BRIAN LAMB, HOST: LeAlan Jones, author of "Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago," what's your book about?
Mr. LeALAN JONES, AUTHOR, "OUR AMERICA: LIFE AND DEATH ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO": The book is about me and a friend, Lloyd s--Newman's life, growing
up in Ida B. Wells, a housing development on the South Side of Chicago. It's
basically transcriptions of two documentaries that we did, "Ghetto Life 101"
and "Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse," which we had over 100 hours of
tape, and we put them in a book format and we updated it with 50 hours more
tape to, you know, m--bring you up to date on things that happened in both
LAMB: How old are you now?
Mr. JONES: I'm 18 years old.
LAMB: When did you start all this?
Mr. JONES: I started this when I was 13 years old.
LAMB: How did it start?
Mr. JONES: I was doing speaking for an organization called No Dope Express
Foundation, and I was going around--I was speaking for the organization. I'm
still in--I'm still currently the national junior spokesperson, as well as a
LAMB: What's the name of the organization?
Mr. JONES: No Dope Express Foundation.
LAMB: No Dope Express Foundation.
Mr. JONES: Yes. And David Isay, a indepro--an independent producer from
National Public Radio, had called and asked if the organization had anybody
that could talk about their community. And Mr. King, the president of the
organization here, recommended me to Mr. Isay and I talked to him on the
phone. I talked to him for a couple of days, then he asked me did I had
a--have anybody that I'd like to pair myself with, and then I brought Lloyd
Newman, who I've known since the first grade.
LAMB: Who's David Isay?
Mr. JONES: David Isay is a freelance producer for National Public Radio.
LAMB: And who is your--your friend, Lloyd Newman?
Mr. JONES: Lloyd Newman, he's a friend I've known for the majority of my life.
We went to grammar school together. We were--since--known each other since the
first grade. And I confide myself--who--who I knew very well and I felt
comfortable with doing the work that we needed to do for "Ghetto Life."
LAMB: When was the first time your--your documentaries ended up on NPR?
Mr. JONES: They ended up on--on--in National Public Radio at--it aired March
of 1993, "Ghetto Life 101."
LAMB: What was the reaction?
Mr. JONES: The reaction was stunning. People--it--it shocked people. It--it
caused a lot of controversy.
Mr. JONES: People thought that David Isay, who was a white producer, had
somehow made me and--me and Lloyd talk the way we did. They thought that there
was no way possible that we could have known the things that we knew at the age
that we were and coming from the circumstances that we were.
LAMB: Where do you live in Chicago?
Mr. JONES: I live in a housing--I don't live in the projects, but I live a
half a block away in--on Oakwood and Lloyd lives in Ida B. Wells.
LAMB: Those who've been to Chicago know downtown, Michigan Avenue, the big
skyscrapers. How far are you away from all that?
Mr. JONES: Probably less than--probably two miles away.
LAMB: Which way? South?
Mr. JONES: S--two miles south.
LAMB: Have you lived there all your life?
Mr. JONES: I lived there all 18 years of my life.
LAMB: What's--what's your family like?
Mr. JONES: My family--I was raised by my grandparents and my mother. I have
two sisters. I have uncles. I mean, it's a--a--a typical family life, I would
LAMB: Where's your father?
Mr. JONES: I've never met my father.
LAMB: You have any idea who he is?
Mr. JONES: My mother's told me who he is, but I've never met him face-to-face
nor have engaged in conversation with him.
LAMB: What do you think of that?
Mr. JONES: Well, it--when I was younger, it upset me, but I'm older now and I
have to roll with the punches. I can't, you know, sit here and wonder about
what might have happened, if or could. I just have to keep living and keep
LAMB: What's your mother like?
Mr. JONES: My mother--she's great now. She had a few mishaps in her life with
her mental illness, but she's doing great now.
LAMB: What kind of mental illness did she have?
Mr. JONES: She ha--she was a manic--she was a manic depressive.
LAMB: Did you talk to her about that?
Mr. JONES: I--yes, I talked about her--with her in the book in the--on the
LAMB: What did you ask her?
Mr. JONES: Just basic questions that I would ask whenever I got curious.
LAMB: And what would she tell you?
Mr. JONES: She'd tell me the truth, the honest truth.
LAMB: Did she care that this was going to end up in a book like this?
Mr. JONES: She didn't--she knew it was going to end up in a documentary. No
one knew that it was going to end up in a book, not even me. When we begun
thi--when we had started this, we didn't think that it would, you know,
had--have--amount to this.
LAMB: Who are your best friends in the world?
Mr. JONES: Best friends--I have--Steve, I have a friend that I play football
with. I ha--I mean, I believe I've been blessed with friends. I have a lot of
good friends. Lloyd--I have...
LAMB: Where's Lloyd today?
Mr. JONES: Lloyd's at home. He broke his--he broke a--a growth plate in his
knee and he couldn't--he was not able to make it because the doctor thought
that it was unstable for him to walk on it.
LAMB: And as you know, in the book, it says that it's your voice, mostly.
Mr. JONES: Yes.
LAMB: Why yours and not his?
Mr. JONES: I belive that I'm more a talker than Lloyd. I'm more--I'm
more--more stay-up-front than what Lloyd. Lloyd is more of a quiet person.
He's more of a seer. I'm more of a seer and a doer.
LAMB: Have you always been a talker?
Mr. JONES: Majority of my life.
LAMB: Where did you get that, do you think?
Mr. JONES: I just believe that I express myself very well and I--and, you
know, I mean, people allow me to talk because I had something to talk about
when I was younger. I would always engage in conversation with adults when I
was younger. When I was 10, I would engage in conversation with grown men
because I felt as though that was the only way that I could gain knowledge and
g--or gain some type of understanding of the world. Since I didn't have a
father and my grandfather worked, that's the only way that I truly learned how
I was and what a man was supposed to do, how a man, you know, was supposed to
LAMB: Who is this woman in this picture?
Mr. JONES: That's my grandmother, Mrs. June Jones.
LAMB: And where is she today?
Mr. JONES: She's at--in Chicago, probably with my nephew and my little cousin
LAMB: What's she like?
Mr. JONES: Well, she was stern when I was younger. She's--she's very nice,
very lovely lady.
LAMB: And what role did she play in making you, do you think, what you are
Mr. JONES: She played a major role. After my mother was declared manic
depressive, when I was about four or five and we were put into state custody,
me and my older sister, my grandmother, instead of letting the state of
Illinois take us and make us, you know, foster kids, my grandmother stepped in
and she took over, and she raised me and my sister under her care till
n--till--from five till present day.
LAMB: What's your sister's name?
Mr. JONES: My sister's Janell.
LAMB: And how old is she?
Mr. JONES: My sister's 21. She'll be 22 on July--July 11th, I believe.
LAMB: How do you two get along?
Mr. JONES: I'd say we're all right. We're not, you know, the--we're not, you
know, a great sister-and-brother pair, but yet, we get along.
LAMB: What does she do?
Mr. JONES: She's--I think she's--she's going to school trying to get her
associate's degree, and she's trying to work and, you know, provide for
LAMB: Now you mentioned your friend Steve earlier.
Mr. JONES: Yes.
LAMB: Why do you like Steve?
Mr. JONES: Steve--he's--he's a--he's like Lloyd, but he's more of a thinker.
Me and him can dialogue.
LAMB: What do you dialogue about?
Mr. JONES: Dialogue about everything. We dialogue about the world. We'll
dialogue about books. We'll dialogue about people, leaders, philosophy,
religion. We dialogue on a lot of things.
LAMB: You've got a glossary of terms at the beginning of this book here, if I
can find them, and I want to ask you about some of these terms. Whose idea was
it to put the glossary of terms in?
Mr. JONES: I felt that--it was basically all of our idea because people--like,
they have Ebonics and things like that. It's not saying that we're less
educated from the community that we come from, it's just that we dialogue in
different terms. If you were to take a kid from Alabama and put him in
Chicago, the l--the dialogue's totally different from what he's accustomed to
and what I'm accustomed to. And yet, we knew in the book it was going to be in
our words, in the way that we spoke, and we felt as though to have that is so
people could translate it and understand.
LAMB: Let me ask you to define some of these words. `Booster'?
Mr. JONES: Booster. That's--like, they--they'll go downtown and they'll--I
don't know how they get the clothes they like to have, but they'll have, like,
new clothes and things like that.
LAMB: It's a person?
Mr. JONES: Yes, a person. They'll have, like, new clothes, shoes and things
like that, and they'll sell them to you at a very--a very discount price. They
won't sell them to you for what the stores sell them to you for. They'll sell
it to you, like, very low.
LAMB: How do you find a booster? Where are they?
Mr. JONES: Basically, you know, you find them because they--they're usually at
the barber shops, where they know people are spending money, the hair salons,
walking up and down the street. They...
LAMB: Do you--do you know any boosters yourself?
Mr. JONES: Yeah.
Mr. JONES: I know boosters.
LAMB: They make a lot of money?
Mr. JONES: They make a decent living. It keeps them--it keeps them happy. I
mean, it's something--it's--it's entrepreneurship. It's a steady business for
them. They sell hair braids, socks, lighters and things like that, and it
keeps them making money.
LAMB: How old are they, usually?
Mr. JONES: They're usually anywhere from, you know, 25 to 50, 25 to 60.
You'll see great-grandparents out there selling things like that because it's a
LAMB: How did you use the--the name `booster' in your book?
Mr. JONES: I believe we used `booster' to describe how some kids might get
clothes. They might--you know, boosters might go knocking door-to-door, you
know, having things that they might have to sell.
LAMB: Did you ever buy anything from a booster?
Mr. JONES: Yeah, gym shoes, maybe a T-shirt, maybe a jogging suit here and
LAMB: Next term is `crib.'
Mr. JONES: Crib. That's where you stay. It's like a baby crib, but that's
your house--`I'm going to the crib.'
LAMB: What's your crib like?
Mr. JONES: Crib--crib is--I mean...
LAMB: I mean, what's yours like?
Mr. JONES: Crib is all right. I mean, I got my own room. Everybody's happy.
LAMB: You by yourself...
Mr. JONES: No.
LAMB: ...in the--in the r--in the room?
Mr. JONES: Yeah, I have a nice-sized room, a TV, nice stereo.
LAMB: And if you've got time on your hands to do anything you want to do, what
do you do?
Mr. JONES: Usually lift weights. I--I like sports. I like athletic u--I like
athletics. I just like competitiveness. So I'll--I'll usually work out, lift
LAMB: How tall are you?
Mr. JONES: W--5'8".
LAMB: How are those biceps?
Mr. JONES: Fifteen and a half, 16 inches.
LAMB: Darrow Homes?
Mr. JONES: That's the--that's a--the high-rise Ida B. Wells apartments.
LAMB: Ida B.--do you know who Ida B. Wells was?
Mr. JONES: Ida B. Wells was a black abolition--not a black abolitionist, but
she was a writer in the South, and she was writing to free--not free slaves,
but yet end Jim Crow and things like that around 1900, 1910. She was a writer
in Chicago as well as in the South, and she would write about lynching in the
LAMB: And what's named after her?
Mr. JONES: It's a--it's a project--we call it a project. It's lower-income
developments that were established in 1940 by the city of Chicago, and it was a
great--a great community then. Now it's developed and it's something totally
LAMB: What's different about it?
Mr. JONES: There's a lot of gang activity, a lot of selling drugs, a lot of
poverty, a lot of hopelessness.
LAMB: The next term i--is--you said it was Darrow Homes and it's D-A-R-R-O-W.
And what--again, what does that mean in connection with Ida B. Wells?
Mr. JONES: Darrow Homes--I don't know who Darrow is, but it's a--there are 14
stories, four of them. It's four 14-story high-rise apartments, and that's
where they started building in Chicago around the '50s and '60s because they
wanted to build people going vertical instead of going horizontal and spread
them out over the city. So Daley J--Daley Sr.--he built them, and he...
LAMB: Mayor Daley?
Mr. JONES: Yeah, Richard Daley's father--who's now the mayor--his father,
Richard J. Daley Sr.--he built them, and now they're--they're being torn down.
He built--from the 35th all the way to 55th, there's a stretch of them,
about--I don't know how many buildings. But yet, they're now tearing them down
because they see that they're--there's no use for them. A lot of the buildings
are rundown and in bad condition.
LAMB: And how come you never lived in the projects?
Mr. JONES: I lived in the projects with my mother on the West Side in Henry
Horner for a while. I had an aunt that stayed in there, but my grandmother and
grandfather--my da--the house that I live in now has been in my family since
the--since the mid-'30s. So my great-great-grandmother lived there, and we've
just--the house has just went down generation to generation.
LAMB: Do you feel any differently when you're in the projects vs. where you
live now? I mean, in your own head, do you feel better or worse or...
Mr. JONES: I feel--I--I mean, don't get me wrong, where I live is not a great
situation, but it's a lot better than what most kids live in.
LAMB: Next on the list is `Def Homes,' D-E-F.
Mr. JONES: That's just a--that's the way we pronounce Darrow Homes--Def Homes.
That's what the Darrow Homes are, the Def Homes.
LAMB: Why do you pronounce it that way? Do you know?
Mr. JONES: That's--I believe the guys came up with that around, like, 1980 or
'89. That's when it was, like, def--def--I can't remember the--L.L. Cool J,
like def. Def was a word, and it was a phrase that a lot of guys used in the
community, I'm saying. Like, if I said, `Your shoes were def,' it's not saying
that you can't hear; it's just saying that you got--you know, that's def
clothes what you got on. That means that it look good. That's def gear, and
that's around the time that that word came out to use because L.L. Cool J., he
was the one--I think it was Def Jam Records, and it--the word was just--it was
just used in rap music and in the community. So they said, `Def Homes.'
LAMB: If--if--if I were to hang around you and Steve and--and Lloyd and you
were all talking the language, would I understand you?
Mr. JONES: You would probably understand it, depending on how we use it,
because, I mean, it's gestures. I mean, you would know how I'm using it.
LAMB: How--how would--what kind of gestures?
Mr. JONES: You would just know how. I mean, I could sit here and--there's so
many different ways to do it, just know by the way we're acting on what I mean.
There's--it's a different way of saying what I mean. It could--it could be
said many different ways.
LAMB: Are you happier using your own language that we've talked about here or
being like you are now?
Mr. JONES: I wouldn't say that I know the tra--I just tra--I wouldn't
know--know one from the other, because when I'm around people that have to be
distinguished, then I have to use the language that I'm using. When I'm
relaxed and I'm at home, then I'll use--I use both of them. I don't--I don't
see the transition.
LAMB: Next on the list, `dummy bag.'
Mr. JONES: Dummy bag is, like, phony cocaine. It's like--What?--it's like
they might take something that looks like cocaine or rock or drugs and it's a
dummy bag. It's not the real thing. And a hype--you might--that might be your
next word--is a drug addict. A hype might buy it and it's a dummy bag.
There's no really--there's not really drugs. It's a dummy bag, and they get
money and they go to the next buyer. So they're really making money for
selling nothing--something that's not real.
LAMB: What happens when you find out you've been sold a dummy bag?
Mr. JONES: I know some people that be--gotten killed for selling dummy bags.
LAMB: Have you ever had any drugs?
Mr. JONES: I've never had to take them or use them. I've never had to sell
LAMB: You ever had any interest in taking them?
Mr. JONES: No. I mean, I was curious about them, but it was never to the
point where, you know, I just went and did it.
LAMB: How many people have you known that have taken drugs?
Mr. JONES: Numerous.
LAMB: What's the reason they give you for taking them?
Mr. JONES: I believe some of them are just wanting to be accepted.
LAMB: Anybody tell you that lo--they like it a lot?
Mr. JONES: Some people like it, but they don't know the reasons for which they
like it. They like it because everybody else does. It's a--it's a fad. It's
a--it's a trend.
LAMB: How important is to--drug taking to people you know in their lives?
Mr. JONES: I would s--I would say it's a--it's a--it's a small minority, but
yet, they do it. They do it, you know, casually at parties and things like
LAMB: If you took the drugs out of your s--our of our society or out of your
neighborhoods or whatever, you know, the different lives you lead, what impact
do you think it would have on the country?
Mr. JONES: I don't believe that you could do that. There's no way possible.
That's--to some people, that's the way they relax. If you go in--back in time,
you know, a lot of different cultures in--in Japan and China, you know, they
smoked hemp and, you know--and opium and things like that. And
you--that's--that's w--the way people relax. I mean--and if you take out
drugs, then that means you have to take out tobacco, it means you have to take
out alcohol and different things like that. And you j--that's the way people
relax. That's the way people--I don't believe that it can be something done.
LAMB: On your list you have `ends,' E--E-N-D-S.
Mr. JONES: That's money. You got some money in your pocket. Ends--you've
just got ends.
LAMB: Where did that word come from, do you think?
Mr. JONES: I don't know where it comes from, but, you know, ends--you got some
LAMB: Is it hard to come by, somebody at your age, 18? Did you ever have a
Mr. JONES: Yeah, I know a lot of people that work.
LAMB: How about you?
Mr. JONES: Well, me--I have a book, that's m--and--and I'm going to college.
So that's--this--that's my job. That's where I can come down and collect my
LAMB: Is this your first book?
Mr. JONES: Yes, it is.
LAMB: Is this your first job?
Mr. JONES: No, it's not my first job. I worked with the organization No Dope
Express. That was my first job.
LAMB: And where--where is No Dope Express headquarters?
Mr. JONES: It's in Chicago and Atlanta.
LAMB: Do you get paid to work there?
Mr. JONES: I--I was--I--I do speaking things free for them, but I--in the
summer, I worked for them, like, my freshman year in high school.
LAMB: How'd you get into it?
Mr. JONES: They were--they came through my grammar school. They were like
DARE. They came through and they did a workshop for about six weeks.
LAMB: And then how did you get in it?
Mr. JONES: Me and the president of the organization had an altercation and an
incident, and he saw that I wasn't going to bow down and he wasn't going to bow
down. So, therefore, we found a mutual respect and we ended up being very
tight, you know. He's like family to me and I'm like family to him.
LAMB: What's his name?
Mr. JONES: Earl King.
LAMB: And what was your altercation over?
Mr. JONES: I was in the classroom laughing because I--when I was younger--if
you heard my CD "Ghetto Life," you would hear that I had a very--oh, I didn't
sound--I have a deep voice now. I had a very childish voice and I had a--still
have, like, a chipmunk laugh. I laugh like Alvin the chipmunk. And so one day
he had told me to stop laughing like Alvin the chipmunk. So I got up in front
of the whole class and I said--you know, because he called me ch--Alvin the
chipmunk, I got up in front of the whole class and I stood up and I raised my
hand and I told him--I said, `If you called me by my name, LeAlan Jones, you
know, I believe that you were going to be better responsible for me because my
name is not Alvin the chipmunk.' And after he saw that I had--would stand up to
him, he respected it.
LAMB: And then how did you turn that into working for No Dope Express?
Mr. JONES: Well, that summer, I would--I--I w--he would--I didn't have
anything. All I was doing that summer was playing baseball and running around
the neighborhood. He would come get me and take me out, you know, go out to
eat. His wife was working at a radio station in Chicago, a very prominent
radio station there, and he would take me out there where she worked and take
me around. And that's when I became--began--you know, came to find the
organization and began working for the organization. The organization took me
on my first flight when I was n--in eighth grade. My first flight was to
Washington, my first airplane flight.
LAMB: What'd you think of that?
Mr. JONES: It was--I was kind of nervous at first, but after I go on, you
know, it's been 50 or 60 more since.
LAMB: Fifty or 60 more since.
Mr. JONES: Yeah, 50...
LAMB: What kind of places--have you been overseas at all?
Mr. JONES: I haven't been overseas. I've been to Canada. My grandmother took
me there when I was younger. She--we drove the bus there. That's when I went
to Canada. I've been to Miami, San Antonio, up and down the East Coast.
LAMB: So when you joined No Dope Express...
Mr. JONES: Yes.
LAMB: ...and you go out--where--where do you speak?
Mr. JONES: I speak to young people. I try to motivate them. I try to
motivate adults. That's what I've begun doing, you know, motivational
LAMB: What's the first thing you tell them when you start to talk to them?
Mr. JONES: I ask them to look at--look at themselves and look at me. I
didn't--I mean, today I'm dressed in a nice suit. I mean, five, six years ago
I had no idea that I could even be on C-SPAN with Brian Lamb. There was no way
possible that I could believe that I could be dressed here and yet--and have
this book. But yet, I was w--I worked hard, I did the right things and this is
what it's led to.
LAMB: Then what do you tell them?
Mr. JONES: I tell them that--that you have to work hard. There's no way to
say, you know--that's like me going to college and thinking that, you know, our
America is going to let me continue to go through college and just be a--a
decent student. No, I have to continue to work hard. I have not reached a
point where I can--you know, I don't ha--where I can just stop working. And I
believe--well, you know, I have goals and I must reach those goals, you know,
set goals and work hard to get there.
LAMB: How long is your speech?
Mr. JONES: My speeches can go from 15 to as long as it takes. I usually can
go as long--I've w--I've went 45 minutes to an hour.
LAMB: You tell them stories?
Mr. JONES: I tell them stories and I--it's fun. It's not like I'm going to
sit there and be just a regular speaker. I walk around, I motivate. I let
kids get around me. I'm not the type of speaker where I talk and after the
spe--after the forum I'm gone. I sit around and dialogue. I try to get in
LAMB: What do you do if somebody's eyes are closed?
Mr. JONES: I've never really see--experienced that.
LAMB: No one's ever gone to sleep on you in a speech?
Mr. JONES: I've never had--I've never seen anyone go to sleep while I've been
LAMB: Has anybody ever been hostile to you?
Mr. JONES: They've been hostile in the beginning, but at the end, they humble
LAMB: And what's the reason they're hostile?
Mr. JONES: Because they--some--in--in nine times out of 10, when I've had
somebody hostile, it is somebody who has come from the background that I've
come from and feel that there's nothing that, you know, I could talk to them
about. But after it's over with, you know, we exchange phone numbers and I--we
talk on the phone.
LAMB: At what point in your speech, when you make your presentation, do you see
them begin to change?
Mr. JONES: I d--I think they see a change as soon as I--before I speak. It's
just impressive seeing someone--after they've find out that I'm 18, have two
documentaries, a Peabody, a Kennedy, a pr--and I have all these accolades
behind me, all these things that I've done, and yet I'm only 18, then
their--their eyes begin to open when they start hearing the introduction.
LAMB: Who are some of the most important people you've ever met in your life?
Mr. JONES: Most important--I would say--well, my mother. If it weren't for
her, I wouldn't be here. She's a very important lady.
LAMB: And her--what's her first name?
Mr. JONES: June--she's June Jones Jr. She's--she's the s--my grandmother and
her have the same name.
LAMB: And who's this?
Mr. JONES: That's my mom.
LAMB: When was that picture taken?
Mr. JONES: That picture was taken probably in September by John Brooks, our
LAMB: And John Brooks gets credit in this book for most of the photography.
Mr. JONES: He--he--yes, he's--only about two pictures in it aren't his.
LAMB: Who is he?
Mr. JONES: He's a photographer from Cabrini Green, a guy who comes from the
same situations as me and Lloyd, and he was--he was a self-taught photographer.
LAMB: How old is he?
Mr. JONES: John Brooks is about 22--20--22 years old.
LAMB: Go back--you said your mother's im--the most important person.
Mr. JONES: Exactly.
LAMB: And who would be other people that you remember meeting?
Mr. JONES: I would say that if--if--in social things, as far as social status,
I've met Minister Louis Farrakhan, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Dr. Bobby
….of the Kellogg Foundation. I--let me see, I--the--the
president of the university where I'm going to.
LAMB: Which is?
Mr. JONES: Bro--Sandy D'Alemberte of Florida State.
LAMB: Why did you pick Florida State?
Mr. JONES: I met the president, actually, at an American Bar Association
meeting in Orlando, Florida. C-SPAN actually covered that, too, in Orlando,
Florida, last year, and I was a panelist there. And his wife, Patsy Palmer,
had saw--had saw me on the list and she had a tape of my documentary in her
purse. And she had wrote a note to my grandfather who had accompanied me to
Florida in Orlando and wrote that she was the wife of the president of Florida
State and that she had a copy of my work and that she would like to talk to me
and set up maybe a visit to Florida State and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So
I got the letter and went back--went back to my hotel room, called her
frantically. We set up breakfast the next morning. I went on my visit in
October and I was a Seminole in December.
LAMB: So what are you going to study?
Mr. JONES: I'll probably major in criminology and...
LAMB: To d--to do what?
Mr. JONES: I believe that I can--I'm going to get my doctorate, so I believe
that criminology or maybe some other fields--I'm saying criminology now because
that's what I'm most familiar with.
LAMB: Go back to your speech that you give. What kind of kids do you talk to?
Mr. JONES: I talk to kids from all different situations. I've--talking to
kids in Winnetka, Illinois, which is a predominantly white school with 4,000
students and only 17 African-Americans who've never had to experience
African-Americans or poverty. I've s--talking to kids who come from the same
situations as me. I've--talking to kids at Evanston Township High School,
wh--is a suburban--in north--where Northwestern University is there. I've
spoken to adults. I've spoken to corporate philanthropists.
LAMB: What's the difference in the reaction that you get from talking to white
kids vs. black kids?
Mr. JONES: I believe both--they are both in the same way. White kids are
surprised because they kind of--they don't know how--because when I go there,
I'm not in this attire. I go there because I want to break a stereotype. I
want them to see that every kid--every black kid is not an athlete, that there
are some bl--you know, smart African-American kids out there; that every, you
know, black kid is not a gangbanger, you know, that there are some successful,
you know, black kids--and for black kids, that you can be successful, to
motivate them to work harder, to know that you can accomplish something.
LAMB: So what's the difference in the way the black kids react to you?
Mr. JONES: They react--I--I--I--I--my presentations to them are totally
different. First, I let the kids know that I still can relate with them,
because a lot of them, they get the misconception that, you know, I've gotten
to a certain point where I've--you know, where I can--might be, you know--I
might--because I talk--still talk proper when I'm with them. That's what we
call it where I come from, we're talking proper. It's not, you know--it's not,
you know, regular lingo. I mean, not...
LAMB: Talking proper is talking with the language or talking the way we're
Mr. JONES: Talking the way we're talking right now, which we...
LAMB: We're talking proper.
Mr. JONES: We're talking proper. It's called, you know, you talking white,
but in reality, I still talk this way, but yet, I still can relate to them on
certain terms. On--I can relate to them on all bases of life. And yet, I can
show them that you can be successful. I can--you know, I don't--they--a lot of
them can relate to me like this, but a lot of them can't, you know. I'm
talking--I've--talking to third-graders.
LAMB: By the way, you've got a suit and tie on today. Are you happier wearing
that or would you rather be in the--just the casual clothes?
Mr. JONES: Right now I'd rather--you know, I like suit and ties.
LAMB: Do you?
Mr. JONES: I like suit and ties. It's very hot here today but, you know, I
like suit and ties.
LAMB: It's hot in this town today.
Mr. JONES: Yeah.
LAMB: That's right. Back to some of the language. `Flip'?
Mr. JONES: Flip. That can mean--let me see, you could be flipping kids. You
could be flipping on a mattress. Little kids around the community--people who
move out, they throw their old mattresses out, and little kids'll jump on them
and flip, you know, tumble. That's what we call--they'll tumble.
LAMB: Is that something you do really--when you're really young?
Mr. JONES: You can do it, I mean, from young to very old. I mean...
LAMB: You do a lot of it? Is it...
Mr. JONES: That's a--that's a--that's a great activity. A lot of kids get a
lot--a good workout doing that. They flip. A lot of them are good flippers.
A lot of them are--are very great flippers. I mean, they--they don't have
the--the luxuries of a--of a gym or something like that where they can go in
and have, like, cushioned, you know, floor and--and have, you know, jungle
gyms, things like that, so therefore, they make do with what they have, so they
flip on old mattresses and things like that, and it's a sight to watch.
LAMB: `Kicking it'?
Mr. JONES: That means we're just out, you know. If--you--I don't--we don't
say, you know, say, `We're going out on a date.' I might ask a girl, `Let's go
kick it.' `Kick it' means, `Let's go out to the movies,' it might--`Let's get
something to eat,' it might--`Let's go to the lakefront.' It might just
mean--it just means going out.
LAMB: Do you date a lot?
Mr. JONES: I would say when I have time.
LAMB: You like it?
Mr. JONES: It's--it's--it's good. It's--it's healthy.
LAMB: Wh--what do they think of your celebrity?
Mr. JONES: I'm not a celebrity, so I--it's--I mean, it's cool. I try to get
away from that.
LAMB: Did you find a lot of people your age would listen to the radio reports
Mr. JONES: A lot of them--actually, a lot--I--I was quite--I was in shock, but
a lot of them who didn't hear it on NPR, the original broadcast, whenever the
CD is played, because we have it in CD and tape--whenever they hear it, they
love it. But yet, it's not played on mainstream stations to where they can,
you know, hear it in entirety.
But when they hear it in their classrooms, it's something. It's funny to them,
it's real to them and it's something they can relate to. That's what I'm
talking about, African-American kids, kids who--who come from the environment
that I come from, and just African-American kids in general. It's funny and
it's something they can relate to. When white kids hear it, it's funny, but
yet, it's shocking, because a lot of them have never had to deal with some of
the things that we've had to deal with. They've never had to deal with someone
shooting in a field and you're running and ducking. Therefore, it's shocking,
and yet, some things they can relate to and a lot of things they can't. So
therefore, I try to bridge--I try to build a bridge between the two.
LAMB: Another term you have is `light up.'
Mr. JONES: Light up or lit up. That's the way we would say it.
LAMB: Lit up.
Mr. JONES: Lit up, meaning you got shot...
LAMB: But it's spelled L-I-G-H-T.
Mr. JONES: Nah, he must have misspelled it. Lit up means you got shot, you
got--I mean, if you got lit up, nine times out of 10 you're dead. Lit up
means--you know, if you go on the street, man, w--saying, `Got lit up last
night.' That means you got shot.
LAMB: Have you ever seen anybody shot?
Mr. JONES: I've never had to see that sight, but I've seen the aftereffects of
LAMB: How often?
Mr. JONES: I saw it maybe a lot when I was younger, but now since I've, as you
say, quote-unquote, "got celebrity status" and I'm not around a community a
lot, I haven't had to really experience that.
LAMB: Do you remember the first time you saw it?
Mr. JONES: I remember the first time I heard it and I remember the time--the
first time I saw it, yeah.
LAMB: Where was that?
Mr. JONES: It was right on 41st, which is right down the street from my house.
LAMB: What was the--what were the circumstances?
Mr. JONES: This guy was on a pay phone and somebody that rode by--it was a
drive-by and they shot him.
LAMB: And you were right there--or, I mean, you came right after that?
Mr. JONES: I came right a--I heard the shooting because, you know, if--bullets
don't have a name on them. When you hear the first shot, you get away from it.
So after I saw him shot, it was like, `Well, I'm glad it wasn't me.'
LAMB: How old were you?
Mr. JONES: I had to be about 10 or 11.
LAMB: What impact did that have on you?
Mr. JONES: I could say it--it didn't hurt me yea or nay. It was just, you
know, he got shot. That's the way we--that's the way I believe I deal with it
and a lot of other people deal with it. He got shot.
LAMB: What's the worst thing you've ever seen?
Mr. JONES: The worst thing--the story of Eric Morse.
LAMB: The five-year-old.
Mr. JONES: Who got thrown out of the window. I didn't actually see him fall,
but yet, when I looked at the story and I--and I read the reports, it's just
the worst sight I've saw--that I've put in my mind.
LAMB: Who was Eric Morse?
Mr. JONES: Eric Morse was a five-year-old who was thrown out of a 14-story
window in October of 1994 by two 10- and 11-year-olds whose name we can't use
because they're minors. H--they were thrown out--he was thrown out allegedly
because he didn't steal candy.
LAMB: Didn't steal candy for whom?
Mr. JONES: He didn't steal candy for the 10- and 11-year-olds, so
the--the--young Eric and his brother Derrick had went to tell their mother,
who, in turn, went to go tell the older kids' mother, and yet, the kids got
angry and were going to get them back for telling on them, or what you'd call
in the book tricking on them. So they led him to a 14-story vacant apartment
which they called a clubhouse.
LAMB: And we've got a picture we're going to show here that is from that 14th
Mr. JONES: Yes. That's the look from the 14th story.
LAMB: When did this happen, what year?
Mr. JONES: This happened in 1994.
LAMB: And did these two young 11- and 10-year-olds intend to drop the
five-year-old from the 14th story?
Mr. JONES: We never talked to them, so we--I can't--I can't speculate, but he
LAMB: Did you know Eric Morse?
Mr. JONES: I didn't know Eric No--Eric Morse personally, but I--I've known his
family. I kno--I've known his sister. I've known some of his relatives. I...
LAMB: This is the picture where he actually fell.
Mr. JONES: That's the--and that's where--the end result of him falling 14
LAMB: Was he dead when he f--when he hit the ground?
Mr. JONES: I don't believe he died on impact, but he died soon after that.
LAMB: Why did you want to investigate this?
Mr. JONES: Because it was a sad story and I knew that mainstream media was not
going to get the true story. They were going to do superficial reports on just
the incident, you know, sensationalizing it--you know, the candy and that. But
they was--they weren't going to in-depthly look at the kids who did it or--I
mean, no one interviewed Eric Morse's mom. We were the only interview granted
to Mrs. Morse.
LAMB: This is the four--actual 14th story...
Mr. JONES: That's the 14th story--that's the 14th floor.
LAMB: And where is this?
Mr. JONES: This the--that's the Def Homes or the Darrow Homes, whichever one
you may prefer to call it.
LAMB: In the Ida B. Wells development.
Mr. JONES: In Ida B. Wells. Now that building actually is being torn down.
LAMB: You think that's a good idea?
Mr. JONES: It's a--it's--you know, it's a little bit too late, but I'm--I'm
glad it's coming down.
Mr. JONES: Because it--it's a--they--they never really served their purpose.
They were put up there to say--they were put up there cheaply, first of all,
and yet, it's--it's--it's a sad sight. No one can live in those conditions. I
LAMB: Do they start out as being nice buildings?
Mr. JONES: Some of them do, yes.
LAMB: What causes them to deteriorate?
Mr. JONES: I believe that--lack of jobs, you know, no respect, something--you
know, you feel--when you feel disrespect, it--you know, you--hey, gang
infestation and things of that nature.
LAMB: Here you are at the beginning of that section on Eric Morse with your
Mr. JONES: Yes, Lloyd Newman.
LAMB: ...and what's he like?
Mr. JONES: Lloyd Newman?
Mr. JONES: He's a--as you--he's a--he's a good guy. He's a good guy. He had
maybe some--some fairly bad circumstances at an early age.
LAMB: Like what?
Mr. JONES: His mother died when he was, I think, 10 or 11.
Mr. JONES: Of--sh--her pancreas busted. I think she--I think she was an
alcoholic. I don't know for sure. But...
LAMB: And what did that do to Lloyd Newman?
Mr. JONES: That--that left him to be really raised by his two older sisters,
who were at the time 16 and 17 years old.
LAMB: And what did that turn out to be?
Mr. JONES: That turned out to be a--a situation where they had this--became
stronger. He had to become more of a man at an early age.
LAMB: So what do you two guys do when you got free time?
Mr. JONES: We really--I don't really have free time to really have fun like we
did when we were younger. Either I'm working out, trying to better my game in
football or I'm, you know, speaking or I'm--or I'm resting and being around my
family. So--but when we do get to sit around and talk, we usually look at the
things that we used to do.
LAMB: Go back to your story on Eric Morse. How long did it take you to
Mr. JONES: It took us approximately a year and--a year and--a year and a
LAMB: How did you go about it?
Mr. JONES: We went about it just going around the community, interviewing
people who we thought had good stories about Eric, who knew something about the
case. We inter--we had to wait on interviews with their parents. We only
interviewed one parent, I believe, and that was one of the young men who threw
Eric out of the window's father.
LAMB: What was the purpose of your investigation?
Mr. JONES: To get an in--to look at the--look at the whole story because
if--if you--if you followed the case or anyone out there who knows the case,
President Clinton even spoke on it, Senator Dole and all the, you know,
Congress majority and all the House has spoke on it and saying that these kids
were--they were superpredators when the reality was that if, you know, you look
at their track record before, even October of 1994, they had--they--they had
bad situations, but no one stepped in to intervene and stop a situation like
that from happening. So the reality is--I don't look at them--I c--I can't say
that a kid is a superpredator, first of all. That's like me saying that, you
know, a kid who first comes out of the womb is damned. The reality is they're
put in damned situations, so the reality--you have to survive, and they had to
condition themselves to survive at an early age.
LAMB: Where are these kids today?
Mr. JONES: They became the youngest kids ever to be locked in a maximum
Mr. JONES: I don't know the actual penitentiary.
LAMB: Why do you think they got maximum security?
Mr. JONES: Because it's younger people--crimes are starting--becoming more
prevalent in younger age groups, so I guess it's--they're using kids as--as a
to--as--as showing what's going to happen as, you know, poster boys. If you
commit a crime or murder or something like that--a major crime at that age,
that you will be prosecuted and you will be sent to jail.
LAMB: As you were investigating this murder--and that--did they decide it was a
Mr. JONES: Yes. They--they were commit--they were con--convicted of murder.
LAMB: Second degree or first degree?
Mr. JONES: I don't know which degree of murder it was.
LAMB: Where were your reports? Where did they--people hear them?
Mr. JONES: People heard them on National Public Radio. A lot of people just
read it in newspapers.
LAMB: Do you have people in the media that you admire and you follow? Are
there people that you pattern yourself after or is this all your own idea?
Mr. JONES: I believe that I look at certain people far as--I mean, that's one
reason why I jumped on "Ghetto Life" so much. I looked at people like Bryant
Gumbel--Who else?--Dan Rather. That's the reason that I know how to conduct
myself in an interview. Nobody's ever sat down and talked to me and told me,
`You know, this is what you do in an interview and this how you conduct it.' I
just watched a lot of TV and I saw how it was supposed to be done and how
you're--and you have to be a little bit curious.
LAMB: Do you ever watch this network?
Mr. JONES: Yes, I watch C-SPAN.
LAMB: What do you watch?
Mr. JONES: I watch--a lot of times, I watch the Senate. I watch the House
when they're talking--like, when Alan Greenspan is on talking about
LAMB: And what do you see when you watch it? What do you hear? What do you
Mr. JONES: I see that they have no idea what goes on in our America. When
they talk about, you know, tax cuts and capital gains and things like that, I
look at it as how does--is this really going to affect people in my community?
How is it going to help their circumstances? I mean, how's a flat--I mean, a
flat tax going to help them? I look at it that way, and I try to interpret it
LAMB: What would you tell them if they asked you to come testify?
Mr. JONES: I've testified before the Congressional Black Caucus. I
con--testified last year, and I talked about crime and young--young people. I
don't know this--the description of the test--of me testifying, but yet, I've
LAMB: Did you like that?
Mr. JONES: It's--it's OK. I mean, it didn't change anything. If it was
something that changed the situation of poor people and kids growing up in the
situation that I'm growing up--that I grew up in, yeah, I would like it. But,
you know, what's to like if it doesn't change anything? If--if I was a person
that was about self-gratification and self-glory and self-proclamation, then
yes, I'd love it. But no, it's not a--it's not a big thing for me to be on TV
or have a book if it's not going to make change and help people.
LAMB: By the way, how did the actual book work? D--did you--did they write a
contract with you and they pay you money to do this or...
Mr. JONES: It was done like any other book was done.
LAMB: What does that mean? I mean, how did it start?
Mr. JONES: It started off, it was a bid. We had an agent who sent out a bid,
and Scribner bid the highest, and we--we--we were contracted to do the book.
LAMB: Who shares in that profit? How many people are involved in this?
Mr. JONES: It's a three-way split between David Isay, me and Lloyd Newman.
LAMB: And what will it do for you, the money coming in? What--what do you want
to do with the money?
Mr. JONES: One thing that I hope to do, you know, before I die and before--I
wish I could do it now--is help my--my grandmother and my grandfather. I just
want to--my family to s--I wouldn't--I wouldn't move them, just fix the
conditions of--just fix the house, just make sure our house is--is--it can last
another 60, 70 years to whereas I can raise my great-grandkids in there like
they have raised us.
LAMB: How old are your grandparents?
Mr. JONES: My grandmother is 65, my grandfather is 71.
LAMB: What's your grandfather like?
Mr. JONES: Grandfather's a great man, strong black man. He was born in
Arkansas. He was raised in St. Louis. He's worked all his life until
maybe--up until he had his first stroke. He was a--he worked in Midway, he
worked in the stockyards in Chicago and he was a CTA bus driver for about 25
LAMB: And when they--if they watched this interview with you, what--what--based
on your experience in the past, what will they tell you after it's over? What
kind of comments do they make to you? Do they...
Mr. JONES: My grandfather, I believe, in the book in his interview, says I
make him feel 10 feet tall because I believe that he can look at me and see all
the lecturing, all the whuppings--they see him...
LAMB: You never got whupped, did you?
Mr. JONES: I got whupped very bad. I was a very stubborn kid.
LAMB: And you remember that?
Mr. JONES: I remember most of my--I can remember till age of about two.
LAMB: And s--stubborn--why do you use the word `stubborn'? What would you do
that was stubborn?
Mr. JONES: Because I was--I'm--I'm independent. I've never--I've never really
looked at anyone and really--I was always independent. I would--I would
rarely--I would listen, but yet, if--I didn't take heed. I was a--I was
very--and I was--I--I acted--I acted too old when I was younger. And I
still--I'm only 18 and I've--I mean, I've always conducted myself much older.
And he always tried to make me, you know, act my age, but I just couldn't.
LAMB: How's your book selling, by the way?
Mr. JONES: I don't know how it sells. I would hope that they're good. If
they're not, then, you know...
LAMB: Have you been on the book tour?
Mr. JONES: Yes, I've been on the book tour. It's--it's--we--we were in New
York. It was in New York, Washington and Chicago.
LAMB: And the "60 Minute" thing--what was that all about?
Mr. JONES: "60 Minutes" was a--they worked on a piece for about nine months.
It was about--about me and Lloyd and the book and about how we came about doing
it and things of that nature.
LAMB: Did you get any reaction out of that?
Mr. JONES: I got a lot of reaction.
LAMB: And what was that?
Mr. JONES: Afterwards--the piece had aired that Sunday, May 18th. That
Monday, me and Lloyd were walking down the street in Times Square in New York.
And this lady had just grabbed us, and she was almost in tears because she said
that she wa--she saw the piece and she wanted to get in contact with us, and
she was just blessed to meet us.
LAMB: Other reaction you got? What about your grandparents, your--your...
Mr. JONES: They loved it. I mean, I--after this piece had aired, I called
home--I was in New York at the time--and I really couldn't get through because
so many people were calling.
LAMB: Does it ever worry you that this is going to be too much for you at--at
Mr. JONES: I believe that either way it goes, at 18, being young and
African-American in this society, is going to be a lot of pressure on my
shoulders. So the reality is would I have pressure on this--on this hand or
pressure on the other hand? Regardless of the situation, there's going to be
pressure. It's just how you handle it and how you deal with it.
LAMB: What is your friend Lloyd Newman going to do with his life?
Mr. JONES: Lloyd has one more year in high--in high school. He plans to
graduate and attend Northwestern, which I believe he can if he works hard.
LAMB: Back to the terms, the--you call it a ghetto glossary. Another term is a
Mr. JONES: Oh, that's a pistol. That's a 9mm.
LAMB: Is that a gun that you'd find around...
Mr. JONES: That's u--that's usually--that's the--that's usually the gun that
most guys in the street carry, nines or maybe--I mean, that's--that's the
basic--that's the basic gun right there.
LAMB: Do you see a lot of them around?
Mr. JONES: Yeah, a majority of the people who--I mean, they have the most
power and they're most--they're most concealable.
LAMB: Did you ever want to carry a gun?
Mr. JONES: Lot of times.
LAMB: For what reason?
Mr. JONES: For--it ma--I guess it gave you a false--a false sense of pride to
d--it made you feel bigger than what you really were.
LAMB: How--is--how hard is it to get a g--a nine?
Mr. JONES: How hard is it? It's not hard. I mean, money--I mean, you can
get--I mean, you can get anything. Money can get you anything these days.
LAMB: How hard is it to get money?
Mr. JONES: Money? Money is--I mean, hey, if you look at--if you--if you go
down to my street and you hear all--you see the nice cars and the question
would answer itself. But, you know, money to do good--money to do good is hard
to come by. You know, money to do it for a good cause is hard to come by.
Money for a bad cause is usually very easy to get.
LAMB: Wh--how do you get it?
Mr. JONES: Easy. You can hustle. You can be--you can be ruthless.
LAMB: What's that mean?
Mr. JONES: Ruthless? You can just get it by any means. I w--I don't want to
say by any means necessary, because I don't want to quote--I don't want to use
that quote in that--in this--in this--in that context.
Mr. JONES: That means you got shot, too. You got popped. `Pop'
means--I--when I say `lit up and popped,' popped means you got shot. Lit up...
LAMB: Anybody ever shoot at you?
Mr. JONES: I don't believe they shot at me intentionally, but I believe I
could have got caught up in some crossfire.
Mr. JONES: It means you got a lot of girls. You a--you a mack. Player
LAMB: You're a mack?
Mr. JONES: A mack, you know, like, mack, you know, pretty tony Macks,
players--player can--it--`player' doesn't mean that, you know, you're a lady's
man all the time. `Player' just means the way you carry yourself.
LAMB: Are--are you a mack?
Mr. JONES: Who, me? N--I wouldn't--I wouldn't--I wouldn't know. I can--I
don't want to characterize myself like that.
LAMB: Pushing keys?
Mr. JONES: Means you--you're pushing keys. You're selling kilos of coke.
LAMB: I--if you wanted to go find coke to sell, is--how hard is it?
Mr. JONES: It's not that hard, I don't believe. I know the game. That's what
you call it when you're out there, you know. It's the game. I could have went
either way in my life.
LAMB: Again, why do you think you went this way?
Mr. JONES: This way--I looked at the pros and cons. I'll be the--I have a--I
can look at things and compare and contrast--compare and contrast you, like a
TV. You c--you c--you can contrast it. I looked at where, in five years, I
would be if I went that way; in five years, if I went this way. And today I
have a book. If I'd have went that way, well, I might have prospered, but the
reality is I'm hurting my community.
LAMB: But again, what do you think--you know, was there a person or p--or
several people, anybody besides your grandparents, your mother that--that
i--impressed you to go the other way?
Mr. JONES: I had a lot of mentors when I was younger. I had two brothers. I
know they helped me significantly. And I grew up right next to a university.
LAMB: What were your brothers' names?
Mr. JONES: I--they weren't my brothers. They were two brothers who helped me.
LAMB: Oh, two brothers.
Mr. JONES: They grew up in our community--Alvin and Aaron Collins. And they
basically introduced me to sports, and sports was like a way out for me for
about two or three years. I played baseball, football and basketball. I just
stayed really active in sports and--and very active in school, and it just kept
me on the up-and-up.
LAMB: How old were they, or how old are they now?
Mr. JONES: Alvin's about 35, Aaron's about 36, 37.
LAMB: And what about them did you like?
Mr. JONES: They were--they were men, first of all, and I knew that if I wanted
to be a man that they were the best images to look at at being a man. My
grandfather's a lot older, so I knew he was--you know, I knew he was a great
man, yet he was getting a little bit older. And I knew that I was a young man,
and I saw them as the best resemblance of how I wanted to fit in society and
how I must live. So I looked at them. They--they worked jobs. They--you
know, Aaron at the time was a success; he was a family man; Alvin, to start, he
just got his family, his wife and, you know, his two sons. So--and they still
embrace me. I mean, I ga--I acknowledged them in my book.
LAMB: `Ready--ready rocks'?
Mr. JONES: That's what happens after you cook the coke. You put it in, like,
a dummy bag. A dummy bag is a fake ready--is a--is supposed to be a ready
LAMB: `Rep,' like in reputation.
Mr. JONES: Reputation. Rep--how strong is your rep? Rep's what--a reputation
is what, you know, makes you. If you got a reputation of being weak, then
people are going to try you.
LAMB: And what's your reputation, do you think?
Mr. JONES: Reputation--when I was younger, I had a reputation that I--I
didn't--I would fight. I would fight because I was j--I was very small. I was
only about maybe 4'2", 4'3", and I would get picked on a lot. But the reality
was, is that I would fight, regardless of how big or--or--or the individual
was, I was going to fight because, I mean, if--I didn't want to have a
reputation of being a coward.
LAMB: What would you do today?
Mr. JONES: Today--I don't think I would fight. I don't think I would put
myself in a situation to fight. I haven't had a fight in about three
years--three or four years, almost since I've been in high school.
Mr. JONES: Serving means you're serving that ready rock or that dummy bag.
You're like the--you're the drug dealer. You're serving--you not--you're the
servant. You're serving them like a waiter.
LAMB: And--and how readily available is it?
Mr. JONES: Very widely. I mean, it's like going through--you're, like,
getting The Washington Post. It's that easy.
LAMB: How expensive is it?
Mr. JONES: Inexpensive. Depending on the guy's rates, he can sell them--he
can sell, you know--he can sell, two f--you know, he sell, you know, $2 hits,
$2 blows, and go all the way up to, you know, what you need and what you want.
LAMB: Now this next one, it's--it's throughout the entire book, and it br--it
kind of brings a smile to my face every time I see it, `shorty.'
Mr. JONES: Shorty. Shorty is what you're considered when you're young,
growing up in a--in--in the ghetto.
LAMB: So--and here's a picture in the book.
Mr. JONES: That's three shorties.
LAMB: Three shorties.
Mr. JONES: Right.
LAMB: Where did that term come from?
Mr. JONES: Shorties--I mean, shorty--you're young. You're a young man or
y--or a young girl, shorty.
LAMB: When do you stop being a shorty?
Mr. JONES: Oh, I don't--I mean, I don't know. I guess when you start getting
facial hair, because I'm still called a shorty and I'm 18.
LAMB: You're still called a shorty?
Mr. JONES: I'm still called a shorty because I'm 18.
LAMB: Is it a--is it a term of endearment or is it, you know--do people use it
Mr. JONES: No, it's a--it's a term--`What's up, shorty?' I mean, when I go up
to kids, you know, that's how they--you acknowledge them, shorty, or, `What's
up, little man?' That's how you--that's how you acknowledge little...
LAMB: And--and Eric Morse was a shorty.
Mr. JONES: Eric Morse was a shorty.
LAMB: And how about these two kids? Under--under the picture, it says `ghetto
Mr. JONES: Yeah, they're shorties. Shorty.
LAMB: What is a ghetto kid? What's a ghetto mean to you?
Mr. JONES: Ghetto--it's the environment in which I'm around. I think someone
asked me to, you know, change my phrase and change the way that--change the
way--what `ghetto' is. The only word that I can substitute for `ghetto' is
`hell.' These are kids growing up in hell.
LAMB: You've got a picture here from Ida B. Wells, again, the--the development.
What's this picture of right here?
Mr. JONES: A picture of the ghetto. I mean, that's a picture of someone who
moved out and threw their furniture out because they didn't--they--I mean, why
take trash like that to an--to someplace better?
LAMB: Do you have any solution as to how you stop those kind of things in the
Mr. JONES: I believe that, you know, that question--it took--it took--it--it
took the Ida B. Wells 20 or 30 years to get like that, and I don't believe it's
going to change like that in one year. Reality is--I believe, is that if we
all can come together and--and have forum and dialogue and yet, you know,
implement what we get out of that forum and dialogue into that problem, then we
will have a solution. I'm not going to sit here and try to be a sociologist
and--and answer that question. It's too--it's too broad.
LAMB: When was this picture taken of you two?
Mr. JONES: That picture was taken in 1993 when me and Lloyd were doing "Ghetto
LAMB: Do you remember this day?
Mr. JONES: I remember that day. I remember that coat. I remember that
headphones and I remember that--that chubby guy that's in the picture.
LAMB: When you had this picture taken, were you two by yourself as you walked
Mr. JONES: We were probably--we were probably accompanied by David Isay.
LAMB: Did he go everywhere you went?
Mr. JONES: He went the majority of places in the Wells, like he--like we went.
LAMB: And who is he? Tell us more about him.
Mr. JONES: He's the--he's the independent producer who gave me and Lloyd the
tape--the microphone and tape recorders to go around the, you know, community
and talk about our life.
LAMB: Where does he live?
Mr. JONES: He lives in New York City.
LAMB: And--and do you st--are you still in touch with him?
Mr. JONES: Yes. Yes, very much so.
LAMB: And how much did he do to train you to do what you're doing now?
Mr. JONES: He trained us to do the technical part of it. We did the reporting
part of it.
LAMB: Did he give you questions to ask or anything like that?
Mr. JONES: He gave us questions to ask, but the reality was the way he asked
questions and the way we asked questions are totally different and--I mean,
they were just things that we already knew, we already had imprinted in our
LAMB: How many hours total did you record?
Mr. JONES: Probably 120 hours of tape.
LAMB: How much of that eventually got on NPR?
Mr. JONES: Thirty minutes and one hour.
LAMB: And how many times was that on?
Mr. JONES: It was--I think "Ghetto Life" probably--I don't know. I know it
aired once on "All Things Considered" and it probably aired a few times after
that. I know "Remorse" aired once and probably a few times after that.
LAMB: On page 153, you say, `Kids around here have got to have more things to
Mr. JONES: Exactly. How can you say, `All right, you can be great,' but yet
you can't--you don't have the tools for them to make themselves great? You
know, that's--the only reason I'm here is someone put the tools in front of me
to build something. If you have no tools, how can you build? If you don't
have a shovel, how can you dig? You can dig with your hands, but yet, you need
LAMB: If you were president of the United States, had all the money available
to you to solve the problems that you've seen in your life, give us some ideas
of what you'd do.
Mr. JONES: Everybody talks about money. I believe we're--we have a lot of
money in this country, we have a lot of rich people in this country. The idea
is a lot of us just give money. Kids--I mean, like I said, money is not
something that these kids--it's something that they need, it's a resource, but
yet, give them your time. I mean, time--I believe--I mean, these kids, they
need somebody to--you know, they know--they know money's there, but they need
somebody that's going to show them when they get money and they get resources,
how to manage them. You know, if I had all the money in the world, you know,
hey, you still could be--you know, you still could be a sour, you know, person
that's, you know, sad. All the money in the world doesn't make you great and
all the money in the world can't make a situation, you know--it can make it
better, but can it make it better where it's going to be maintained?
LAMB: Have you voted yet?
Mr. JONES: I'll be registering to vote, but yet, I look at the political
spectrum now and I look at the vote as--I know a lot of African-Americans died
for us to get to vote, but the reality is--I mean, unless--until I can see a
serious poli--a serious--not a politician but a serious person who's--you know,
who has a big heart and who's willing to, you know, take the full stride and
not just get sound bites, not just get photo ops, who's willing to go in the
community and make a change and make everybody happy--I'm talking about--in
poverty--I mean, I'm not trying to put a black face on poverty. There are some
poor, you know, white Americans and poor, you know, Hispanic Americans. I'm
talking about everybody. I'm not just talking about my community and just to
focus in on that, we're the only ones who need resources. There are a lot of
other communities out there, and they need to step in and get in that forum and
make sure that that happens.
LAMB: OK, 10, 15 years from now, where do you want to be?
Mr. JONES: Ten or 15 years, I believe that I should have my doctorate, I
should have a family and I should hope that this problem will be slowly
degressing. I hope that we--I can--I can do enough in--in 15 years to where
this problem will not be what--what it is now. Fifteen years I'll
be--What?--33, 30--30--I'll probably be getting my campaign ready.
LAMB: For what?
Mr. JONES: Running for president.
LAMB: Of what?
Mr. JONES: Of the United States of America.
LAMB: What do you think your chances are?
Mr. JONES: Great.
Mr. JONES: Because in t--in--if I'm--in 15 years, I'll be 33, 32, my peers
will be the same age--the majority of the people that I'm speaking to will be
of age to vote. The president--I believe the president, in the next--the
president's role is changing in this country. It's no longer strictly
conservative, strictly, you know, `Get out and get votes.' You have to have a
genuine interest in people and you must understand--you know, people who vote,
you got to--you understand who you vote for. Like Bill Clinton, and people
understand him. People understand him in the rural South. People can
understand him working hard at Yale. But if you look at the way politics is
going, it changes with the constituency. A lot of these kids are going to be
young--I mean, it's--it's going to be vibrant, so, therefore, they want
somebody that's going to represent them and their best interest. Now in 10 or
15 years, I hope that--that pans out and it plays out the way that I see it.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. It's called "Our America," and it's
co-authored by LeAlan Jones, our guest. And we thank you very much.
Mr. JONES: Thank you very much.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.