Gang Banger Tries To Go Straight… season 1

gang

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Tom Becka: Welcome to this interview on TomBecka.com, where everyone is extraordinary, and everyone has a story to tell. This story is one that is an amazing story. What makes somebody want to be a member of a gang? What makes somebody want to spend his life behind bars and live a life of crime?

Ollie Perryman was recruited into the Crips by Tookie Williams, the founder of the Crips, and he spent most of life behind bars. Once he got out of jail, once he got out of prison, he tried to turn his life around, but found that he had some difficulty because of the felonies on his record.

Getting a job, having to pay bills, he had a colostomy bag, he had medical issues he had to take care of, and he found himself in a little bit of trouble along the way.

There’s an epilogue at the end of this interview that was recorded back, early in 2012.

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Ollie Perryman: I would describe my background like an obstacle course.

Tom: Ollie Perryman, are you one of the founding members?

Ollie: I wasn’t a founding member of the Crips. I was a founding member of my neighborhood. I started the Crips when I was about twelve, 1969-1970 somewhere around there. Big Tookie Williams, Raymond Washington, they were the founding, I came along right after them.

Tom: So you’re one of the first wave members of the Crips in LA. How did that happen, How did you become a member of the Crips? How old were you at the time?

Ollie: I think I was 12, maybe 13.

Tom: So you’re 12 or 13 years old. Were you’re parents at home? What was your background?

Ollie: My background, Tom, I’ve never met my mom. My mother, I don’t want to say she abandoned me. Something was going on with my family in LA. I don’t know nothing about it. To this very day, I don’t know what happened.

My mother took me with her to New York. My mother was street pregnant in the 1940s, I think. No, ’20s, because my mother was 22 when she had me.

Daddy was in his 40s. You can just imagine back in them days in Los Angeles, back in the ’20s and ’30s and ’40s. LA was kind of rough. I don’t know what my mother was going through. When she had me in ’57, she took me with her to New York.

My mother got in some kind of trouble in New York. She was a street person, to my knowledge. It was a choice. Either my grandmother, which is my daddy’s mother, come get me, or I was going to be put into foster care, some foster home, in New York.

My parents, my grandmother didn’t want that, because my other brother was in Los Angeles. So she came to New York, got me when I was about 18 months old, brought me back to LA. Like I said, I’ve never seen my mom. I’ve talked to her a few times. But I’ve never met her.

So I was raised basically with my grandmother, her sister — no, her two sisters — so it was my grandmother and my great-aunts. My dad would come in the picture every blue moon, bro, just to probably drop off some money, some school clothes.

But he kept on moving, because he was a street person. He worked, but he loved gambling, every weekend.

Tom: So basically, a hustler.

Ollie: Yeah. My dad was a hustler and a worker, so he did both. And I guess…

Tom: Was your mom a prostitute, or was she a drug dealer? What was she doing, do you know?

Ollie: If I had to take a guess, I think my mother was a hooker. If I had to take a guess, bro. I don’t know what she was doing, but I think she was a hooker, and she was caught up in — I want to say — the wave of madness back in LA, man, in the ’20s and ’30s. She just got caught up.

Tom: Now, you’re talking about, your grandmother raised you, then?

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: What was she like?

Ollie: My grandmother was a straight Christian. She didn’t drink sin, smoke, didn’t drink, and didn’t cuss, nothing negative. I never heard my grandmother raise her voice, ever, ever, ever. Never. But she was strict with me, “Go to school. Get your education.”

But I always felt something was missing. I always wondered, why did my mother leave me? Why was I being raised by my grandmother? Why, when I go to my friends’ houses, I see their mother and daddy there.

Why am I different? Being raised by my grandma, but not raised with my mother and my father. So I couldn’t figure that part out.

Tom: Did your friends make fun of you, or kids at school? Did they pick on you because you were being raised by your grandma and not your mom?

Ollie: I used to get picked on, not in that. I used get picked on because I was a runt. Everybody in my family’s short, so everybody thought I was going to be a little runt, too. I was getting picked on in that aspect.

But everybody in my neighborhood knew my grandmother, and knew my family. So we was kind of close-knit, you know. But it was strange to me, because I called everybody on my block “Mama.” I called everybody else “Father,” you know, “That’s my pop.” So it was kind of a family, a block, but it’s family.

But at the same time, man, my mama’s missing. Why? And nobody never told me why, what happened. I just got bits and pieces of the story.

Tom: So now, Tookie Williams and members of the Crips come into your neighborhood. You’re 13, and they try to recruit you. I mean, I’m not getting into the pop psychology here, but are you looking at these guys as a replacement family of some sort?

Ollie: You got to understand, Tom, that I was in a gang before the Crips even came out. We had a gang called the Waterfront Boys in my neighborhood. I was going in and out of jail since I was nine years old, juvenile hall, since I was nine years old, bro.

Me being a bad ass, me fighting in school and me doing all the negative stuff. The Crips happened to just be another part of my montage of negativity because it was brought to me. A friend of mine said, “We’re having a big meeting at Sportsman Park.”

I said, “What’s going on up there man?” He said, “Man, the Crips going to be up there.” I said, “Who?” He said, “Big Tooks.” I said, “Let’s go up there.”

We go up there. Next thing I know we get recruited. We in. We baby Crips. That’s how it all started, bro.

Tom: “Baby Crips” means what?

Ollie: We baby. We had the big Crips. We the youngest. We the baby Crips. We under the big Crips so to speak.

Tom: They have you running drugs or they have you holding up liquor stores? What would a baby Crip do compared to a big Crip.

Ollie: The robbing wasn’t really going on because I was always stealing. In hindsight, they need me to steal. I was always a thief. I always rob somebody. I always took something. The gangs really didn’t bring that to me. I was doing that before I even was in a gang.

What we did when I grew up was more a community thing, a block thing. Take care of our communities. Take care of our block. Some kids come over and snatch purses because we lived right across the street from Ralph’s Supermarket. They’d snatch the purses.

We implemented a no-purse law. You can’t snatch purses on this block. You cannot do that in our area. If you don’t live over here, you can’t come over here. You cannot do that. We implemented those kinds of rules to other kids. You can’t come over here stealing.

Tom: Only you can steal in your neighborhood.

Ollie: Only we can steal, yes.

Tom: Were those rules upheld, respected by other gangs?

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: Because if you went into their neighborhood and did something they didn’t want, they’d retaliate, too.

Ollie: Retaliation, yes.

Tom: You’re 13. You said you were in and out of jail since you were nine. Is there anything in the back of your mind saying, “This is wrong. I’ve got to change. I’ve got to stop?”

Ollie: No. I love testing the limits. I love to see what I can get away with. Sometimes I think I love hurting people. I didn’t love being in juvenile hall. I loved sitting in front of a court judge. I didn’t like that part, but I liked the other part.

I liked the burglaries, the stealing, the muggings, stealing cars. That was exciting, but when I got caught that wasn’t exciting. It was like a 50/50.

Tom: You get caught a few times. Did you ever think, “I’m going to get caught. I’m going to stop this?” Your excitement is not worth the punishment.

Ollie: No, because in LA when I was growing up, if you haven’t been in juvenile hall, haven’t been at camp, haven’t been to YA, you ain’t shit, period. You’re soft if you ain’t breaking the law, if you ain’t going into juvenile halls and fighting in camp, you ain’t shit.

You ain’t got no reputation. Then juvenile hall built up my reputation from the time I was nine to a time I got to the YA. Everybody knew me because we grew up with each other through juvenile halls. “Don’t mess with him.” These reputations start — how can I put the word?

Our reputations got out of hand with other gang members that knew Ollie. They didn’t call me by my nickname. They just called me Ollie. They wanted to know Ollie. They said, “Ollie” when I see another dude, but it wasn’t to the point where I wanted to stop.

I never thought about stopping. I never thought about anything but keep on doing what I’m doing. I never thought about me and my career. I never thought about today ever.

Tom: We’ll get to that in a little bit here because some things that actually happened today that had ramifications back of what you did when you were a kid. We’ll talk about that a little later on in the interview here, but were any of your friends at the time thinking about getting out?

The people that were hanging out, were they thinking, “This is wrong,” or what was going on with the people around you?

Ollie: It was like one big happy family. Out of our whole neighborhood when I was a kid, I think there was only one person that never went to jail, my friend named Vern.

For some kind of some reason, as a matter of fact, Vern and his two brothers never went to jail. They did it all. They got away clean. They never wound up going to juvenile hall, the camps, or YAs.

Plus, they had one thing I didn’t have. They had a mother and a daddy. Do you know I’m saying? Even though the mother knew they were breaking the rules, they, the kids, knew their limits.

I didn’t know my limits, bro. I didn’t have any.

Tom: Your grandma never gave you limits?

Ollie: Man, my grandma, she did but it would go through one ear and out the other. Bam. “OK, grandma, I hear you, but I’m going.” Put on my clothes, and I’m going out the back door.

Tom: At no point did you ever think, “I’m hurting my grandmother. I’m hurting her. I’m making her cry.” Anything like that ever go through your mind?

Ollie: It did but I loved the streets, man. For some reason I could not shake it. I could not shake the camaraderie, the homie-ism, and my boys.

I loved my grandma. I loved my grandmother to death, bro. To death. But I just couldn’t shake that part of my life.

Tom: You’re working now with kids, trying to get them to not go down the path that you went down.

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: How do you do that, though? Because I’m talking to you, and you’re just saying how much you loved the excitement. You loved the streets. You loved all of this.

How do you talk to these kids and tell them, “Yeah, you may love it now, but…” How do you get through to these kids?

Ollie: I just tell them to look at me. I’m a big stop sign. All the time I did in juvenile halls, camps, county jails, prisons, state and fed. Selling drugs, burglarizing, robbing, and stealing, I have nothing to show for it.

My credit score’s jacked up. I owe student loans here and there. I’m behind on child support. My criminal history is killing me.

I tell kids, “Man, it’s not worth it.” I don’t own a home, nothing. I’m 54 years old. I don’t even own a home yet, bro. I own a piece of car. I’ve barely got a hundred dollars in my pockets.

I tell these kids, “If you want to be like me, man, keep doing what you’re doing.” I said, “But nobody told me when I was coming up, when I was gang-banging, the ramifications of what I’m doing.”

Nobody told me, “Ollie, if you keep doing that, this is going to happen.” Or, “What about your credit score, your FICO score,” and all that. Nobody told me that.

Tom: Yeah, but when you’re 13 you’re not worried about your credit score.

You say your grandma was telling you stuff, and it was in one ear and out the other. Could anybody have reached you back in those days? Could they have really gotten through to you?

Ollie: No, they tried. Even the probation officers tried. They tried. They started to send me to camp. That’s what they did.

Every weekend, I had to go to the fire department to volunteer with the firemen. Roll up their hoses, clean the fire trucks, and all that. But that was so boring. It wasn’t exciting.

What I used to do, I used to steal a car. I used to be a car thief, so I’d steal a car and park it around the corner from the fire department. I’d walk in there for my little hour. “OK, I’m here. I’m in for a little hose.” Walk my way around the corner, get in the stolen car, and I’m gone.

That’s what I did, man. It really was no big deal. “OK, I’ve got to go here for an hour. Big deal. After I leave here, I’m going to take something from somebody. I’m going to rob somebody. I’m going to do something, so I need a getaway car around the corner.”

It wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t understand the ramifications of how it was going to affect me in my later years. I think if kids know how things they’re doing now are going affect them later, I think they’d stop and take a different avenue.

But, now, nobody’s telling these kids, “These robberies, these burglaries, these drug deals, these going out of jails, and these felonies are going to hurt you when you turn 50.”

I tell them that, man. That’s what I’m trying to tell these kids. “Man, what you’re doing now is gong to hurt you.”

Tom: Let’s talk a little bit about back to your life of crime. How old are you now?

Ollie: 54.

Tom: 54?

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: How many years, of your 54 years, have you spent behind bars?

Ollie: [whistles] I’ve been out since 2004. I did 12 and half. I did a year in New Orleans. Probably, out of my 54 years, I’m going to say 40 of them.

Tom: Really?

Ollie: I’m going to say 40. I’m going to say out of 40 years — if I’m 54, and that was 14 years, then 40 years, bro. I’ve tricked my life out of 40 years. Yes, I have. Yep.

Tom: For what crimes? You talk about auto theft, robbery. Did you ever shoot anybody?

Ollie: I did shootings, attempted murders, assault with intent of bodily injury, mayhem, robbery, burglary, grand theft auto, joyriding, malicious mischief, and arson. I think I did a little bit of everything, bro, except rape a woman or mess with kids. Those areas are areas I don’t do.

But other things, I even went so far as to rob banks. I have.

Tom: You robbed banks?

Ollie: Yes, I have. I got away.

Tom: This may be a weird question. You said you did it for the excitement. Was one more exciting than the other? In other words, would robbing a bank be more exciting than stealing a car? Or would arson be more exciting than attempted murder, or vice-versa?

Ollie: I think it’s all wound up into one big, old ball. It’s like a thread on a ball. Just pick a thread out. “I’m going to do this today. All of it’s in the ball, but I’m going to do this one today. I’m going to do these three today. I’m going to steal myself a car, burglarize somebody’s house, and probably go sell some dope today. That’s what I’m going to do today.”

Tom: Selling dope, let’s talk about that a little bit here. You and I met probably three or four years ago, or something like that, I guess. When we first met you were working, trying to get your act together.

You were trying to get a job, trying to become an outstanding member of society.

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: You were recently arrested on selling crack cocaine.

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: What happened?

Ollie: To put it in a nutshell, the people need to understand how I believe the government works. This I my belief. I’m just going on my beliefs.

You know as much as I’ve been trying to do in this community, and who I am, and where I’m from. I do have a big mouth. I call a spade, a spade.

But my doing 12 and a half years in prison changed my mindset when I go out of prison. I had certain things I would never, ever, ever, ever do. Selling crack was one of them, and using weapons was another one.

Tom: You say you wouldn’t use weapons, but you were charged with attempted murder?

Ollie: Yeah, but that was before I got out of the feds.

Tom: Your life changed after the last jail sentence?

Ollie: I went to prison in ’92. I got out in 2004. When I was in there I had an epiphany, so to speak. It was like, “I can’t be the same person I was when I get up out of here.”

I started educating myself. I came out here with a whole different perspective on life. “I’m going to go ahead and get the $8.00 an hour job, or the seven. I’m going to go ahead and do that.”

“I’m going to go ahead and shop at the thrift store down on sixth. I’m going to go ahead and do that. I’m going to bend the rules for Ollie because Ollie doesn’t want to go back to jail anymore.”

I did certain things and my life changed because I didn’t want to see prison. My first job when I got out of prison was at Paxton-Mitchell steel factory, you know, paying seven bucks an hour. When I left I was making $12.74, good money.

Then I got a job with my ex wife. We started a cleaning business. Then I worked at Ink Cap with the youth. I was going to all the best schools, talking to all the kids, going to all these meetings, giving them my opinion — not opinion, but giving them what turned me wrong. “This is what turned me wrong.”

You know what I’m saying? If it turned me wrong it’s going to turn the other kids. When I see a kid today doing what I do I say “Man, you look just like me. You’re acting just like me.”

Tom: That’s the point. OK, but there you are, you see these kids, you see these kids. How do you go from trying to help these kids in to selling crack cocaine again?

Ollie: Let’s clear that. I was not selling crack cocaine. I got entrapped. I was at a point in my life where I didn’t have a job, things are kind of rough, I live with my cousins. The government, along with the police, sent this guy, my belief again, after me.

I met this guy at the Malcolm X Foundation at the grand opening. I never seen him before in my life, so I questioned him, “Man, what you doing here?” We got to talking. He’s an ex-felon…

Tom: I guess what I’m asking is more than the actual details of this. More along the lines of, you know, you got caught doing this.

Ollie: No, no. I didn’t get caught selling nothing.

Tom: If somebody’s going to come up to me and try to get me to sell crack cocaine I’m not going to do it.

Ollie: Let’s get it. I didn’t sell anything.

Tom: You made the crack cocaine, yeah.

Ollie: Let me use you as an example. Can I use you as an example?

Tom: Yeah. Sure.

Ollie: Say you come to me, say “Ollie, man, I got these people that smoke crack, but I have a connection over here that can’t sell me…” You tell me they can sell the powder, but you don’t know how to cook it, so you come to me for some advice.

So we talk, we talk, and we talk. I’m in my mind saying, “I don’t want to break that rule”, but my pockets. I don’t have any money.

So I say, “OK, Tom. I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to go ahead and cook this up for you dude, but let’s not make this a habit.”

OK, so you go get it, you bring it to me and I cook it up for you and I bring it back to you. Only thing I did, I did you a favor by cooking it for you and giving it back to you. I never sold crack on no corner. You can’t get anybody to say I sell crack. I don’t do that. I was doing somebody…

Tom: Yeah, but if you’re making it for somebody else to sell it’s the same thing isn’t it?

Ollie: Yeah.

Tom: You’re still ruining somebody else’s life.

Ollie: You’re right, but at the same time, I looked at it then as I’m doing a favor and my finances are messed up. OK? I can make $500, quick easy dollars just by cooking it up and giving it back to you and I’m out the picture.

Tom: Look, you know, you’ve got to put food on the table and you’ve got to pay your rent.

Ollie: Plus, I’ve got to buy these colostomy bags.

Tom: Yeah, that’s right. You have some health issues you’ve got to deal with. Yeah, so you need to buy new colostomy bags, right, clean ones and do that. So the money was easy money and you figured, “I got to do it.”

Ollie: “Why not?” I understand what you’re saying. Even if I’m cooking it for you, you’re going to sell it to somebody else. I understand that, but I’m saying, “I’m not selling it.” That’s the way I’m looking at it.

I’m justifying what I’m not doing. I’m not the seller. I’m not poisoning nobody. I may be helping you poison somebody, but I’m not the first offender, so to speak.

Tom: Earlier, you talked about how you never raped, you never had anything to do with kids and that. Is there some sort of a moral high ground there? In other words, you know, you’re robbing a bank, or you’re selling drugs, or whatever it might be, but you’re saying, “Hey, at least I’m not raping.”

In other words, are you using that as a way for maybe self esteem, if you will, or a way to just go and be proud of some of the stuff you’re not doing? Because you say, “I’m not selling the crack cocaine.” For me that’s a very thin line. If you’re making the stuff for sell it’s a very thin line there in trying to find the moral high ground.

Ollie: I understand that. That’s been my dilemma lately because I kick myself in the ass everyday because I say, “I broke a rule. I shouldn’t break the rule.” So I don’t fault the guy that brought it to me.

I fault me for being weak and going against my own rules. Even though he said, “Hey, I’ll pay you to do this. I know you ain’t got no money.” I should’ve said, “No,” and tried to find another way to get some money in pocket, but I didn’t.

I found an easy way out and I did. I succumbed to this little pressure and I did, but am I a crack dealer? No, I’m not. Can’t nobody find anybody get up and say, “Ollie sold me some crack.”

Tom: This was just like a one time thing you did to make a few extra bucks?

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: Now you got caught up out here?

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: You haven’t been tried on that yet have you?

Ollie: No. I go to court December the second, pre-trial.

Tom: If you’re convicted it would be what?

Ollie: Facing three to 50.

Tom: How do you feel about that? You’re out there saying you’re never going back and you’re facing three 50. You’ve got a pretty long rap sheet. You may get the book thrown at you.

Ollie: I feel sick. I do. I feel sick every day because I know the date is looming by. It’s coming closer and closer. My date is coming closer. I feel sick. One of my daughters won’t talk to me any more. She feels like, “Damn dad, you fucked up. You said you wasn’t going to do it, but you did any way.”

I tried to explain it to her, but I can’t explain it away. I’m just trying to give it to God, man. Say, “God I messed up, man. I did. I made a crucial mistake. I didn’t mean to do it, but I did it. You know my character. My character does not represent crack dealer,” but what can I say, man? I’ve got to roll with that. I have to.

Tom: You think you might die in prison?

Ollie: If they convict me it’s a possibility. If they give me anything over 20 years I could kiss the baby good-bye. I can.

Tom: You talked about trying to turn your life around and all that and then you couldn’t get a job, you needed the money and you did the crack thing. You tried to get a job during the holidays here. You tried to get a job as a telemarketer. Don’t mention the company or anything like that.

They told you, you had the job, then they did a background check and told you, “Nope. Sorry, can’t hire you.” Right?

Ollie: “Can’t hire you,” so it’s like what are you to do? You know, you try, you work, you sweat, you try to do everything you can to stay within certain parameters in your life, but every time you go fill out an application they got that little box down there “Are you a felon?”

“Yeah, I’m a felon.” I don’t have nothing to hide. Yeah, I’m one. It’s like, man, that was 20 years ago, though, and you’re still holding this against me? I asked the people, “What do you want me to do?”

I have low skills. I can’t do too much work because even though the colostomy bag doesn’t hinder me, but certain things I can’t do, so I’m saying, “What you want me to do?”

I’ve got rent, $650 a month. I’ve got bills. Mickey D’s can’t pay that.

Tom: But you understand why the company would look at you and say, “You’re just too much of a risk. I’ve got people here that aren’t a big risk. I’m going to hire them because they don’t have the felonies. They don’t have the rap sheet. They’re not selling…”

Ollie: Because they haven’t been caught yet. It’s like a piss test. Let’s say somebody smokes marijuana every day, they’re going to fail their piss test, but somebody that uses cocaine or PCP or heroine can pass a piss test. See what I’m saying? Look at the big difference.

Who would you rather hire? The weed smoker or the crack smoker, or the heroine smoker, or the PCP smoker? But them guys can get away with passing the piss test because it doesn’t stay in your system that long. A chronic marijuana user can not get away with it, so he’s being discriminated against. Same scenario.

Tom: Yeah, but what would you do though, if you’re the employer and you’re coming to me and I’m looking at your rap sheet and I’m saying, “Dude, you’ve been out and now here you are, pending charges and that. I just can’t take that chance.”

I understand at the same time you’re a guy trying to get your life on track. You’re trying to get your act together, and nobody is giving you a chance. What do you do?

Ollie: Keep knocking on that door, keep looking on those computers, keep trying to find something to do and don’t give up. Stay on website listings and don’t give up. Man, the first thing crossed my mind I said, “Damn, what they want me to do? Sell dope?”

First thing that come to my mind. When the lady called me today, “Mr. Perryman, we ran a background. Sorry, we can’t help you.” I was totally deflated. I’m 54.

What you want me to do? What y’all want me to do? OK, I fucked up. Now what you want me to do? You going to keep punishing me? OK, so I set somebody on fire. OK, man. I told the man I messed up. Now can we move on?

Tom: Yeah, but you messed up a lot.

Ollie: Tom, I got out of prison in 2004. I’ve been out of prison almost eight years. I’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever in my life been free this long in my entire life. This is a record for me. Record.

I’ve never been on the streets this long, ever. No time. Probably when I was a child. From one to nine. From nine years old I’m in and out of jail and in and out of trouble, but I’m talking about straight calendars. Bro, this is a record for me man. I’m honestly proud of me.

I got caught up in something, but I said, “Man, dude you’ve been out of prison this long. You just set a record for yourself.” But other people can’t see that. They don’t know me. They don’t know where I come from. They don’t know I’m steadily trying. I made an error. OK, man, if God forgives how come you can’t forgive?

God forgave us all, how come y’all not doing the forgiving? How come y’all not trying to change? It leaves me with a nasty taste in my mouth. I’m like, “OK, how am I going to eat now? How am I going to pay my bills?” That’s the question. What am I going to do to pay my bills?

Tom: Do you think, when you got out of prison, if you were able to get a job, a real job and one that was paying your bills, obviously not one that’s, like I said, going to pay big money, but enough to at least put a roof over your head and a little food in your belly, do you think the temptation of getting involved back in selling drugs…?

Wait a minute, do you do drugs?

Ollie: No. I don’t do anything. I just have a drink every now and then. I’m a health freak kind of.

Tom: You’re a health freak and you make crack cocaine?

[laughter]

Ollie: I don’t use the dope.

Tom: You understand where a guy like me finds that kind of strange?

Ollie: Again, we go back to mitigating circumstances. OK, you’re the government, you want to send me back to prison, you need to know how you’re going to send Ollie back to prison. You study me, you find my weaknesses “Oh, he’s a crack dealer.”

Now you’re going to send somebody else over to get me to send me back to prison. Because that’s what the police do, entrap people.

Tom: But why do they want to send you back to jail?

Ollie: Because I’ve got a big mouth. Because I don’t like what’s going on in North Omaha. I’m talking about these politicians not doing their job. I’ve been out of prison eight years almost and I haven’t seen one change in North Omaha.

I talk about the mayor, the councilman. At these meetings I talk about all. Not in a negative way, but I said man you’re wasting time. While you’re doing this you need to be doing this. This is how you fix the problem. You don’t want to fix the problem in North Omaha. The problem is easy to fix.

Tom: You think that because you opened up your mouth about what some of the politicians aren’t doing and what needs to be done, and you called out some of the politicians by name, you think they came after you to bring an undercover guy to become your friend?

Ollie: Plus, I was running for city council. I was going to run for city council. I was a shoe-in bro. Let me tell you, shoe-in. Wouldn’t be no if, ands, or buts about it. I would’ve one that election hands down. I know this in my heart because I done took tallies across all of North Omaha.

Everybody knows me. “Oh, we’ll vote for you.” Everybody. “We’ll vote for you, well vote for you, we’ll vote for you.”

Politics is a strange game, and power is a strange game. I’m not for the rich, I’m for poor whites, poor blacks. I don’t care what color, if you’re poor I’m with you. I guess my actions and my mouth got me.

Some folks told me, “You’re talking too much, Ollie.” When I got out of this case, when I got out of jail, they told me, “You’re talking too much. They don’t like you.” It’s been told me, “People don’t like you. You talk too much.” You’ve got too many this, too many that. They set you up.

Tom: Who’s they?

Ollie: You might find it hard to believe.

Tom: I don’t find it hard to believe that somebody might want to set you up, but you let them. That’s the thing that gets me. I know you, man. I knew you. I knew you were trying to make an honest life for yourself.

Ollie: You’re right. I let them. I did, bro. That’s why I’m kicking myself in the ass. I let them. I did that. “Damn. I was on a roll.” On a straight roll. I could have been anything I wanted, but I got weak because I had no money.

It’s all the temptation, the money God appealed to me again. “Ollie, you don’t have any money, you need this.” Money God and friendship because I’m a trusting person. I’m not out to hurt you. I’m not out to hurt anybody.

The police couldn’t sick me on you. I don’t care what I did, they can’t sick me to get you. Period.

Tom: I appreciate that, by the way. [laughs]

Ollie: Period. I’ll take my lumps and keep it moving. I’m not going to lay it down. I’ve done it before. I’ll go do my time. For somebody to chase me, to befriend me for these months, been in my house, we shot pool together at the billiards, ate together, everything together.

To befriend me, but you are a Benedict Arnold. That bothers me right there.

Tom: You say you keep your mouth shut. If they came to you wanting more information…?

Ollie: Man, I’m going to prison.

Tom: You’re not talking, you’re not snitching?

Ollie: I’m not snitching on nobody, bro. I don’t know nothing. I’m going to ride my beef. I grew up in a different area. I grew up in a brother area. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

Tom: I don’t know what you know and what you didn’t know, but let’s say you know there’s some guy out there and he’s just cooking all sorts of crack and you know that this crack is killing people. In other words, it’s going to kill them, whether they end up shooting someone to get the money for a fix or the drug itself is killing them, it’s killing them.

If you can stop that guy from making this crack you can save lives, and you’re still not talking?

Ollie: The other part of that, soon as you start talking, your name is going to be in the community. You’re a rat. You know what I’m saying? That’s not good for me, man. That’s not good to be a rat. Even if I don’t like what you’re doing.

For me to get caught up and say, “Such and such is doing this.” They’re going to take this statement down, so when a guy wants to go to court and during the discovery, there goes my name in black and white. “Ollie Perryman ratted you out.” Then what are you going to do?

Tom: This is what I don’t get. You bitch about how they’re not making any changes in North Omaha and the crime and the lack of education and the problems in North Omaha.

Yet, if people don’t speak out against it and work to get these guys out of it and stopping it, if you’re afraid to snitch or rat or whatever you want to say, then it just perpetuates.

Now they’re selling the drugs or doing the violence or doing the crimes and things aren’t changing. If you want to see a change, don’t you have to be the one to make the change?

Ollie: Yes, and the system has to change, also. You have to have a system where if you’re going to be a rat we need to protect you. We need to keep you calm. We need to keep your confidentiality to ourselves. This is what they do.

Say you was an officer and I gave you some information. You’re going to tell someone else that I told. That’s what they do, bro. You may not know. This is what officers do. They create a problem. That’s why people don’t come forward and tell because it leaks out so fast. It leaks out who’s doing the telling.

Tom: You’re saying if you tell me something, then I’m going to tell the guys back at the precinct house and next thing you know it’s out on the street that Ollie’s a snitch?

Ollie: As simple as that.

Tom: There’s these Crime Stoppers and things like that. Can’t you just make a call anonymously and give information that way to help stop it?

Ollie: You can make a call anonymously. They call you in, you give them your little ID number, but at the same time a person like me that knows the law, I have the right to cross-examine my accusers. I have that right. That’s my right.

Whoever told on me, I want to see them in court because I’m going to trial. I’m going to go to trial.

Tom: You’re just giving that information that they can go and find the stuff on their own and you don’t have to go to court then.

Ollie: A person calls Crime Stoppers, you put a name on the list, however they do it. They go do the bust. In order for you to get your money, they have to get convicted. If a person says, “I don’t want to take no deal. I want to go to trial.”

Now they’re going, “I want to see all the evidence against me.” The government has to supply that, all evidence — who told, when they told.

Tom: You’re not willing to take that chance?

Ollie: The confidentiality clause blows out the window because I want to know who did it. I want you to sit in my face and to my face. I have that right to cross-examine. Tell me to my face.

If I want to take a deal, “OK, I got caught, I don’t want to go to court. I’ll take this three, four, five year deal.” That way I won’t see the evidence against me. That’s a two prong thing. People are like, “I want to go to trial because I want to see what you’ve got, who did it, when they did it, and what time they did it.”

That’s how I do it, knowing the law. That’s how it works. Crime Stoppers works and it doesn’t work. The government and the police have to learn how to protect the people that want to come forward better. Better, bro. A whole lot better. I’m going to give you an example.

There’s some guys right now on the streets ratting out. Told on a lot of people. He was one of those snitch T-shirts. Who will protect him?

If somebody want to drive by and pop his top, maybe not today, maybe next week or next month or whatever, but they know he’s a rat. They know he talks. Who’s protecting him? When he winds up dead, what are they going to say? “Oh, it’s gang related.”

But they’re not going to tell you that this dude told somebody else. They’re not going to tell the other part of it. He was a rat. That’s why they got him, because he told on somebody.

How do you do that? When anything you do, anytime you tell on somebody, you can get that information, and your name is going to be on a shirt. I don’t want my name on a shirt, bro.

Tom: Are you worried about getting shot? You worried about somebody coming after you now?

Ollie: That’s the least of my worries. My worry right now is prison. Shot, somebody come after me, I worry about me spending the next 10 or 15 years in prison. That’s what I think about.

That’s what bothers me and not having financial stability. That bothers me because I don’t like my mind to be too idle with nothingness. It bugs me. I don’t have no job. Now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pay my bills. How am I going to pay my bills?

See what I’m saying? How am I going to pay my rent, my light, my gas when now I have no job? How am I going to do this?

Tom: Let’s say you get the minimum so you’re out of prison, you’re 57, 58 years old?

Ollie: Then what?

Tom: That’s it. If you’ve got a clean record and you’re looking for a job at 57, 58 it’s hard finding work. What are you going to do with your record? What happens? You get out and you just get thrown back in?

Ollie: Matter of fact, taxpayers are going to take care of me because I’m going to get disability. I’m going to have the American people take care of me. Sign up for disability, so you taxpayers will pay my bills and my rent until you find a better way of taking care of ex-felons.

That’s what a lot of ex-felons are doing right now. They can’t get a job, they get on disability and get that free money. Everything is free because the door’s been closed.

We know there’s no viable jobs in North Omaha, period. Nothing is going, nothing is being built in North Omaha, period, that can give me an amicable ways. Nothing. Why not go down there and sign up for disability then? It’s going to take you about a year.

I said, “I can’t wait a year to get disability. What am I going to do in the meantime?” Go down to Labor Ready. I don’t mind going to Labor Ready. Get up 5:00 in the morning, be there at 5:30, wait there all day, 6:00, 7:00 in the morning, go on a job for eight bucks an hour, all day make $34.

It’s something. I don’t mind. I done did it before. It takes the jinx off you, but I want more than that. I want more than an $8.00 an hour job. I want more than some labor work. See what I’m saying?

I want more than that but I have to settle for what I can get right now. Monday morning, I’ve got to go back to Labor Ready to try to keep a little money in my pocket until I figure a way to pay my bills because ain’t nobody going to do it for me.

When I get kicked out and lose my house, then what? Go down to the mission, to Lydia House. Then what? See what I’m saying? Everything is like a snowball effect right now in my life. I’m like what is there for me to do?

I just called my daughter’s mother. “Can you get me on at Target, if I move back to LA?” She’s manager, supervisor. “Can you get me on out there if I come back home?” She tells me, “Yeah.” I’m up out of here, man. I don’t want to sell drugs and I don’t want that to be a last resort. I don’t even want that to be a resort.

For some reason it’s like I’ve got to eat, Tom. I can’t beg Tom for money every day. I can’t pan handle every day. What is a brother to do? I get food stamps. That’s $200 a month. That’s a little bit.

How am I going to pay my other bills? I’ve got to figure out something. I don’t want to be on disability. That’s a year. What am I to do?

I’m 54 years old, got a colostomy bag, got a little sense, got a few skills. All I’m asking for is a shot. That’s it. I’m a good work. On time, respectful, the whole nine yards. Good worker. I’m just asking for a shot. Let me get out of the way, so I can do me. That’s all I want to do.

I’m a private person, live by myself, do a lot of reading, don’t have a lot of company. I’m just private, but I don’t like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Right now, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. What am I to do?

If my daughter’s mother called me and said, “Right now, I can get you a job at Target.” I’m moving back to Los Angeles because I do want to work. I want to be an upstanding citizen. I don’t want to be labeled as a drug dealer. I don’t like that label. I hate it with a passion.

Tom: What do you say to some kid now? Some kid on the street. Do you just say don’t be like me? I still think you genuinely want to help these kids out, but I look at you and I say, “Man, you’re going back.”

Ollie: I’m fucked up.

Tom: Are you just the bad example? Not be like Ollie? Is that what it is?

Ollie: Yeah. Don’t succumb. Stay on your principles. Like I told you, I had two things. I wasn’t going to sell crack, won’t use weapons. Those are my principles and I broke them. You didn’t, I did that.

That’s what I try to tell these kids. Find some kind of principles that you can stand on and stand on that shit. No matter what comes your way, stand on it. I failed. I messed up. I had no business doing it because I had no money, but I had a roof over my head, I had food, I just had no money in my pocket.

I just try to tell kids you’re going to be tempted and I know it’s hard out there and you have a man on one shoulder, you have a man on another shoulder. One’s going to tell you not to, one’s going to tell you to do it.

The one that told me not to, I pushed him off. Man, I’m hungry. I tell these kids to find some type of principles, some type of morals, and stand on them. No matter what happens, please don’t get weak like Ollie.

Tom: You’re telling a kid you’re better off with that $8.00 to $9.00 an hour job at Target than the $5,000 you make selling crack?

Ollie: Exactly. I tell them all day long go to Mickey D’s. They’re hiring all day long. Mickey D’s is hiring all day long.

Tom: They could have told you, they maybe did tell you, the same thing when you were 13 and you didn’t listen.

Ollie: I didn’t and sometimes I regret that. I chose my path. My family life wasn’t messed up. I had everything I needed when I was a kid. The only thing I lacked was my mother and father.

My grandmother took excellent care of me, bro. I didn’t want for nothing. We had food. Everything was everything. I just wanted to be a knucklehead. That’s it. I chose to be a knucklehead.

My knucklehead-ism is hurting me right now this very day. I tell these kids, “You’re 13 or 14, but you get 50, wait until you get 50 because then you’re going to see what you’re doing now is going to hurt you like it hurts me right now today.” A lot of them still listen to me despite what happened to me in my life.

I say dude, “I got fucked up, but I did it. I don’t blame it on the government. I know it’s part of it, but I had a choice. I made some poor choices because of pressure.”

Pressure busts pipe. When you don’t have any money and you’re tired of saying, “Can I have, can I have, can I borrow, loan me, loan me, that shit plays out.” When you’re in your 50s you take care of yourself. I tell kids find a happy medium with yourself.

Tom: Last question here. I’ll probably think of three others, but I’ll try this to be the last question. You know a lot of people that are felons, people that have been in prison, people that are out?

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: You say you need a chance. You need a chance to turn your life around, you need a chance for a job, you need a chance to prove what you can do so you wouldn’t go back to selling drugs or doing other stuff. You try to get a job and you can’t get a job.

Ollie: Yes.

Tom: Knowing what you know about these other felons, how many of them would you trust? In other words, take a random 10 felons that you know that have just gotten out of the joint trying to turn their life around looking for a job, you’re hiring, how many of those 10 would you hire?

Ollie: All of them.

Tom: Why?

Ollie: I would give them a chance until they hurt themselves. I would give them enough rope to hang themselves.

Tom: Yeah, but if I’m that businessman I can’t afford…

Ollie: But if I know them, like I said if I know them, I’d hire them. If I don’t know them I would have to be selective in my hiring process.

Tom: You said by knowing these guys, if you think of 10 guys getting out of prison right now, all 10 want to be on the straight and narrow, all 10 want to turn their lives around?

Ollie: Not all 10 of them.

Tom: But you said you would hire all 10.

Ollie: If all 10 of them came to me for a job I would hire them. If I got out of prison and started a business as an ex-felon and an ex-felon came into my business I would have to hire them. That’s an obligation with me being an ex-felon. If they mess that up I’d say look, you only get one chance with me.

Tom: Let me rephrase the question, then. Of those 10 that you hired, two, three years later, how many of those 10 would still be hired by you and how many would be back in the prison?

Ollie: Say that again?

Tom: You hired those 10. Two, three years later, of those 10, how many are still working for you and how many are back in prison?

Ollie: I’m going to say 50/50? Five and five. I’m going to do the 50/50. I think five would hang on and five would go back. It really depends on the wages or how they’re managing their money, if they mismanage their money.

Tom: Is it really the money thing? You just said it was the excitement, it was the thrill. If you won the Powerball tomorrow, would that thrill not be necessary?

Ollie: It wouldn’t be necessary. They say the money is the root of all evil but the love of money is the root of all evil. I don’t love money, but what can you do without it? You can’t do nothing without it. Nothing without. I don’t love it. I appreciate it.

I like to have an abundance of it where I ain’t got to ask somebody for nothing, but I don’t love money. I love God. Money plays a crucial role in everybody’s life.

Without it, what can I do? I can’t move my car if I ain’t got no money because I ain’t go no gas. I can’t look for no job, I can’t go on the bus, and I can’t get no tickets. Money is a crucial element. Crucial.

I just think ex-felons and drug dealers, I just think we take it to another level. I think we do that, we exacerbate it, bring it way up. It’s supposed to be a nine or an eight, we bring it way up past a 12 or 13.

We’ve got to have it when sometimes we really don’t need it. We think we do, but we can sacrifice what little bit we’ve got coming in from this job.

A lot of us want to continue living beyond our means like we used to do when we were selling dope. Me, I don’t want to do that. As long as I’ve got enough money to pay my bills, little money in my pocket, little food, I’m cool. I’m totally cool. I don’t have to have three or four cars anymore. I ain’t got to have all that anymore.

Tom: Did you need it when you were 25, though? Did you need the bling and jewelry and the fine car?

Ollie: I didn’t wear a lot of jewelry in my life. I didn’t wear bling. That was disgusting. Had two or three cars. The jewelry, never. Clothes, mainly. Had a lot of clothes, lot of tennis shoes, paid my bills. Bling-bling and diamonds and all that, you can see I don’t do none of that, period.

Tom: So what happened to Ollie Perryman? To the best of my knowledge, the charges were either dropped or he was found not guilty on the cooking crack charges because, to the best of my knowledge, he never wound up doing any time.

I lost track of Ollie just shortly after this interview, although I did a Google search while preparing this interview for the podcast. I saw that he had just recently been baptized and he is living, I believe, in Georgia and trying to keep on living the good life and staying on the straight and narrow.

We do nothing but wish the best for Ollie who is generally, I think, a good spirit who has done some very bad things in his life. If you enjoyed this podcast, enjoyed this interview, could you do me a favor? Could you buy me a beer, could you buy me a salad, or could you make a donation to keep these podcasts alive?

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