Black Gen-Xers love to romanticize the 80s.
For us, this decade of our adolescence was a time of hip-hop music, fast money, and Reaganomics.
The crack epidemic had long term effects that touched almost every African American in this country. Yet, for years, rappers like Jeezy and Jay-Z made entire careers out of songs that glorified drug dealing.
There were good days and bad days. There was a lot of money made, but there were also a lot of lives lost.
While the stories of our drug dealing histories may not be the most necessary cautionary tales for our kids, the stories do serve to explain some of the statistics that plague Black America.
The crack era and the mass incarceration that sought to squelch it are responsible for harmful circumstances from single parent households to lowered rates of marriage.
As Gen-X gets older, becoming parents and even grandparents looking back on our raucous past becomes more nostalgic.
The stories, as painful as they are, deserve to be told.
Founder of Don Diva Magazine, Kevin Chiles, is telling his story as one of the most notorious drug dealers in New York City and how selling drugs, being incarcerated, and ultimately creating a popular magazine dedicated to the darker side of Black street life because his redemption.
The Crack Era: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Kevin Chiles opens with a grim picture that is familiar. The 70s in New York found the city near bankruptcy.
The poverty in the South Bronx would become the catalyst for the birth of hip-hop, but the pain and desperation would also create a vacuum where a drug like crack, making its way from the west coast could easily grab hold of the most vulnerable.
The book is dense. Topping out at 374 pages of tight, small text. It is not a quick read. Still, the story is compelling enough to keep the attention of the reader. Chiles paints a clear picture of life as a notorious drug dealer, of prison, and ultimately of how he got the idea and went about launching Don Diva Magazine with his wife, Tiffany.
One of the best parts of The Crack Era is how Chiles pays attention to how his actions affect those around him. In the book, the reader learns more about his relationship with Tiffany as well as his other family members who were impacted by his choices.
Chiles also highlights how the narrative of drug dealing is inextricable from each other. “In 1994-95 there were no images of young, Black entrepreneurs such as music moguls like Jay-Z and Puffy,” Chiles writes, “Forget evidence or drugs, I was being tried for being young, Black, and rich.”
The Crack Era: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Kevin Chiles is a book worth reading, it is a glimpse into a time that while we remember it now with almost a distant fondness, it is part of a painful past that we shouldn’t forget.