To “Black Sam" A Letter to Nipsey Hussle's Brother From Imprisoned Rollin' 60s Peacemaker Mustafa, aka Li'l Cat

NOTE - About 25 years ago I met “Li’l Cat”, once aka Brian Long, now aka Mustafa. He was from Rollin’ 60s and he had realized the futility of black gang on black gang violence and began, with a few others, to start a movement to end the relentless cycle of bloodshed in Los Angeles, particularly on the black Westside.

I wrote about him in a 1998 L.A. Times story when he and community activist Malik Spellman - along with Mustafa’s older brother Kevin “Big Cat” Doucette - spoke to warring Blood factions who were battling each other in Inglewood. Here’s that story. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-apr-05-me-36267-story.html (And yes, that wasn’t a typo. it was Crips mediating a Bloods - Inglewood Family, Neighborhood Piru - battle.)

Two years earlier, writer David Ferrell wrote about him in a Times article entitled “A Dogged Pursuit of Peace on the Streets” Here’s is that piece https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-08-10-mn-32953-story.html

Mustafa stumbled many years later and wound up in prison for an attempted. The district attorney’s office went back to a 1979 barber shop robbery he was convicted of when 18 years old and struck him out. We’ve remained friends. I always thought an often pathetic trait of many gang members was how they forgot their imprisoned so-called homies. I’ve been to hoods from Watts to Compton to Southwest L.A. where gang members ask me about their owe homeboys locked up. I usually reply with “Why don’t you write him? I’m sure he’d appreciate that. ” If you’ve read this far,, LI’l Cat’s mailing address is at the bottom. of this piece.)

Anyway, I wrote to Li’l Cat recently and he sent me back a letter and also a letter to Nipsey Hussle’s brother, Black Sam. I asked him if it was okay to print some of it and he gave me the approval. Here it is, in part..

Sept. 14, 2019

Black Sam.

Peace & respect and my deepest condolences on the loss of our beloved Nipsey Hussle. My name from the turf is Li’l Cat. My brother is Big Cat. I’ve been locked behind enemy lines for the past 18 years. The young homie Nipsey was about 15 years old when I got locked up. However we have a lot in common. I, too was a community activist like Nips. I also grew up on 3rd Ave down the block from 59th Street School. My young comrade out there was Kev Mac who spends time up there at Marathon.

The reason and purpose I’m gettin at you, besides paying respects, is to let you know that your brother was a divine soul. sent with a spiritual purpose, which he accomplished.

I first heard of Nip when I was in Pelican Bay back in early 2007 or 2008. I was proud to hear a young homie speaking my turf language. Glad to hear someone speaking what we go through trying to survive. in these grimy cutthroat “Sixty NHC” streets.

However, when I left the streets, I had changed my thought process about our conditions and how much damage was attributed to the racial system and how much self perpetuated.

My change in outlook occurred when I was doing a violation from my first state prison term. I had paroled in 87, went back for a violation in ‘88. I was in San Quentin and got word that two of my closest road dogs, “Big Fee” and Li’L Looney” were killed. I prepared to come out on a homicidal murder spree. But, I was devastated to learn that the homicides were committed by so-called “homies”. That was the beginning of the Front hood-Overhill wars. in which several lives had been lost. I had to do a lot of soul searching at that point. Murdering my so-called own homies was not what I signed up for. Burying loved ones who were killed by loved ones was an oxymoronic thing that had no future for anyone.

I became discontented with the hood politics and went on some Black militant type shit, complete with black fatigues, boots and working out., running with pit bulls, fully strapped for anybody.

Then the Rodney King beating and not -guilty verdict and the riots of ‘92 had me on the re-build the black community trip, had me on the pro blackness trip. .I spoke in front of the City Council about the lack of justice for Blacks, the lack of programs for the youth, the lack of job opportunities which would cut down on drug dealing and gang activities.

Then Jim Brown called me to his compound in the Hollywood Hills about a business opportunity. They wanted to put a shoe store/community center in the Sixties on Florence. Two brothers from Grape Street, Ray Ray and High T, were involved, but the location in the Sixties would need some reputable Sixies involved. That’s how we started the Playground Sportswear and Community Center. Myself and the homie Kieta Rock hosted Bill Clinton there.

Then I started doing the Westside version of the Truce they had in Watts. we started getting recognition for that and was bringing homicide rates down on the Westside. Reporters were doing stories ( see above ) about our desire to stop the black-on-black killings. The police was at odds with us cause they wanted credit for saving the lives, when they were the ones instigating the feuds.

I started studying and learning that Blacks are not natural enemies of one another, but we are a spiritual Godly people. ( John 10- 32-35) “Ye are Gods”, ( {Psalms 82-6) “God came among the Assembly of Gods.”

Nipsel Hussle came among among the Assembly of Gods, but they had no knowledge of self. Still he remained to show and prove by example the power of redemption and transformation. Black Sam, your brother was a shining example of building bridges and focusing on taking care of the community and those in it. He accomplished what I was attempting to do for the hood. I thank the universe for the God “Nips the Great”.

Nipsey’s music will continue to inspire all those who desire to “RISE” up from the cutthroat grimy conditions. (R.I.S.E. was the name of my organization, Raising Intelligent Strong Economics), He showed that those of us misunderstood and labeled Hoodstas and Thugs,all have a spiritual purpose in this brief life, Like he so introspectively stated “You can walk on water, just don’t look at your feet.” Basically, we are a strong spiritual people and can do whatever we set our mind to Just don’t doubt yourself.”

One of the most poignant songs that made me realize his divine spirit is “Who Detached Us”

Black Sam,

Thank you for your time, with love & respect. Long live the spirit of Nipsey Hussle,

Your big homie, Cat2, aka Mustafa Nakhi Allah

##

There is more to this letter, but I’ll get it to Black Sam

This link has the lyrics to Who Detached Us” - https://genius.com/Nipsey-hussle-who-detached-us-lyrics

To write to Brian Li’l Cat Mustafa Long address letters like this:

Brian Long T-72027, North Kern State Prison , Facility A, Bldg 1, P.O. Box 5000 Delano California. 93216

Money can be sent through jpay.com

IMG_0042.jpg

Mustafa aka Li’l Cat








Transformation of Mozza Ping Pong Room Hailed As "Miracle" By Pope Francis

  • Reprinted from the Mozza Tribune

BY JIMMY DOLAN

Mozza’s Ping Pong Room was for many years an exclusive penthouse retreat for the privileged, a peaceful respite from the craziness that is prevalent below.

But, for the last several years, it has become a No Man’s Land, a dumping ground for hoarders, a place for the unwanted. If the Mozza Corner had an Aleppo, the Ping Pong Room was it.

Until Wednesday.. By Friday, even the Vatican had taken notice.

Spurred on by Nancy Silverton, Natasha Behrens and Alan Birnbaum led the charge and the “transformation” of the “PPR” begun.

 Natasha, who is no stranger to transformation as evident by her occasional change into Natalie, was lauded by Nancy as “instrumental’ in the cleansing process. After a sluggish start, Behrens, who has something to do with Events, tore into the clutter with a gusto normally associated with methamphetamine.

“I ain’t seen Natasha move so fast since, well, since ever,” said a Mozza employee  speaking to the condition of anonymity.

 Alan, who had just completed a “Triple Double” earlier in the week, made over 74 trips to the trash cans. After filling up the Corner’s bins, he filled up the bins at Auburn, Trois Mec and Providence.

 Thursday afternoon, Los Angeles Mayor WhatsHisFirstName Garcetti toured the reborn Ping Pong Room. Clearly stunned, he turned to the Mozza team and asked “Can you people please come and  take a look at Skid Row?”

Although the ping pong table is no longer in the Ping Pong Room, the name will remain. And the PPR is now, with its open space in the middle, available for private events. “Dancing With The Stars” announced today that their 2020 season finale will be filmed in the PPR.

 Meanwhile, at the Vatican, Pope Francis compared the ‘transformation” of the PPR to the time when the Roman Empire  began its conversion to Christianity in 313 A.D..

 “Like in Roman times, the transformation of the PPR was something the non-believers said would never happen,” Francis said. “But, miracles do happen for the believers.”


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L.A. Times Article 21 Years Ago Today On Rollin' 60s Trying To Stop Bloods In Inglewood From Killing Each Other

Originally printed April 5, 1998, Los Angeles Times

Three Bloods street gang factions are at war in Inglewood, and the Crips are mobilizing to enter the fray. But this time, the Crips, for a quarter-century the mortal enemy of the Bloods, are stepping in as peacemakers.

Although several gang peace treaties and cease-fires have been negotiated in Los Angeles County over the last six years, this marks the first time that former and current Crips have intervened between warring Bloods sets. One could liken it to Israel stepping in to stop factions of the PLO from killing each other. And like peace talks in the Middle East, these negotiations are going to be delicate.

"We are dealing with some really sensitive issues here because there's been a whole lot of blood spilled," said Brian Mustafa Long, a former Rollin '60s Crip turned peacemaker.

"We don't want the Bloods to think we're coming in with some government programs and putting them under a microscope in a laboratory. We just want the killing to stop."

On Friday at Rogers Park in Inglewood, the first in what is expected to be a series of meetings took place. The Inglewood Police Department was notified beforehand.

"We are encouraging, supporting and applauding the effort," said Lt. Hampton Cantrell. "Law enforcement alone won't solve these problems. We can do a lot, but we're hoping the gang leadership and membership come to some resolutions themselves."

Although the last two weeks have seen a decrease in flagrant hostilities, murders in Inglewood are on pace to rival the bloody days of 1990, when 33 people were killed in gang-motivated crimes.

There were 13 gang murders in Inglewood last year, the lowest total in more than a decade. But there have already been seven gang killings this year.

Police attributed the recent rash of killings to infighting among the Bloods.

"We have a great deal of concern about that," said Cantrell, who added that Inglewood's mayor, Roosevelt F. Dorn, is supporting the meetings. "The gangs need to talk."

In an activities room at Rogers Park, they did talk. Though only a single representative from each of three Bloods factions showed up, the negotiators were not discouraged.

"This is a start, a courageous start," said Long, 36, who founded the organization RISE to help troubled youths find jobs. "We're trying to create another avenue where you guys can express yourselves."

Leading the meeting was Malik Spellman, a community activist who was involved in the 1992 Watts gang peace treaty.

"We've been through what you don't need to go through," Spellman, 25, told the younger gang members. "We're not here to say who's wrong. We just want to focus on stopping the madness. We want to kill ignorance."

For the most part, the Bloods quietly listened, didn't talk to each other, and frequently nodded in agreement with what the older men said, especially when they talked of the need for jobs.

News of the meeting attracted the attention of Billy Wright, a movie producer.

"I heard about this and I just had to be here to see it with my own eyes," said Wright, who produced "Dead Homies," a documentary about gang life. "This is historic."

During one of the meeting's lighter moments, Spellman told the Bloods he would be willing to change his wardrobe to further the cause of peace.

"Can I come to your neighborhood?" Spellman asked the Bloods, who are associated with the color red. "I got red clothes for days. I got my Blood outfit. Man, I'll put on so much red you'd make me take some of it off."

Later, however, tension mounted as a 17-year-old from the Inglewood Family Bloods indicated a reluctance to work with gang members from "the other side" because he had lost too many friends to street shootings.

"Man, we've all lost homies," rumbled a voice from the rear of the room.

Kevin "Big Cat" Doucette was speaking and everyone was listening. Doucette, 38, a huge, legendary street fighter from the Rollin '60s who has spent many years at California's toughest prisons, urged the younger members in his gruff way to focus on the living, not the dead.

"I know you're upset and hurt about your dead homies, but we have to move forward," Doucette said.

"The killing's been going on since before you were born. We've got to try and show homies how to live, not die."

Doucette said older gang members need to be at the next meeting.

"A lot of the older guys are no longer actually banging, but they're like politicians now ordering the young foot soldiers to do the killing," Doucette said.

"We need to get them to the table."

As the meeting came to a close, the young Bloods said they planned to debrief their comrades.

"I'm gonna tell the homies to come check the next meeting," said Vincent Johnson, 16, from Neighborhood Piru in Inglewood.

"They're making some sense." Another Blood agreed.

"I think it's cool they're trying to help us so we won't be out killing," said Dell "O Dog" Hoy, 17.

"As long as they ain't coming over here and starting something and ordering us. If anyone wants to help stop the killing, it's cool with me."

L.A. Drivers, Where Are Your Manners?

Published in Los Angeles Times Monday, Oct. 29, 2018

Not too long ago, I was rumbling along on the 405 in Orange County, doing about 80, 85. Off to my left, in the fast lane, were five bikers in single file, Hells Angels, based on their jackets, from the Chatsworth chapter. They all sped up to cut over to the right to get on the fast approaching Garden Grove Freeway. Four of them sliced in front of me, but the fifth guy didn’t have enough space, so he stayed in the fast lane.

I have a special place in my outlaw soul for the Angels ever since interviewing Sonny Barger 21 years ago in Hollister for the 50th anniversary of the ruckus that inspired “The Wild One” with Brando. So, I eased off the accelerator and nodded over to the guy in the fast lane to go ahead.

He gassed it to catch his comrades and, as he zoomed across my lane, his right hand on the throttle, he crossed his left arm across his body, and gave me a thumbs up, nodding his head.

Courtesy. Politeness on the open road. From a Hells Angel. When almost no one these days on L.A.’s streets or freeways bothers to lift a hand in a gesture of thanks to another driver.

Driving is about the one place in L.A. where everyone is created equal; we’re all on the same maddening journey.

Los Angeles, where are your manners? Does anyone here even remember that line?

My parents taught me to be polite, but I got a master class in manners a long time ago in New York City. .

I was about 20 and walking down Broadway on a crowded sidewalk, around 45th Street, when I bumped into a guy, about 6-feet-3, 240, walking the other way. We both stopped. I didn’t say anything, but I thought to myself, “I’m about to get my ass kicked.”

He wan’t looking for a fight, just common courtesy. He said, “Can’t you just say excuse me?”

I’ve never forgotten my quick slide from fear to human connection. From that moment on, I’ve been quick with “excuse me.”

The best among us will do the right thing just because it is right. I say, do it for the reward too: When you extend the slightest kindness to a stranger, or vice versa, doesn’t it make you, if only for a few seconds, feel good?

The manners thing ought to be on the driver’s test. A prearranged “nice” driver lets you cut in and if you don’t wave, the DMV examiner deducts a point or two.

I don’t really know if the country is more divided politically than it usually is, but it sure appears to be. Some things though, cross party lines. We are all stuck in traffic in Los Angeles. Even when it’s moving, the joke goes, it’s a traffic jam at 70 mph. The least we can do is take four seconds, roll down the window and give a nod or a little wave when someone lets us merge.

A couple of Saturdays ago now, during that brief but exhilarating — and much appreciated — lightning show that lit up L.A.’s normally blah night sky, I was driving on Third Street in heavy stop-and-go traffic. Instead of blocking an intersection, I stopped to let an oncoming car make a left turn in front of me. The guy to my right, in a new, glistening white Mercedes AMG C 63 S — normally a car whose driver thinks he or she owns the road — actually backed up about 10 feet to let this other car make the turn. The driver who sailed by in front of us didn’t even bother to look our way.

I rolled down the passenger side window and nodded at the Mercedes driver, who rolled down too.

“Man, she didn’t even thank you,” I said. He hunched his shoulder, smiled and said “Manners. Where did they go?”

My girlfriend, after reading a draft of this piece and learning the Times was running it, said “That’s what we’ve come to. You giving advice on manners.”

Driving is about the one place in L.A. where everyone is created equal; we’re

all on the same maddening journey. Let’s make the ride just a little more pleasant.

The great Lewis Hamilton who just won his 5th Formula One World Championship, tying Juan Manuel Fangio. (Michael Schumacher won a record 7 times.)

The great Lewis Hamilton who just won his 5th Formula One World Championship, tying Juan Manuel Fangio. (Michael Schumacher won a record 7 times.)


For The Entire Year of 2017 There Were 2 Homicides In LAPD's Hollywood Division

I look at crime stats the way I used to look at baseball statistics when I was a kid. Now, instead of checking on Sandy Koufax’s strikeouts, I check the homicides in each Los Angeles police division.

The other day, on the LAPD website, I came across one stat that struck me as stunning, though in a good way. As of then — and as of midnight, New Year’s Eve — LAPD’s Hollywood Division recorded two homicides in 2017: Jimmy Bradford, 47, and Bryan De La Torre, 21.

Hollywood Division has never ranked in the stratosphere of homicides. It’s not like the 77th or Southeast, where in violent years past more than 100 killings were not unusual. (In 1993, there were nearly 300 killings in those two divisions) But two? The last few years, the Hollywood total has been seven or eight, and the peak was 35, back in 1995.

Then, as I took a closer look, I noticed that while homicides were down 71% compared to 2016, and robberies down 5%, aggravated assaults were up 21% — 680 compared to 581. That seemed odd. 

I had lunch with the commander of Hollywood Division, Capt. Cory Palka, and he gave me his explanation. Not particularly politically correct, he came out fast with a reasonable rationale.

“The decline of what I call neon club culture,” he said. “We closed three clubs in Hollywood that were a magnet for the urban crowd of South L.A.”

Hollywood’s story is to some extent the city’s story: Killings are down. Assaults are up.

It doesn’t take a sociologist to figure out “urban” means black.

“Of course, the vast majority are good people. But with an urban crowd from South L.A., you are going to have some gang members. That’s just the facts. And you have club owners with an encouraging attitude — over-serving alcohol, not having proper security — that fuels the situation. Throw in gang members from different neighborhoods, and you get killings.”

Palka said that in each of last few years there were always two or three club-related killings in Hollywood. Because of strict enforcement of various codes, the Cashmere, Cosmos and Supper Club were closed. Last year, no club-related killings. And just one related to gangs, that of De La Torre.

There is still a vibrant clubbing scene in Hollywood, but according to Palka, it caters to a different, often gay, clientele. “That’s fine with us. You don’t have Rollin 60s going there because of the gay element.”

He also cited a crackdown on the so-called Yucca Corridor open-air drug market, as well as local gang prevention and gentrification as keys to making most of Hollywood safer.

The gangs in question — the 18th Street Hollywood Gangsters clique, Mara Salvatrucha 13, White Fence — have had their presence diminished by years of pressure and a new tactic Palka and the division’s gang unit endorse: respect.

“We build relationships,” said gang unit Lt. Jeff Perkins. “It goes both ways. But they know, if [you] commit a crime in Hollywood, we are gonna come after you and you will go to jail.”

Gentrification has meant an increase in the division’s Hollywood Entertainment District force, which now has a lieutenant, five sergeants and about 80 officers. They patrol the area bounded by La Brea, Argyle, Sunset and Franklin, prime tourist territory.

“There are billions of dollars invested in Hollywood and there is a concentrated effort by the police to keep that area safer,” Palka admitted. “I’m all for more expensive restaurants coming to Hollywood. I’d rather have the customer willing to pay $10 for a beer over the customer who pays two bucks for a beer.”

He gave an example of what “safer” means.

“Around the corner from the Pantages, there were a couple vendors selling illegal ‘Hamilton’ T-shirts. Husbands would go on this darkened street and pull out cash because the bastards were too cheap to pay 50 bucks for their wives for a real shirt. And they were getting robbed left and right. We put a stop to that.”

As for the aggravated assaults: “My commanding officer, Mike Moore, says, ‘Your numbers are up, your numbers are up.’ But we have traded major assaults with gang members that can lead to homicides for a homeless man hitting another homeless man with a wrench. Do I want that? Of course not…. Would I rather have that? Yes.”

He also said he knows that sounds wrong, but the truth is the truth.

So Hollywood’s story is to some extent the city’s story: Killings are down (not in every division, but most: the 77th recorded a city-high 49 homicides, sadly about par for the course the last few years; but the once-deadly Rampart Division had 12 killings in 2017, compared to 22 in 2016). Assaults are up. Tamping down gang activity helps the homicide count but the assault problem is bad, and about as intractable.

In a utopia, there wouldn’t be any homeless people attacking each other. And in even a junior utopia, the homeless encampments along the freeways and underpasses would be as safe as Hollywood Boulevard.

I got word about two months ago that an old friend was homeless and living along the Hollywood Freeway near Western Avenue. I checked it out. I didn’t find my friend, but I discovered a sad, eerie tent village, with a foot-wide path separating the shelters from a rocky, 45-degree dropoff to the 101.

The LAPD can’t make that dangerous encampment disappear, and officers might not work a homeless-on-homeless assault like they would a lady from Kansas getting attacked in front of the Chinese theater, but a homicide is still a homicide.  As Michael Connelly’s fictional detective Harry Bosch says. “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

Jimmy Bradford, one of the Hollywood’s two 2017 homicides, homeless - and black -  was stabbed to death near an on-ramp to the 101 on June 12. On the board at West Bureau Homicide next to Bradford’s name it reads “cleared by arrest.”

As for the other homicide victim, Bryan De La Torre, his case hasn’t been cleared. “But homicide is still working it,” said Palka. “Working it hard.

Reprinted from L.A. TIMES Op-Ed January 4, 2018  Here's the link to the Times' op-ed    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-krikorian-crime-rate-hollywood-20180104-story.html

 

LAPD Capt. Cory PaLka , commander of the hollywood division 

LAPD Capt. Cory PaLka , commander of the hollywood division 

My Lunch With KeeKee Watson, Played Infamous Role On Florence and Normandie

On April 29, 1992, I had a big-time hankering for my favorite hot dog. Just as I was about to roll out to Art’s Famous Chili Dogs, at Florence and Normandie, my cousin Greg called. “I’m going to Art’s,” I told him. Greg yelled at me: “Do not go to Art’s! Turn on the TV.”

I did, and what I saw was Reginald Denny a brick’s throw from Art’s, getting stomped. As I watched, one of his attackers, Henry Keith “KeeKee” Watson, stood, almost casually, on Denny’s neck.

Twenty-five years later, I’m at a pizzeria with KeeKee, now 52, talking about the riots. He can be an imposing man; big, wide, capable of a frightening sneer. But on this day, he’s charming. The two female servers smile when he raves about his three-cheese pizza. His glowing review of butterscotch pudding could not be printed here. (The servers ask him to write it on a comment card.)

Watson remembers the mayhem of 1992 as cathartic — a furious release — and yet it had no lasting impact on his neighborhood, three blocks from the Florence and Normandie flashpoint. What fed the fury, he will tell you, only gets worse.

“Twenty-something years ago, they was beating guys like Rodney. Now they’re shootin’,” Watson said. In 2016, he witnessed a police shooting in an alley near 107th and Western Avenue. “Half the time they ain’t traffic stops. They are assassinations.”

Twenty-something years ago, they was beating guys like Rodney. Now they’re shootin’.

 Keith “KeeKee” Watson

Watson acknowledges his pivotal involvement in the ’92 riots, but he puts the overall onus on the police.

“The LAPD is 99% to blame. When I first saw the Rodney King beating, we were kind of excited because it was like, finally, this was caught on tape.

“Just about any black man in Watts, Green Meadows, any South Central neighborhood — getting your ass kicked by the police was not news. It was a matter of fact. We thought finally, finally, finally they caught them on video.”

Then the verdict came in.

“I was shocked. I was in disbelief. I was pissed off,” Watson said. “On 69th Street everyone was upset. It was like validation that it was OK for the LAPD to beat black men. The turmoil was kicking up. Minute by minute it was getting turned up.”

In court a year later, Watson would escape felony conviction; he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and released for time already served. In his defense, his lawyer said, he got caught up in “crowd contagion.”

This is the way KeeKee explains it now: “It’s like if you told me you had an extra Garth Brooks ticket, I’d say, ‘Brother Mike, I’m gonna have to pass on that.’ But if you were able to convince me to go, hell, 30, 40 minutes into the concert, I’d be do-si-doing. That’s what happened at Florence and Normandie.”

Michael Krikorian, author of the crime novel “Southside,” was a freelance writer in 1992. His Tweeter acount is @makmak47  .  Henry Keith Watson apologized to Reginald Denny in court and on television in 1993. He has been a limousine driver since 1996.

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"Eh yo, Pete.... Meet Me On Grape Street" L.A. Times Op-Ed on a N.T. Times Restaurant Review

Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed Section, January 6, 2017. 

When chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the first LocoL near 103rd and Grape streets in L.A., they weren’t grasping for restaurant-review stars. It wasn’t about reviews; it was about bringing a sense of “We’re not forgotten-ness” to places like Watts and Oakland, where the second LocoL opened at Broadway and Grand in May. LocoL’s motto is “revolutionary fast food for everyone,” and that’s about right.

But, lo and behold, the Oakland LocoL just got what it didn’t need: a nasty critique in the New York Times food section. As part of a very occasional series on restaurants not in New York, Pete Wells wrote the review

Wells was in the Bay Area, but he passed up the chance to review the French Laundry in St. Helena, or Quince, which just got three Michelin stars, in S.F., or the equally honored Manresa in Los Gatos. Instead, he went for LocoL, and he went for it with a vengeance.

LocoL didn’t even rate one star; Wells blasted it with “satisfactory.” He referred to a fried chicken sandwich “mysteriously bland and almost unimaginably dry…. The best thing to do with it is pretend it doesn’t exist.”

Choi responded with an eloquent post on Instagram: “The pen has created a lot of destruction over the course of history and continues to. He didn't need to go there but he did…. It compelled him to write something he knows would hurt a community that is already born from a lot of pain and struggle.”

In a text to me Choi wrote: “I ain’t mad at Pete. But, what he didn’t take into context is that none of our team ever had a job before. They didn’t deserve these harsh words as they’re trying their best every day. It’s like yelling ‘booooo’ at an elementary school musical.”

Maybe Wells decided that Choi’s and Patterson’s resumes — rife with awards, stars, books, even a movie (Jon Favreau’s “Chef” is based on Choi’s food truck) — opened LocoL to all critical comers. 

In highly seasoned language, I texted Choi back. He might not be mad at Pete, I said, but I’d like to give Wells the opportunity to meet several Grape Street Crips in the Juniper Street parking lot at Jordan Downs.

Some might say my offer was rude. But so was Wells’. What Choi and Patterson went looking for in Watts and in Oakland — and what they found — is resolve, pride and hope. LocoL exists as much to support and employ these communities as to feed them. That’s what revolutionary fast food means. 

In my experience — I’ve eaten at the Watts LocoL about 40 times, I’d say — the food is good. How good? Jonathan Gold, in this newspaper, ranked it No. 58 in his 2016 listing of the 101 best restaurants. I live with chef Nancy Silverton, and most of her office staff at Mozza yelled at me recently when I brought back LocoL take-out for only one of them.

Still, LocoL’s cooks and workers aren’t culinary students from the Cordon Bleu. They haven’t worked at Spago, or even at Popeye’s. As Choi said, before LocoL, many of them hadn’t worked at all.

Over a year ago, at Pizzeria Mozza, I had to do a double take at table 70. Was that Ready and Nardo from Grape Street? I know them from my reporter days (and nights) in Watts covering gangs. I didn’t expect to see them at Mozza. (A little background: In a three-star gang like the Grape Street Crips, if your name is Ready, when it comes down, you’re there.) 

They were at a table with Choi, who had already hired them for LocoL and wanted them to see the way Mozza functioned. A month later, when the Watts LocoL opened, Ready moved about the place like he was the maitre d’ at Valentino. Transformations like that is what LocoL is all about.

If you want stars, go to Providence or Melisse, or if you’re in the Bay Area, go to Atelier Crenn or Saison. If you want to feel good, eat way-better-than-usual fast food and brag to your friends about being in on a movement, then go to LocoL in Oakland or Watts.

By foodie standards, LocoL’s “satisfactory” rating was bad news. But, you know, that’s the only thing I can’t fault Wells on: LocoL satisfies.

Grape Street

Nancy Silverton's Books of the Year, in today's Wall Street Journal

Chef Nancy Silverton on Richard Russo and Marisa Silver

- Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10, 2016 by Bari Weiss 

To me, a great novel is like a great meal. The ingredients—no, make that the characters—meet, come to a boil, then simmer and, hopefully, meld together in such a deeply satisfying way that I linger. I can’t put my fork—book!—down.

In the past few years there have only been an armful of books I have loved: David Benioff’s “City of Thieves,” Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” Michael Krikorian’s “Southside,” Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” Abraham Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone” and Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels.

But this past year I’ll happily add two to my short list. Marisa Silver’s “Little Nothing” was a great escape—a dark, mysterious adult fairy tale about a dwarf girl who turns into a wolf and then a . . . I won’t ruin it. With someone else’s pen, this love story could have been a mess, but Ms. Silver’s engaging, heartfelt style brought it together for me. I felt so deeply for this outcast and, perhaps even more, for the man who loves her unconditionally.

My other book for 2016 is Richard Russo’s “Everybody’s Fool,” the sequel to “Nobody’s Fool.” I see Paul Newman every time Sully’s name appears. And we all know that’s special. 

Ms. Silverton, a chef, is the author of “Mozza at Home.”

L.A. Times Op-Ed - Stay and Fight, No One's Moving Anywhere

No one's moving anywhere. My friends Dahlia and Chris aren't going to Mexico, and Alexis K is not going to Copenhagen. Nancy's not permanently packing up and moving to Umbria, Kate Green's not heading permanently to Chablis and Duke is not moving to Thailand with his cousin Jake.

And you?  You aren't going wherever the heck you say you are moving to now that Don Trump is going to be president of the United States of America.

What we all do is this: We stay and fight.

First, we wait and see. Even Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, "We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead."

But if we don't like what happens, we fight it. We take to the streets and rekindle memories of the anti-Vietnam War protests and civil rights marches. We don't run and hide. We don't abandon America.

I feel, strangely, not what I thought I would “the morning after.” I’m more patriotic than I was yesterday. More in love with my country than I have since, I guess, Sept. 11, 2001.

As my old friend Aqeela Sherrills, a longtime Watts gang interventionist and community activist said in a Facebook post Wednesday: “There's a gift in every tragedy...   A Trump victory is an opportunity, if your like me, I do my best work under pressure. Don't go to Canada or where ever you thinking, The U.S. is ours! and no President, Senate, Congress or White House will tell me otherwise!... lets go to work!”

The country our parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents fought for is sliding around  a hairpin turn, but it hasn't crashed.

Yesterday, a guy I know from the streets showed me a knife he had in his waistband. A killing knife. It made me think of “Saving Private Ryan”and a brutal, achingly sad scene:  room-to-room fighting, a German soldier slowly pushing a killing knife into the chest of an American soldier.

When I went home, I Netflix'd “Saving Private Ryan” with the intention of forwarding to that scene, but instead I started watching from the beginning. The first 25 or so minutes show the first wave of Allied forces landing on the beach at Normandy, D-Day, 1944. It's one of the most powerful  movie sequences ever filmed, and it ends with a panorama of bloody corpses washed along by the tide.

What happened Tuesday doesn’t compare to those days. Everyone walking around like it’s the end of civilization now that Trump is in? It's not. We’ve  been through far worse. A perceived threat is not as bad as a punch in the face. 

I was on a text thread Tuesday night that included several millennials. It started with how wonderful the election was going turn out: the first woman president, the rejection of hateful talk.

But as the eerie night moved on, the thread's tone changed to doom. “I'm terrified,”  “so upsetting,” “I'm really scared,”  “will we get through this shameful moment,” “this is horrific,”  “I cannot take this.”

Yes you can take this.  

At Men's Central Jail last week I saw my old friend Cleamon Johnson, a.k.a. Big Evil. We got to talking about the election, and Big Evil said, “This fool might win. But sometimes you have to go all the way down before you can rise.”

So everyone, don't start packing. Get ready for a fight.

And watch the first 25 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”  You’ll know we’ve been through a whole lot worse.  

Michael Krikorian is the author of the novel “Southside.” KrikorianWrites.com. @makmak47

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