Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Must-See TV: "American Gangster" - Oakland's Felix Mitchell - on BET

Oakland is... let's face it... a violent city. There's a reason why gangsters everywhere wear Oakland Raiders jackets. There's a reason that the Hell's Angels are synonymous with Oakland. If you look at Oakland, California, and wonder, "how in the hell did this town become so fucked up?" - this TV show should answer a few of your questions.

The series is called "American Gangster" on the Black Entertainment Television network. It's a really good series on the kingpins of America's black gangs, including the murderous gangs of Philly, D.C., Harlem... there's even a show on the Beltway Snipers. But this particular show is about the man who put Oakland on the map.

In the 1950's, Oakland was mostly white. Then in the 60's, Southern blacks began to move into the Bay Area. In this backdrop, Felix Mitchell - a young man who sought to emulate gangsters like Al Capone - gathered up a posse in the 69th Village housing projects where he grew up, and set up a major pot and speed dealing operation (which turned to a heroin operation after he married into the heroin biz). 69th Village and the nearby 65th Village quickly became the most dangerous places in Oakland. (You've probably even been there... it's right near the Oakland Colisseum & Arena complex at 66th & Hegenberger).

The show documents Mitchell's rise to power, the adulation he received from the project-dwellers of Oakland (the ones he wasn't killing with drugs), the spread to Sacramento, Vallejo and other spots, the war and truce with the Black Panthers, his problems with rival gangs, his eventual takedown on RICO statutes, and his violent death in Leavenworth Prison at the ripe old age of 32.

The show goes a little bit into the legacy left behind by this gangster. Much like Yugoslavia after the death of Tito, Oakland turned into a battleground of squabbling 2-bit players shooting each other over nothing. Not much has changed since.

The show takes pains to tell it like it is without glorifying this thug. The ghetto kids still sing his praises, but the truth is hard to cover up.


Thu, Nov 8 @ 10:00p, 070 BETP
Fri, Nov 9 @ 2:00a, 070 BETP
Sat, Nov 10 @ 10:00p, 070 BETP
Sun, Nov 11 @ 10:00p, 070 BETP

Other articles...

Who Do Teens Trust More, Ronald McDonald Or Felix Mitchell? by Timothy Stelly, Sr., from useless

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