|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Dimas Salaberrios is pastor of Infinity Bible Church in the South Bronx of New York City. An international speaker, Dimas is president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York and holds a master of divinity degree from Alliance Theological Seminary.
Dr. Angela Hunt is an award-winning author whose books have sold nearly five million copies worldwide. She holds a doctorate in biblical studies.
Read an Excerpt
The Explosive True Story of a Former Drug Boss on the Run From the Hood â" and the Courageous Mission that Drove Him Back
By Dimas Salaberrios, Angela Hunt
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Dimas Salaberrios
All rights reserved.
As several shots rang out, I crouched behind a dumpster. Then I glanced behind me and caught Black Sean's eye. What were we doing in the middle of a shoot-out? This was serious stuff, not exactly what I'd expected when Black Sean had approached me earlier in school.
"Hey," Black Sean had said, grinning. My eyes focused on the serious gold jewelry around his neck. "Wanna go get some money?"
He didn't have to ask twice. I followed him without a backward glance. We caught a city bus at the corner and got off at a stop in South Jamaica, Queens, where we spotted Jamal, a kid I knew to be a drug hustler.
"Hey, come on," Jamal called, moving down the sidewalk in a hurry. "We gotta go."
Black Sean and I didn't know what was happening, but the excitement in Jamal's voice sent a surge of adrenaline through my bloodstream. A couple of other guys joined us for whatever was going down. Then Jamal crouched behind a dumpster in an alley and peered around the corner. What was he doing? Were we in the middle of some kind of drug deal, or what?
Before I even realized Jamal was carrying, he pulled out a gun, held it in both hands, and started shooting at a guy across the street. What?
Instinct had told me to duck, so I crouched behind Jamal. My heart pounded. I barely had time to think before he yelled, "Let's go," so off we went.
I glanced over my shoulder, looking for a body in the street, but I didn't see one. Good. I wanted no part of killing.
Next thing I knew I was standing with Jamal, Black Sean, and some other guys. A dealer named Abdul stood with us, and he grinned at Jamal. "Way to go," he said. Then he looked at Black Sean and gestured in my direction. "Who's this guy?"
Black Sean looked at me. "Slim."
"You wanna deal, Slim?" Abdul asked me.
Of course I did. Dealing meant money, and money meant everything on the street. Abdul must have figured that if I had the courage to run with Jamal, I had what it took to be a dealer.
I nodded, and Abdul grinned.
"Give 'im a package," he said to one of the other guys. Then he narrowed his eyes at me. "This is how it works — you don't sell to nobody you don't know. You keep the stuff hidden, you take the money, and then you go get a capsule and hand it over. If you follow my rules, you'll be okay." His smile broadened. "Be smart, dude, and you'll be cool."
He walked away, and another kid handed me a bag of crack cocaine. Then I grinned at Black Sean.
I felt the weight of the drug bag in my hand.
It was a lot lighter than my schoolbooks.
Ever since I'd been old enough to recognize the signs of success, I'd wanted to be a dealer. And there I stood among dudes with guns, attitude, and a supplier. I was on my way ... and I was only fourteen years old.
* * *
A couple of months later I found myself lying on the sidewalk with blood gushing from my head. I felt the roughness of concrete beneath my hands and heard a throbbing in my ears. What had happened this time?
I pushed myself up to a sitting position. A group of my friends stood around me, but most of them were silent and still.
Jamal came over and glared at me. "Yo, you stupid, son. Why would you mess around with Abdul's money, trying to flip it? You dumb stupid, you ought to be happy you ain't gettin' capped."
I pressed my hand to my head and felt a swelling lump over my temple. "How'd my head get like this?"
Jamal's mouth twisted in a smirk. "Abdul smashed his phone into your skull till it exploded and then stomped his boots on your head."
I ran my hand over my jaw, which felt swollen, and tasted the metallic tang of blood mixed with dirt — dirt? Oh yeah, Abdul had tried to kick out my teeth once I was down. As my boss, he'd felt it his duty to administer a little discipline to a wayward worker.
Somehow I managed to stumble into a Korean grocery store, where someone finally looked at me with compassion. The owner hooked me up with some rubbing alcohol and a pack of Band-Aids so I could clean my wounds. As I braced myself for the alcohol burn, I realized I might have to patch the Band-Aids together to stop the bleeding.
I finished with the bandages and, without skipping a beat, went right back to hustling. I walked out of the store and yelled at anyone who looked like a potential customer. "I've got the good stuff here. Don't go to Jamal — his crack is whack. I've got the good stuff right here."
People stopped — they always did. After looking at the crazy patchwork on my head and face, a couple of my faithful customers summoned up the courage to ask what had happened.
I said what everyone in my condition said: "Don't sweat it. Man, this is just part of the business."
And it was ... yet it wasn't. Everyone in the life I'd chosen got beat up; beatings were part of the game. But unlike the vast majority of other kids my age who were hustling, I wasn't content to be just a drug dealer. I wanted to be a kingpin, a boss, a street god, so I was constantly looking for ways to broaden my scope and increase my profit. By doing that, I was asking for more trouble. This time I had taken Abdul's money, purchased additional drugs, and made a sweet personal profit for myself even though I knew that "flipping" was an offense that drug bosses dealt with quickly and furiously, lest others wise up to the same idea.
Drug bosses were abusive by nature. If they wanted to survive for any length of time, they had to develop reputations for toughness or they'd face challenges from other bosses who wanted to take their turf. Most of us realized that the infighting among a guy's crew wasn't personal; it was simply part of the business. It wasn't unusual to take a beating and later on smoke a blunt with the guy who had just opened up a can of whiptail on you.
I knew I made a lot of money for Abdul, so I expected him to chill out for a while and then come back to reassure me that I was a valuable worker. He needed to lock in my loyalty in case I was ever busted. A drug boss needed to be able to count on his workers and know they wouldn't rat out the operation if arrested.
Only a few minutes after I'd gone back to the block, I watched Black Sean come limping around the corner with his expensive Adidas shirt ripped in two. In his wake trailed an unmarked police car with two detectives, who made sure we saw them pointing us out.
My heart nearly leaped out of my chest. Black Sean yelled and cussed at the cops as blood poured out of his mouth — at fourteen, he was already a loose cannon. Once the police car moved on down the street, he turned to fill us in. He said the cops had jacked him up. They'd rolled up on him and asked how he could afford a hundred-dollar Adidas shirt. Then they had cuffed him, made him get in the back of their car, and beaten him up, ripping his shirt in the process.
"Be cool," I told him. "This is all part of the life."
We hustlers got it from all sides. Cops routinely picked us up and beat us, and sometimes they even stripped us down in the street. They hated our operation because it was almost impenetrable. We were disciplined enough not to sell to anyone we didn't know, a strategy that made it difficult for cops to catch us on a simple buy-and-bust. The drugs stayed in our possession only for a minute — just long enough for us to retrieve a packet from a hiding place and hand it to our customer.
We'd all become experts at swallowing small plastic capsules of crack whenever a cop pulled up in the middle of a sale. And our bosses — the guys who gave us the drugs and told us where to sell — rarely handled drugs on the street. Decked out with the flyest gold chains and gear, they'd roll onto the scene and flash their fancy cars and hot girlfriends. Their job was to intimidate and discipline, not to sell.
I expected Abdul to come find me after my beating, and about an hour after Black Sean's run-in with the cops, Abdul pulled up in his car and opened the door. "Slim, get in."
Being invited into Abdul's black Suzuki Samurai was a bigger perk than I had expected. The car had been pimped out to win admiration from and strike fear into the man's employees. Those big fat tires reminded us that he could roll over us if he wanted to, and the bright chrome trim reminded us that he would always draw more respect than we underlings. And the sound system — we could feel the boom boom of the bass while the car was a block away, and our bodies vibrated with every beat. That car had been designed to intimidate, and it fulfilled its purpose very well.
Yet I was grateful for the invitation to climb into the vehicle with Abdul. To everyone watching, that invitation meant not only that he wanted to keep me on his team but also that he thought I was cool enough to hang out with for a while. Riding in a drug dealer's car earned me major props, or proper respect.
"You know," Abdul said, handling the car as if it needed to be taught a lesson, "I can't have you playing with my money and flippin' it."
I nodded and kept my eyes on the road ahead.
"But hey — you do good and one day you can be a boss like me. And when that happens, you gonna have to keep your hustlers in line. You gonna have to bust some heads. It's business, man."
Abdul was full of it, deceiving me with every word. He was trying to gas me up enough to believe I could be the next boss on his team, but he wasn't fooling me. Though he was the boss of my crew, he worked for the Supreme Team, a vicious operation. Abdul was simply a franchisee of Fat Cat, Supreme, and James Corley, a notorious trifecta that ran operations in half of South Jamaica, Queens, at the height of the crack business. And me? I wasn't even close to being a lieutenant on his team.
I sat and listened, pretending to heed his advice, but that beating must have knocked some sense into my head. After getting out of the car, I realized I was finished working for that abusive psycho — I'd had enough. The only way an ambitious guy like me could reach the top of that particular organization would be through murdering people, and murder wasn't my style. My chosen street name was Daylight, not Nightmare.
Black Sean lived and breathed South Jamaica, but I'd come from a different background. My mother was a sophisticated, intelligent woman who worked as an elementary school principal, and my father was a former Air Force man who served as a captain of corrections on Rikers Island. Though we weren't wealthy, my roots were middle class, so my worldview was vastly different from most of the hustlers on the street.
I counted myself fortunate to have grown up in Cambria Heights, a community of homeowners, manicured lawns, and few, if any, welfare recipients. But even though my neighborhood was composed of upper-middle-class families, it wasn't immune from the allure of mind-altering drugs. As in all "good" communities, people used drugs.
By the time I was eleven, I was peddling mescaline tablets in middle school. Like anyone intent on being successful, I wanted to diversify my inventory and be a well-rounded player in the game. By fourteen, I had an advanced knowledge of the drug trade and knew what it would take to rise to the top. I also had drive and ambition. Even at that age, I wanted to be a boss, the most powerful player in the game — a street god.
* * *
Neither my father nor my mother wanted to raise a drug dealer. Though they never married (they spoke of themselves as "separated"), they both played an active role in my life. Dad, a strong and handsome Puerto Rican, worked at Rikers Island until he retired. He had a strong work ethic and tried to pass it on to me, even buying me a hot dog stand when I turned twelve.
Like many fathers, Dad would pick me up every Saturday and take me to places he thought I ought to visit. He was a visionary. He wanted me to be smart, so he enrolled me in memorization classes. He wanted me to be confident, so he enrolled me in karate class. He wanted me to be skilled, so he signed me up for wood shop. He wanted me to be multicultural, so he paid for tennis lessons and placed me in situations where I mixed with white, Asian, and Hispanic kids. My father lived in a diverse world, and he wanted me to share it.
We never finished those classes or perfected those skills, but by the time I'd lost interest in one activity, he'd come up with some other program he wanted me to try. He also taught me by example — how to greet people, how to repeat their names after meeting them so I'd remember them. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was picking up skills that would serve me well over the years.
My mother's world, on the other hand, was almost completely African American. I lived with her in a middle-class house on a nice street in Cambria Heights, home to lawyers and city leaders and officials. My mother was married when she had her first three children — my siblings Dawn, Emerald, and Chad — all by her husband. They divorced, and many years later, she met my father and I was born. On our street, all the families but mine and one other had mothers and fathers. I felt the difference keenly.
Cambria Heights was definitely not the ghetto; but every area has an underbelly, and Queens had a flourishing drug culture, especially in the eighties. Most of the drug action was in upper Manhattan, particularly Harlem and Washington Heights. Dealers there bought large quantities of cocaine and distributed it in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and later Queens. By the time they reached my neighborhood, the drug dealers and crime syndicates had become highly organized — they'd made all their mistakes in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Wealthy drug dealers bought nice homes in Queens and set up shops to take advantage of all that middle-class money.
Along with the Supreme Team, Lorenzo Nichols (aka "Fat Cat") controlled South Jamaica, a working-class neighborhood only four miles from my home. Most of the residents lived in either older two-family homes or the projects. Jamaica Avenue, part of the neighborhood's northern border, was filled with people every night, crowds who strolled the cracked sidewalks past razor wire on fenced parking lots, past hand-lettered signs in storefronts, and past homes with bars over the windows.
Drugs drew people to South Jamaica, and the dealers controlled the street. I'd heard that one corner drug spot made $150,000 a day. These guys robbed, murdered, and dealt drugs, but they caught the nation's attention in February 1988 when Howard "Pappy" Mason, a drug dealer associated with Fat Cat, ordered his men to kill a cop. Twenty-two-year-old police officer Eddie Byrne was shot to death in his patrol car, provoking national outrage and an intense police crackdown on drug dealing in Queens. George H. W. Bush carried Eddie Byrne's police badge with him on the presidential campaign trail, even as Nancy Reagan continued to tell kids to "just say no."
You might think all that crime and murder would frighten a kid so much that he'd want to avoid the drug dealer's lifestyle. Unfortunately, I'd been attracted to it long before crime in Queens hit the national radar. I'd been hooked as a youngster, baited by flashy toys and expensive rides.
When mopeds first came out, one kid had a blue-and-white moped everyone talked about. Rumor had it that it had cost thousands of dollars and that he got it because his family was connected to the mob (a rumor that seemed to be confirmed later when I was told his uncle had been discovered chopped up in the trunk of a car). That kid was the only sixteen-year-old in Queens with a moped, and everyone knew he could afford it because his family ran drug spots.
Despite the serious pockets of poverty in the area, a seventeen-year-old from the neighborhood bought a Cadillac Seville. One afternoon when I was nine or ten, a friend and I walked the block and a half to McDonald's. We were sitting outside when we saw the kid with the Cadillac approaching the drive-through line, but an ambulance pulled in first. My friend and I were wondering if someone was sick when we heard, "Freeze! Don't move, don't move!"
Excerpted from Street God by Dimas Salaberrios, Angela Hunt. Copyright © 2015 Dimas Salaberrios. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
This is a powerful story of the relentless love of God. There is no pit so deep that his grace and mercy can’t find you.
A powerful story of emerging leadership founded in personal transformation.
A complex and thrilling narrative. I dare anyone to read Street God and come away unchanged. This is The Cross and the Switchblade for a new generation.
You won’t find a more amazing account of how God’s grace can change lives than what you have here in the life of my brother, Dimas Salaberrios.