ONCE A DRUG KINGPIN
Chasing The Elusive American Dream
By Billy Ray Riggs, San Quentin Death Row
Once A Drug Kingpin
Chasing The Elusive American Dream
I was given the
name Billie Ray Riggs at birth, but the streets christened me "Big Pappa
Cash" Pops for short. I was introduced to the streets at the
age of twenty. Once I met the streets I fell in love with them.
If I couldn't get it in the Street, I didn't want it. Just beginning
at the age of twenty put me way behind my peers, in recognizing and knowing
how to take advantage of hustling opportunities-some legal, most illegal.
I had to Quickly learn how to cheat at just about everything which also
kept the cheat off me.
Selling Drugs became an everyday fact of life as I was learning and being
taught the ways of the world. When black awareness came on
the scene , I was one of the first to embrace the ideology .
I was a real contradiction. I wanted people to be black
and proud while at the same time I was them drugs. I rose slowly
and totally into the drug world as I became more and more disillusioned
with the movement.
Even though I
am a nice looking man, I am not a movie star, rapper, or someone blessed
with super athletic ability other than my above average natural strength.
I am your average
man who grew up in the Ghetto. My knowledge and perspective
comes from years chasing the dream that leads so many of us to an early
grave or the pen-from years playing the dope game.
I am laying me
heart and soul on the line, so that I might save a few of you from the
pain and doom that is now my life.
I have dedicated
my life to showing young people that selling drugs is a fast track to the
cemetery, prison or even death row.
The proof ?
I have more friends dead than alive. You'd need an adding machine
to count the number of my friends in prison.
I can show you
bullet wounds on my bod. I can tell you true stories about friends
who've died brutal deaths because they were in the dope game, because they
dreamed of being big-time dealers.
See where I'm
from , young people don't dream of becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers
, or even professional athletes. They dream of becoming big
time drug dealers. Kingpins. I'll stand witness.
Anyone who dreams of an easy life selling drugs is going to find out the
dream is a nightmare. This is a real life-no drama and there is nothing
sugar coated about the uncut truth.
For all those
young girls out there who chase down drug dealers hoping to marry them
and live in luxury. I wish that I could sit down and have a
heart to heart talk with them who have this fantasy. I can
tell them things that would make them wish they never saw a man who deals
drugs. Ask me and some of the unfortunate women if all the material
things were worth the horror of having your door kicked in by men in ski
masks and black gloves, armed with packed Uzis, AK-47's and 9mms.
I can still imaging how they felt when they made them and their children
lie down on the floor. threatening to kill them if she didn't tell
the jacker's where I kept my money. While I was off trying
to make another million dollars to go with the 3 million I had already
amassed. I can still hear my lady begging for the lives of her and her
children. Once of her kids was so scared she peed on herself.
Even today, ten years later, I am sure she doesn't want to talk about it.
Come to think of it, I don't either!
I came home and
found my lady terrified and in tears. The thugs had left a message
with her after taking 50,000 of her jewelry right off her body.
"We were hoping
Pops was home so we could kick in his curly head."
A friend of mine
wasn't so lucky- he came home and found his family dead.
After that incident,
my lady friend pleaded with me to change my lifestyle. I put up my
750,000 house for sale and was willing to sell it for half that price.
I then searched city wide for information leading to the three robbers,
but I was too stupid to change. The addiction to selling drugs is
10 times more powerful than using them. As I think about it now,
I am sure happy about never using drugs. Not even a cigarette.
One day a youngster
on the same tier reminded me of the time he came to me years ago and asked
me to teach him my secret? Someone had told him that I knew the secret
of the very profitable "double up", cooking one kilo of cocaine and making
it come back two kilos of crack.
young man said, " I heard you have it going on?" The idolization
in his voice makes me sick when I think about it. "They tell me you
were living large and counting money like Trump." I remember him
saying that like it was yesterday!
He wanted to
see the picture of my black Mercedes and the house everybody was talking
about. I hand him my photo album without speaking a word and watched
his young, impressionable face glowing with adulation. After a moment
he remarked, "Pops, I wanted to be just like you."
I wish that I
had explained to him back then just what he was about to get himself into
now that I see him in here on death row with me. He did get his wish,
he is just like me, he's in prison. I should have told the young
man that I was not someone to look up to; I wish I could have told him
to look up at those razor wire fences that surround this prison.
Look at that clock in your cell and tell me how many times that hour hand
has to go full circle before you become a free man?
As I continue
to school him every day when he is talking about that pipe dream he had.
It has become more than the young brother had bargained for as he flashed
back on that fast life we both lived, but I am not through yet.
Tomorrow, I will
tell him about "not counting the hours, days, or even weeks," I will
continue. "You better count years! And when you count, brother, take
your shoes off because you're going to run out of fingers and you'll be
needing them toes."
When I show people
the pictures of my previous lifestyle, and the material things
I had, its not
to brag. Its just that you can't tell the whole truth without
letting them see the traps--money, cars, fine women, bad reputation and
the feeling that you are
a big man.
In some neighborhoods, if you aren't a drug dealer you'll never get a girlfriend.
Talk about the pressure, especially for a teenager. Thats
why I showed the young brother the photos of my past, and that having all
of that, I may never get the chance to have children and watch them grow
up or have grand children. I let him know that we may never
see any of these things again, not to mention being able to lay next to
a woman ever again, hug her and smell her sweet fragrance, touch her soft
skin, feel her cold feet rubbing on our bodies and most of all tell her
how much I love her.
"So you wanted
to sell drugs, huh?" I kept nailing at the young brother who idolizes
me. "You wanted to help destroy people's lives, not to mention your
own?" I could feel a cold tear as it ran down my face. "When
you sell drugs, brother, you're not only destroying the buyers life, but
their families too."
As we sat at
the table on the yard one day, I shoved my prison papers in front of him,
with my court imposed sentence slapped across the top:
TO DEATH SAN QUENTIN PRISON !
When you come
to prison or get killed, you destroy your whole family, your wife and children,
if you're like me my girlfriend and my mother. For a family to be
complete, it's got to be together. Cut off an arm and you can
still survive, but you're always going to have limitations. When
your daughter grows up without a father in the home and has two or three
kids before she's seventeen, and ends up on welfare for the rest
of her life, its your fault. When your son ends up in a prison cell
next to yours or gets smoked (killed) before he's old enough to finish
school, its your fault. When you come to prison and your wife, or
in my case girlfriend, becomes someone elses wife or girlfriend and forgets
you even exist, thats your fault too. You wanted to be a kingpin,
so you got everything that goes along with that title.
be living good for awhile. Keep that in mind when they ship you off
to prison. I was living it large. Big deal. "
Like the young
brother on the tier that worshipped me maybe you thought I was going to
give some tips on how to come up large (get rich) in the dope game.
be giving out knowledge, it would be giving out poison. And I have
poisoned far too many people already chasing that almighty dollar.
Know I have dedicated my life to use the same determination to try and
change a few young peoples minds to steer them away from that same crooked
path I followed.
I still feel
responsible for one of the things that cause me to dedicate my life to
saving others. After I got convicted, I stayed in contact with my
aunt (which is my mothers youngest sister.) She has a son, "Bobby"
who worshipped the ground I walked on. Bobby wanted in on the dope
game and was always asking me to set him up. I always gave him the
runaround or some excuse to protect him from the hurt I had seen happen
to some of my friends. Bobby was an intelligent kid capable of excelling
in a legit career if he wanted to. He was an upcoming disc jockey.
To make things worse he was a "prep" too green for the street life, too
soft and anxious to get rich.
After I had been
in prison for a few months, I called my aunt and was surprised to hear
that a big time drug dealer had been over to her house. I spoke to
that drug dealer soon after and he asked me if I could trust Bob with some
dope. I started to say no because my instincts told me that
something tragic would happen to the kid of he ever got into the dope game,
but I didn't want Bobby to feel I'd badmouthed him so
I said, " He
could be trusted." I said it with hesitancy, though, hoping that
the drug dealer would pick up on that and refuse to enlist Bob.
That night, he gave Bob a large quantity of cocaine on consignment.
The next day I called my aunt to ask about Bob. She told me that
the gang was looking for Bob because he had disappeared with their product
and they hadn't received any money for it. It was the beginning of
a habit that has controlled his every thought for the last six years.
You might say that I cosigned his death warrant.
If I had said
flat out "No", Bob might be a productive citizen today, maybe even a rich
man. I will never forgive myself for the slow death that is now a
way of life for him.
I will never
be able to undo this terrible fate that seems to be his destiny.
I feel that the greatest respect I can pay him is to try and save other
young people from the same tragic mistake...
No doubt about
it, Billy Ray Riggs was a natural leader with creative talent. He
excelled at everything he did. Maybe it was his environment, maybe
it was plain old greed, but Pops chose the wrong path. Now he sits
in prison back where he started, (without a dime in his pocket,) and can't
even buy toothpaste to brush his teeth unless someone on the outside cares
enough to send him a few bucks.
Is the ex ghetto
king remorseful? "Yes! I'm glad I'm in prison, " he says reflectively.
"I don't want your sympathy, I just want a chance to help those who
were once like me."
To read more of Billy Ray Riggs' poetry, click on link below
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This page was
last updated July 26, 2001 Canadian
Coalition Against the Death Penalty
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