Can All Things Be Redeemed? Interview with Ricky Donnell "Freeway Rick Ross.”
Hello Faithful Reader,
I hope this month's edition of the Black Birds Eye View finds you well and in good spirits. I am well. This month I want to mull over the question, Can All Things Be Redeemed?
My February Muse was Ricky Donnell "Freeway Rick Ross.” I was intrigued by a documentary I watched about him depicting him as:
A convicted drug trafficker
Known for a drug empire, he established in the 1980s
Arrested and sentenced to life in prison under the three-strikes law
While in prison, at the age of 28, learned to read
Discovered a legal loophole that prompted the federal appellate court to strike down the life sentence.
He went from doing life to getting out of prison in 2009 to becoming a legal distributor of marijuana.
The documentary I watched was intriguing. I reached out to Freeway Rick Ross's camp and let his people know that I wanted to schedule a sit down with him to capture his story.
He obliged. I found him to be well-spoken and confident. He seemed prepared for any question I might ask, as though he had heard them all before. It was an easy, laid-back interview.
What follows are a few excerpts from my Q&A with Ricky Donnell "Freeway Rick" Ross:
What's going on in your world at this moment?
Major moves that are going to make history. My goal is to enrich the people who have been disenfranchised since they have been in this country. The people who have been treated the worse…. I don't think anyone has been treated worse in this world than black people. …the way that they still treat us. I mean, just 4 months ago I was sitting at a hotel in a loading zone and a cop pulled up on the car and he walked up to my car…there were people walking around with their trunks open…all kinds of stuff going on…he saw me and my son sitting in the car having a father and son conversation while we waited for a friend to check into the hotel. The cop walked up to my window and asked me to let the window down and did I have ID…for no reason other than two black men sitting in a car. I obliged. I handed him my ID. I gave him the registration to the car, the insurance and everything that we are supposed to have. He took it an ran my information. His partner came over and asked my son if he had ID and if he on parole? My son said yes…and that he was on parole. The cop called his partner back. His partner walked back to the car and immediately asked my son and me to get out of the car. He asked my son to get out of the car. I told him that I didn't want to get out of the car, but after a while, I agreed to get out. Then the cop asked me to sit on the curb…on the ground. I told him that I wasn't sitting on the ground. The cop said he was going to take me to jail if I didn't sit on the ground. I told him that is what he was going to have to do because I was not going to sit on the ground. Then he started to reach for my hands to handcuff me. I didn't want to be handcuffed, so I moved my hands a little bit. They charged me with resisting arrest interfering with an investigation, and I will be going to court on the 6th of February. All this for being black. That was enough reason for him to ask me to get out of my car.
So, you say that you have big things going on that will positively affect the disenfranchised people of America? What things are we talking about?
When I was in jail, I looked out at the world once I figured I would be getting out of prison, and I had to think to myself, "What can I bring to the world that is different than what everyone else is doing. What I saw were a lot of greedy people out there who got the game, and when they get the game, they keep it to themselves, and they don't share it with the people who need it. They tend to run in packs…you know people with ruining are running with people with money. They don't like to be associated with people who don't have money. Like Kanye West says, "I ain't saying she a gold digger, but she ain't messing with no broke Nigga." That's kind of how this society is, everybody with money runs with each other. Nobody wants to give anybody a hand. When I look at myself. I look at myself as…. especially when it comes down to having money…I am probably one of the most worthy people on the planet. I think that there are many people on the planet than can handle the money the way I do and make money work for them. When I got out of jail, I was broke. Now I am in a position to take over one of the biggest industries that this country has seen in the past 100 years…. since the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco. I was just awarded my marijuana license. I had already broken into the industry without having a license. I got with someone else and used their license, so my product was already on the line. Now I have my license. So, I will be a licensed marijuana dealer myself so I will be able to allow other people to use my license now. This is not something I'm looking at down the road. It's happening right now. People tend to look down on me because I sold drugs. What I try to tell people is you can't judge me unless you know my story. If you try to place judgment without facts, you are just going on assumptions
Do you think that the biggest consequence of selling drugs is the way that people may perceive you now?
First of all, I don't care how people perceive me. Because if I did, I would be wearing name brand clothes and all that other cartoon stuff that people wear. I don't need a mask to be who I am. I am very comfortable in my skin. I am very comfortable with who I am. I know that I can be anything that I want to be whenever I get ready to do it. I don't need anyone else's name on my back…. what somebody else told me to wear to make me feel important or special.
I don't think that what we go through must define me. I think that what I have gone through are the makings of who I am. Do you have that same type of mindset?
Absolutely, I would not give my 20 years in prison back if I could. if I had it to do all over again, I would live my life just the way it was. I would be illiterate going through high school and Jr. High School and elementary school because without being illiterate, I would not be able to read people now. What out found out is that if we have one sense that is weak, we have another that is strong. I believe that me being exactly who I was then made me the person I am today and I totally love this person that I am today.
Can you shed light on the 3-strike law and your case?
They thought that a career criminal could be applied to somebody that woke up and committed a crime. In my case, even though I had sold drugs for multiple years, it was still just one criminal spree. I had never been to jail before, and I had never been convicted. So, if you have never been convicted there is no way that you can be a career criminal
Do you think this is something they court system knew and did not expect you to know?
No, I don't think they knew. What I found out is that the judge, lawyer, and prosecutors were not as smart as I thought they were. I gave them more credit than I should have. That's something I have been doing all my life, giving certain people more credit than they deserve. Right now, I don't think that no one living on this planet is more important than me. I don't think I am no more important than anyone else.
In my research, I read that while you were in prison serving a life sentence you were making plans like you knew you were getting out of prison. Can you explain your mindset at that time?
I felt that if I became so smart and so valuable to the world…with the crime that I committed; the world would cry for me to be free.
Explain that to me
Well...say, for instance a guy was in prison, and he came up with the cure for aids…what would they do for that recipe? The people run the world. They only allow the one present with the money to trick them into believing that the money is the power when really…the people are the power.
How did you manage to keep such a low profile on a continuous criminal spree?
I wonder how they let me do that right now. I'm doing the same thing right now and don't nobody know. I am gradually taking over. Most people don't know that I was the feature story in Esquire magazine 80th anniversary over President Obama. They said that my story was the most powerful story for the past 80 years…. that's with Obama winning the presidency and Michael Jordan winning 6 rings and Tom Brady winning 5 football championships and throwing more passes than anyone else…they said my story was the most impactful story for the past 80 years …that's what Esquire magazine said. I didn't say it.
What can a person take apply from the crack game to legal businesses?
Everything. The same principles. Keep your word. Make your word bond. Have a brand where people can trust you and love you.
How did the court system justify the fake Rick Ross winning in court?
Well, the first this is the courts could not see giving me, a black drug dealer 50 million dollars. "What would this nego do with 50 million dollars? He would probably uplift the black community…probably wouldn't be no more homeless people…there would be schools and computers." No, they could not see me with 50 million dollars that I could spend any way I wanted to with this new mindset I got.
Has your mindset changed since getting out of prison?
I am smarter now than I was when I got out. When I was in prison, the only way I could see the world was through somebody else's eyes…through magazines and newspapers and books. Now that I am out, I am getting a feel. I get to see all the fakism..you know when I used to sell drugs, I had friends drove fancy cars that they really couldn't afford…they maybe could have afforded them but in my opinion should not have been driving them right then…it would have been better to buy a business first. So, when I got out a lot of people I had read about in magazines and newspapers… I'm thinking that they were on top of the world…they make the calls and don't answer to nobody…see cause I never answered to nobody…one time my Mom said: "baby can you get out the mob." I almost told her, "Ma, I am the mob. I'm the one that can call the Crips and the Bloods at the same time….and some of the Mexican gangs. I'm the one that can do that. I'm the mob Ma…. they can't handle me." I didn't tell her that, but that's how I felt when she was saying that. I was trying to keep a sad face because my Mom was sad the day that she found out that I was selling as much drugs as I was. She was begging me to get out
Tell me about the books you have written
I have written 2 books, and I am working on a third one right now. The first book I wrote…I was in prison. Young guys used to come up to me all the time when I was in prison. They would say they sold drugs and that they were diligent, but they never got over 10 thousand dollars. I was like, "Your big homies didn't teach you right. Cause if you had been my little homie you would have been a multimillionaire, and you probably would be looking at a life sentence right now.
So what came to me was, why don't you write a book so you can tell people what they are going to be looking at from start to finish... from my perspective….everything I went through so I wrote "Freeway Rick Ross Untold Autobiography."
The second book, "21 Keys to Success," was about my first 6 months out of prison…how I had to struggle and the things I had to deal with to get myself back up to where I am right now.
My third book… the name is going to cause a lot of controversies and people are going to curse me out. I got the title of this book from Reginald Hudlin. He gave me the idea and told me that I should be the one to write the book
I write my books so that black men could read that book and have some guidance on how to navigate through this life that we are going through.
What 3 things would you share to the masses that you feel would better mankind?
One thing will kill it all…. Put people first.
Listening to the playback of the interview, I am left with the one obvious question that I forgot to ask:
Explain how it feels to be known as the Father of the Crack Epidemic when you consider the following:
Crack cocaine was made popular in the early 1980s because of its immediate euphoric effect, its affordability, and its high profitability. The crack epidemic had destructive effects within the African American communities of the inner cities. It caused addictions, drug-related crimes leading to mass incarceration, the destruction of families, crack-addicted babies, and death. I personally spoke with a woman who adopted a crack-addicted baby. Her story touched me to the core. The child was born into withdrawals and had a host of other physical medical issues. The child was subjected to aids testing. The Mother I spoke with told me that raising a crack-addicted baby is a job within itself and that it is a miracle that her son has overcome what he was born into and grown into a powerful young black man.
Rick Ross is said to have claimed to have operated drug sales in:
*claims in a 1996 PBS interview.
This was not temporary, but a thriving business…
According to an October 2013 Esquire magazine article,
"Between 1982 and 1989, federal prosecutors estimated, Ross bought and resold several metric tons of cocaine," with Ross's gross revenue claimed to be more than $900 million (equivalent to $2.7 billion in 2019) and profits of almost $300 million ($900 million in 2019). During the height of his drug dealing, Ross was said to have sold "$3 million in one day."
This was an interesting topic for me. As likable as Freeway Rick Ross was during our conversation, I cannot help but wonder why he did not discuss the impact of the business he created on the black community. I wonder how it makes him feel to have had a hand in the destruction of the black family. Had he not been convicted; one must wonder if he would still be in the dope game from an illegal perspective. I do plan on following up with my questions and I will be sure to share his answers.
Until next time, Be well