KH- I am originally from the Shaw neighborhood in Northwest, DC. In the mid-80’s I moved out Landover, Maryland. Kentland to be exact. Growing up I seen a lot and was exposed to a lot of things way too young. Because my family were all into the street scene, I grew up way too fast. I never really had a regular childhood, so to speak. I had my dad in my life but not full-time. My older brothers were always in and out of Oak Hill and Cedar Knoll, so I took on the man of the house role at an early age. I have a family full of females and always felt the need to protect them. I began getting locked up at the age of 7 years old. My first charge as a juvenile was for shoplifting out of a department store. Then it was on to stealing cars and selling drugs. I spent nearly my entire childhood in and out of places like Boys’ Village, Charles H. Hickey Training School, Forester Camp and other residential programs.
Interview with Kenneth Hoffman
1. In order to understand the now, we must visit the past. Lets start from the beginning. What city are you from, and how was life growing up as a youth?
2. DC was at one point, the Murder Capital of the world, and many youth turned to the street to make ends meet for Family. In your opinion, how does one s economic status “Poverty”, affect one s decision making skills?
KH- I believe that poverty and ones economic status plays a huge role in one’s decision making skills. Poverty and a person’s social status can make a person do things they really don’t want to do just to survive. Back in the days when DC was dubbed the Murder Capital, it was the height of the Crack Era. Our Government played a huge role in the importation of Crack Cocaine to America’s inner city ghetto’s. The poverty level was very high in the black communities. I grew up during this time and my family; mother, father, sister’s and brothers were all immersed in the drug game so I remember it vividly. It was a very traumatic experience growing up and witnessing the death and destruction caused by that Weapon of Mass Destruction! A lot of good people who wasn’t into the streets or drugs were lured into the drug trade out of a need to survive and wanting to escape the poverty. The allure of fast money was irresistible for people who were struggling and living in, or way below the poverty level. I know cause, I not only lived it, but I saw so many others affected by it as well. It was all socially engineered. And to think our own Government played a hand in such destruction and destroying of it’s own peoples.
3. With not going into much detail, could you provide the people with a brief summary of your case. And What s your plans once released?
KH- I was sentenced to 177 months for a charge of Bank Robbery, along with my three co-defendants. I can honestly say that it wasn’t a crime that we committed out of a need or necessity. It was more so a crime we committed out of greed and ignorance. The ‘STREET LIFE’ has a way of desensitizing you. As black men we’re taught that we’re not suppose to have feeling’s for anything and that any act of emotion is considered a weakness. In order to survive in the concrete jungle you must suppress your emotions and not have feelings for anything. We do that with the drugs, violence and alcohol. In order to commit certain acts we dehumanize ourselves and tell ourselves, “I gotta do what I gotta do”. So I think me and my co-defendants had all become so desensitized that running up in banks wasn’t no thing, it was just another day in the ‘The Life’. But this was all the Decree of Allah(God) and a real mercy on me. I am truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to grow and reflect on my life and see the error of my ways. Upon my release I plan to get YPDP; The Youth Potential Development Project off the ground and so that with Allah’s help, I can help my young brothers make better choices and decisions in life than I and so many others have done that cost us so much suffering, heartache and pain. I want help save some lives.
4. What are some of the major hurdles/Obstacles you ve been through since being in Prison?
KH- My bid has been filled with adversity, trials and tribulations. On top of all the physical battles, I lost my son, my step-mom, and countless friends and associates. I have a son who doesn’t know me because his mom has kept him from me. A lot of people who were healthy and smiling when I left the streets aren’t there to see me return 14 years later. But MEN are defined by how they RESPOND to adversity, so I haven’t allowed any of the losses to put a dent in my armor. It all has just strengthened me and added to my mission to help save my young brothers from falling victim to the plot of our oppressors.
5. What s your thoughts on Youth Gang Violence, and What s needed to help prevent?
KH- For the most part, youth gang violence derives from self-hate, misguidance, and ignorance. We kill one another over projects and street corners that don’t belong to us, nor do we have a legal right to defend those areas. It is the effects of psychological slavery where we have been programmed to hate one another and see each other as the enemy, when we are all suffering from the same social and economical ills. It is called The Willie Lynch Syndrome. Willie Lynch was a white slave master who devised a system where he used the slaves of his plantation differences as a way to divide the people and create envy, mistrust and hate for one another. He used the young against the old, the light complexioned against the darker complexion, the men against the women, the Woman against the Man and the House Nigger against the Filed nigger. The old divide and conquer strategy. We’re still suffering from Mr. Lynch’s scheme today. All you have to do is look at the state of our people today. The young brothers are mislead and lost in a cycle of myth and untruths. I believe that in the beginning most of the gangs started off with the right idea, but when the crack era came about they all lost their way. To eliminate the gang violence I believe that the MEN who have walked that same path need to reach out to our young brothers, educate them and teach them about the innate power and greatness they have within. We need to tell them the truth about gang activity and violence. As long as we are fighting and killing each other we are all still losing!
6 Out of sight out of Mind is the saying some brothers behind the wall use describing relationships with the outside world. How does Prison time affect one’s relationship with the outside?
KH- Prison time has a tremendous effect on relationships. When you come to prison you get to see who REALLY love you. The people who remain in your life during your period of incarceration are usually your FAMILY, but sometimes even family become absent during long prison bids. Wives, girlfriends and baby momma’s find new companions and homeboy’s forget about ‘keeping it real’. Our kids grow up without us and maybe even begin to resent you for being absent in their lives. Usually those who get ghost on you during your bids are those who loved or dealt with you with motive. It was a reason why they were riding with you while you were out. Maybe you fed them, protected them, entertained them or whatever. Those who truly ride the bid out with you are those who loved you genuinely, just for you being you. They sacrifice for you and make time for you. Slowly but surely ‘The Team’ begin to dwindle and if you’re lucky, you’ll be left with nothing but you’re starting five. The same ‘hood you loved so much that you risked your life and freedom to represent, won’t even put $20 on your books. Real talk! I’m speaking from the inside, so it’s definitely real. It’s a hurtful thing. No fun at all. Out of sight, out of mind.
7. What s your Definition of a Gangster? And Is there any Difference from Old school Gangsters of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, to the New aged Gangsters today?
KH. My definition of a Gangster is a man or woman who has chosen to live outside the law and swears to uphold and abide by the rules of ‘The Game’. He is a man/woman of principle who does not compromise his morals or principles for financial gain, or any other selfish reasons. Sure, there is a big difference between the gangsters of old versus the New Age Gangsters. The young gangsters today have been left without guidance from the old school gangster because so many of us are in prison or have been killed. They have been left out there to learn everything on their own. A lot of them aren’t going through their levels properly, their skipping important experience. Today they can jump off the porch and be the man, but they haven’t been through anything. They pick up a pistol, but can’t even fight. They haven’t been through anything so they don’t know the things they are truly made of. It is the wins and loses, up’s and down’s, trials and adversity which sharpens and strengthens MEN! The struggle man! They don’t know that it doesn’t mean you’re a punk just because you lost a fight. It makes you a bigger man just having the courage to fight and keep on fighting and standing up win, lose, or draw! You got to go through the levels man or else their foundation will be shaky and the next thing you know, they’ll fold under pressure or tuck their tails. Here in the penitentiary, don’t nobody care who you were on the streets! If you’re truly a gangster, best believe it will be tested behind these walls. You’ll have to Show and Prove cause this is the Lions Den for real. There are official young cats who come thru but they are far and few in between. The truth of the matter is it’s not even about whether you’re a gangster or not, it’s about being a MAN!!!
8. What drives your mission to reach back to inner city youth, and what are some of your goals when working with them
KH. What drives my mission to reach out to the young homies is my love for the young brothers. I feel a duty to them! Top my peoples. I know better today. I been there, seen it and done for real. At the end of the day, I know that the street life is all an illusion. We don’t win. In fact we’re losing at an all time high. We killing each other, the police killing us like it isn’t nothing, we’re being buried alive in these joints. I want to show my young brother a better way. I got the blueprint! I got the experience man! I am connected to men all over the country who has been awakened and now know the truth and I wish to help teach the young brothers and educate them so that they don’t have to learn everything the hard way. I done that! My goals when working with them is simply to guide them in realizing their own potential and the greatness they are capable of achieving.
9. With so much madness going on in prison you were able to accomplish, a lot. Can you explain some of your accomplishments “Education, Certificates, Written Books.
KH. Yes, it took a lot of hard work and dedication to accomplish some of the things I’ve been able to achieve while in prison. Some of the things I have been able to achieve are gaining a diploma in Small Business Management; gaining certification in Custodial Maintenance, becoming a certified personal fitness trainer, writing and self-publishing my novel, starting NTU Productions my own productions/publishing company and completing a host of other programs and classes. The list would be too long to name them all, but I basically have spent my time in the books and learning all that I can. I told myself when I first came in, that I would leave here a better man for myself and my family.
10., How can the people contact you, and buy books you ve written?
KH. I can be contacted currently on Facebook:Author Kenneth Hoffman or Kahlil Hoffman; via the NTU Productions website:www.ntuproducitons.com; by mail:NTU Productions, P.O. Box 30284, Washington, DC 20030; by email:firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 202-425-5284.
11. How important is it to obtain an Education, and our Youth being into the books oppose to the Street?
KH. Education is liberation! Education is FREEDOM!!! Knowledge is Power! Simply by what you “know”, you can achieve your wildest dreams. Education and knowledge broadens your mind and removes your limitations. KNOWLEDGE negates ignorance which is only a state of not knowing. In order for us to be really FREE as a people, then we must first liberate ourselves from the mental prisons many of us are still victims of due to the effects of psychological slavery. Education is revolution, indeed!
12. Concluding is there anything you would like to say to the people that we may have left out in interview?
KH. Yes, I would like give my sincere love and gratitude to all of my beautiful black women who has held us together with their love, strength and comfort. I’d like to give a shout-out to all my brothers, young and old, in the streets and behind prison wall. Invest in yourselves and by learning and sharpening yourself up. The world is serious; life is serious! Wake up man and educate yourselves. The time is now! Pay attention and get hip. In closing I’d like to thank you brother Jonathan for the work you do and all the love and respect you show for your people and all the brothers in “The Struggle.” Keep striving brother