Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mainstreaming the gang life

Educators endorse gang leader's book
Bundley, three others appear on handbook's jacket
By Justin Fenton and Sara Neufeld
May 9, 2009
Four local educators - including a two-time Baltimore mayoral candidate - are listed among endorsers of a black empowerment handbook that federal authorities say was written and distributed by the leader of a violent prison gang to spread its message.The most prominent is Andrey L. Bundley, who garnered 33 percent of the votes in a 2003 mayoral primary, ran again in 2007 and now oversees alternative education for the Baltimore school system. He is quoted on the book's back cover as giving "kudos" to Eric Brown, an alleged leader of the Black Guerrilla Family and the book's author. Bundley wrote that Brown "availed his leadership capacity in Jamaa [the organization] to guide his comrades towards truth, justice, freedom and equality."The Black Book - Empowering Black Families and Communities is self-published by Brown. It outlines principles to bring about a revolution in the black community and, according to court documents, is being distributed throughout the state. An online order form offers a discount for inmates.Bundley said he met Brown, a 40-year-old from Baltimore incarcerated since 1992 on drug charges, while doing gang outreach work in the state's prison system. He said he was impressed with Brown's work helping soon-to-be-released felons of various gang affiliations with self-improvement as they prepared for life in the outside world. Those lessons were eventually compiled in TheBlack Book, Bundley said, and his quotes apply only to the self-improvement work he witnessed personally. He said he was in no way condoning the violence with which the gang has been associated.School officials questioned Bundley this week after learning of his quotes in the book. Bundley's own book is cited in The Black Book among works by such notable figures as Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey, according to a copy obtained by The Baltimore Sun.."I've seen [rival gangs] come together in one room and work on the lessons in The Black Book to get themselves together," Bundley told The Baltimore Sun. "I know Eric Brown was a major player inside the prison doing that work. The quote on the back of the book is only about the work that I witnessed: no more, no less."Michael Sarbanes, a city school system spokesman, said there is no evidence that the book has been used in the public schools. A copy of the book was obtained by The Baltimore Sun."The discussion or distribution of the book is in no way affiliated with city schools," he said. "Dr. Bundley's job is making disengaged youth meet with success, and the book is not part of that important work."Federal prosecutors say Brown was actively working to expand the Black Guerrilla Family's reach outside prison. He was one of 24 people indicted last month in federal court on drug and weapons charges, accused of running a violent criminal enterprise that involved murder, extortion, armed robbery and drug trafficking.Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Edward Marcinko said investigators have no evidence to indicate that Bundley or any of the other educators are involved with the gang's criminal activities.Confidential informants told authorities that the book - written by Brown under the pen name "La Eusi Jamaa," Swahili for "The Black Family" - is a ploy to make the gang appear to be a legitimate organization.In addition to Bundley, educators quoted on the book jacket include Bridget Alston-Smith, whose nonprofit Partners in Progress works with at-risk children at three city schools. Partners in Progress hired a key BGF member and convicted murderer, Rainbow Lee Williams, to help de-escalate gang conflicts at an alternative school.Like Bundley, Alston-Smith said her quote in the book reflected only the self-improvement efforts she witnessed while doing outreach in prisons. "It was so enlightening to see them grow," she said, noting that the messages of The Black Book appealed even to white inmates. "I thought it was a great curriculum," she said. "Now I'm hearing gang manifesto. I'm like, 'What?'"Two professors from Anne Arundel Community College, Tyrone Powers and Leslie Parker Blyther, are also quoted endorsing the book, though neither could be reached for comment Friday to confirm the authenticity of the remarks.Powers, a former FBI counterterrorism agent and Maryland state trooper, directs the school's Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute. He also hosts a weekly radio show on 1010 WOLB AM where he is sharply critical of Baltimore's leadership and promotes black empowerment.Documents show he and Alston-Smith as president and treasurer of a corporation called Children First Movement Inc. Powers and Bundley were classmates at Southwestern High School and have advocated for inner-city children.An introduction to the book says its purpose is to "make people aware of the vision of Comrade George Jackson," who founded BGF in 1966.Brown writes emphatically that the group is an "organization that has become a movement" and not a gang. Gangs are a "backdrop to the chaos that we face in our neighborhoods. ... The gang mentality has destroyed so much and given so little to our people."The book details financial empowerment, such as homeownership, managing debt and diversifying investments; respecting women and raising children; and acting as "distinguished gentlemen." It advocates spending money within the black community and talks about creating a new political system that would allow blacks to thrive.

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