribes called the Cuuzan and the Ikeely. These two African tribes worshiped the colors red and blue for religious and ritualistic reasons and believed they held supernatural powers.
The Cuuzans’ fanatical fixation for the color blue has to do with Cuuzan warriors painting their bodies blue with a specially concocted blue chalk prior to going into battle with an enemy tribe and before embarking on certain perilous hunting expeditions. They coat their bodies blue from the neck down.
This, along with the tribal high priest blessing each warrior’s blue coated body with a secret esoteric prayer, gives the warriors a sense of invincibility. Nothing can harm their blue coated bodies. The Cuuzan warriors are transformed into the ultimate fearless fighting machine.
The other half of this color worshiping phenomenon is an ancient African warrior tribe named the Ikeely. The Ikeely patronize the color red. They do so in commemoration of an ancient warrior named Ikee Junga, the red lion.
Ikee Junga was a natural redheaded warrior, the first redhead ever born into the tribe. He was so brave and renowned on the battlefield that it was believed his mighty fighting ability had to do with his fire red hair.
And so upon his death tribal forefathers deified Ikee Junga. They named the tribe after him and also adopted the custom of dying all males’ hair red, from infancy to adulthood.
They never cut their hair and wore it in dreadlocks. The belief being, the longer and redder a warrior can cultivate his hair, the more blessings he receives from Ikee, the redheaded war god.
This action-packed story takes place in Central Africa during the 1800s at the peak of European and Arab colonization. At that time, millions of Africans were enslaved and/or forced to disown their ancestral religious practices and adopt the Islamic faith either by persuasion or at the point of a sword.
We all know the bad part European Christians played during this horrendous period of history. But how familiar are we with the role the Arab Muslim fundamentalists played? Not all Arab Muslims, just like not all European Christians, condoned the practice of slavery.
My story does not make a blanket indictment against Muslims nor Christianity in general, but the culprit in my story happens to be a bad Muslim leader of an army of Arab fighters, the evil-minded Caliph named Mustafa the Plunderer. He sent his invading army out on missions to conquer all of Africa that hadn’t already been infiltrated and to seize mineral rich land.
However, the Cuuzan and Ikeely were not easy prey. They both were mighty warrior tribes, friendly neighbors who shared the same watering holes and the same hunting grounds and, above all else, they both honored the ancient path of allegiance their forefathers made swearing to defend each other’s homeland and each other against any and all threats, to the death.
In 1853 such a do-or-die threat reared its ugly head. The Cuuzan-Ikeely homeland came under attack by Mustafa’s army. The Cuuzan and the Ikeely, honoring their sworn allegiance, pooled their warriors and fought diligently to defend their homeland and their God-given right to worship their own ancestral deities in their own way.
However, Mustafa’s invading army proved mightier than the combined forces of the Cuuzan and the Ikeely and wound up overrunning the allied territory. Two fellow warriors of the allied forces named Tuuwee Duugawdu, a Cuuzan warrior prince, and an Ikeely warrior named Luba Zandi were captured in battle, enslaved and carted off to America aboard a slave ship.
Tuuwee and Luba were best of friends. They embarked from the slave ship, chained together side by side, two disciples of their respective religious tribal customs forcefully uprooted from their homeland and planted in a foreign land thousands of miles away with nothing but the tattered rags on their backs.
But what they did come with was firmly embedded in each of their hearts, their sacred tribal customs involving the colors red and blue, religious customs that were as tolerant of each other as red and blue. Yet today, several generations after the initial landing of these two best of friends and their respective color worshipping customs, their legacy of friendship and reverence for each other’s religious customs has spouted out of control into quarrelsome, deadly groups of American gangsters, most notably the Crips and Bloods street gangs.
If any one reason for the peculiar division between these two color-worshipping groups can be unraveled, we will have to go back in time to the moment and place where Tuuwee and Luba first arrived in America, when slave and slave master met in an unholy matrimony of torturous servitude and greedy convenience.
Tuuwee and Luba were herded from the ship onto the docks of New Orleans in 1850. They were put on the auction block chained together. The bidding hardly began before they became pieces of property of a wealthy sugar plantation owner, ironically named Jay Fullove.
Luba Zandi’s head of red dreadlocks the size of ropes was too intimidating, so Fullove ordered his crew of brutish henchmen to cut Luba’s red hair right there on the spot. Of course, Luba Zandi resisted and was beaten unmercifully as the henchmen commanded the young Ikeely warrior to either submit to the will of his new master or die.
Tuuwee Cuuzan, knowing that his childhood friend would rather die than allow his hair to be cut, stepped in and stoutheartedly absorbed that death blow meant for his friend. And, when the slave master saw that the one was willing to die for the other, he decided to separate them immediately with these momentous words:
“Gentlemen,” Jay Fullove began, “we have just witnessed an occurrence unbefitting of niggers. Whether they are tamed niggers or wild, I myself refuse to have any semblance of comradery in my stable.
“Therefore, if any party is interested, the blue nigger I just purchased is now up for resale at the low price of half what I myself just paid. But, mind you, this offer is good only to a buyer from outside the good Southern state of Louisiana. My reasoning is simple: These two niggers should never be allowed to be together in the same state, least of all the same plantation.”
Thus was the arrival and birth of the red and blue phenomenon. It came to America with the landing of these two best of friends and worshipers of devout customs that represented unification. Yet today their legacy of friendship and mutual respect and reverence for each other’s religious practices, which was a positive affiliation, has fallen to the negative forces that have literally commandeered and turned the red and blue into an instrument of divide and conquer.
‘Colors’ was born in a prison cell
More than 30 years ago I hand wrote a 550-page manuscript, which a dear friend, an ex-English teacher named Linda Jenkins – may her saintly soul rest in peace – was kind enough to spend more than two years transcribing. She had a full time job and a lot on her plate, yet she voluntarily committed herself, as she used to say, “challenged” herself, to the painstaking task of typing and editing and eventually transformed my 550-page handwritten manuscript into a 300-page edited and typed manuscript, according to publishers’ requirements.
The irony is that Linda never failed to remind me that, even though she was a “rookie editor” (her own words) and I’m a rookie writer, the story itself will prove to be a game changer. And, for three decades now, Linda’s premonition has been my inspiration and calling card.
“Our baby” is the pet name Linda gave the manuscript during our four-year-long painstaking, labor-of-love collaboration. We corresponded by mail and by short, limited phone conversations, with me in California’s Folsom Prison and her in White Oaks, Pennsylvania.
Linda used to say that even in the event she and I happen to not be here to see the change happen, it didn’t matter to her, because she was convinced at the very outset of our pen-pal partnership that the idea itself was an act of divine providence when the story-line first struck me out of the blue back in 1972.
Linda always prophesied and I’ve come to believe that she and I were chosen vehicles to be used for the sake of society. Book 1, “Colors: The Ancient African Connection to the Crips and Bloods,” of my slated three-novel trilogy is practically a done deal.
After three years hemmed up here in my landlady’s tiny living room on the heels of a long productive self-imposed isolation whereby I committed myself to the labor-of-love task of proof-reading and other self-editing, I feel honored and blessed to have been the chosen recipient of this literary gift from the pantheon of gods of all faiths. Finally I can offer a finished product.
Now I’m poised to make a bid for inclusion of “Colors” into the grade school curriculum everywhere and into those unsung institutions of learning run by the state and federal departments of corrections. My book can be useful because Linda and I made ourselves vessels to initiate positive change with respect to the negative impact on the red-blue, Crip-Blood rivalry and on rival Mexican gangs here in California.
Linda was really sure that one day “our baby” was going to be a game changer to help mend the gap between the Crips and Bloods. Besides the obvious self-satisfaction Linda probably felt by helping someone in need like me, she never really knew just how much of a guardian angel she was to me.
Her kind gesture to help me came at a moment when, rather than serve a 23-year sentence inside California’s industrial prison plantations, I was seriously considering cashing in the old model me for whatever awaited in the after-life, if she had not appeared in my life. She was a real godsend.
It was such a heart-warming, life-changing moment for me when, during our pen pal relationship, Linda commented on the first few handwritten chapters of my story which I sent her when she expressed curiosity about what I told her was my hobby, writing.
“Willie, I’m really taken by your African story,” she wrote. “I’m sure Tuuwee and Luba Zandi’s adventure will become even more exciting. I can’t wait to read more. In fact, you mentioned being near finished writing.
“With your permission of course, I’d like to challenge myself, just to see if I, a middle aged, middle class suburban white lady, can make your African story, ‘chicken scratch’ (big smile), into a manuscript that, Jesus willing, will meet publishers’ requirements. I promise to do my best not to take anything away from your underlying objective, which, I gather, is to show the Crips and Bloods their ancestors are the same. In other words, I will not go beyond the technical errors. How ‘bout that?”
And so, here it is, three decades later, and Linda’s challenge to herself and promise to me has finally materialized into a finished product that is ready to be introduced to society as illuminating fuel for the nation’s shot callers, especially Black people. Serious food for serious thought, “Colors” is a conversation key to opening dialogue between rival groups of feuding gangs, family, clans, neighbors and ethnic communities seeking common ground on which to discuss ways and means to bring about much needed healing to a wounded nation today.
This book provides an innovative new literary approach to break through the hard shell of our hard-to-reach youth today. As a historically fictitious account of the ancient origins of gangbanging, it has what it takes to capture the attention and interest of our youth.
Order your copy of “Colors” at your favorite Black book store or online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. For more information, call Willie Hill at 415-368-6686.