Thursday, August 14, 2008

Darren " Bo" Taylor Unity One Founder Succumbs to Cancer!

Article Printed Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer August 13, 2008

Darren "Bo" Taylor, a former Los Angeles gang member, who became a peacekeeper respected by street toughs as well as by law enforcement and community activists struggling to reduce inner-city violence, has died.

He was 42. Taylor died of cancer Monday in San Diego, according to his brother, Le-Chein. After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Taylor founded Unity One, a grass-roots organization that attacked gang violence through life-skills training as well as through conflict resolution on the front lines.

Taylor was a consummate mediator, whose years as a Crip gave him credibility and insight into problems that had divided the community and law enforcement into warring camps. When the Los Angeles County jails were roiled by race riots five years ago, Taylor quickly assembled the gang leaders responsible for the violence and persuaded them to call off the fighting that left dozens injured.

He later led a program in the jails that reached 3,000 inmates with sessions to increase cultural awareness and impart concrete skills for managing anger and resolving conflict nonviolently.

"It was an unprecedented program in county jails," Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday, because it relied on the counsel of a man who had once been firmly on the other side of the law.The classes were demanding, Baca said, but "Bo knew how to change lives for the better. He did it very well."

His organization received major funding from A Better L.A., a group founded by USC football coach Pete Carroll to empower communities to address urban violence. Taylor took Carroll to some of the city's toughest neighborhoods to help him understand the origins of gang problems."We floundered around until we met Bo," Carroll said Tuesday. "He gave us inroads. He showed that only people with the community in their soul were the ones who could be effective."
Taylor was born in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 20, 1966, and moved to Los Angeles when he was about 5. When he was 14, he became a Crip.He graduated from Los Angeles High School and at 18 joined the Navy.
After four years, he was honorably discharged and returned to the city but drifted back into criminal life when he could not find a job. Involved in drug trafficking, he recalled being shot at seven times in one month in the same phone booth. After repeatedly dodging death, he had a spiritual awakening and decided to change course. He figured he had attended 200 funerals of victims of street violence and, as he told National Public Radio last year, he "couldn't cry no more."

He formed Unity One to talk to warring sets of gang members and persuade them to lay down their guns. Sometimes, he did more than talk, physically throwing himself between rival gang members reaching for their guns.His overall approach was humanistic.

"I don't even like to stereotype and say 'gang members.' I say they're disenfranchised youth," he told NPR. "They don't really have all the tools to make the right decisions that's necessary in today's society, and they don't fully understand the system."Gang members listened because he had a "license to operate," earned in his past life on the path they still walked."
Bo would tell his personal story of being a former gang member who would not let gang life trap him into a sense of hopelessness and despair," said Najee Ali, an activist who has worked to reduce crimes between blacks and Latinos. "And he talked about working hard and not making excuses."

Connie Rice, a civil rights activist and attorney, once described Taylor as the Dr. Phil of gang intervention, but he proved to be as adept at navigating the corridors of officialdom as he was wise to the streets.
"He was extraordinary," said Rice, who knew Taylor for 17 years."You don't find many in the gang-intervention world who can be effective in the street, effective in the courtroom, effective at City Hall and effective in the prisons. . . . He could calm everyone down and make us work together."He was one of the first voices and perhaps the most influential from the gang intervention side to advocate cooperating with law enforcement to quell the tide of street killings, a position that raised eyebrows among other gang interventionists."He helped bridge that divide by setting the example of partnership," Ali said, "a new paradigm of leadership where now it is commonplace for us to meet with Sheriff Baca, Chief Bratton and other members of law enforcement. That is one of the most important things about his legacy."

In 2007, Taylor began hosting a midnight-to-2 a.m. call-in show on what was then KRBV-FM (100.3), which became a popular forum to discuss the causes and consequences of gang activity.
The callers included gang members, police officers and victims of gang violence. It was described as part therapy session and part community hotline. It ended when the station adopted a new format. Eight months ago he was diagnosed with a rare cancer that attacks the tissues of the mouth. It spread to his neck and head, but he insisted on fighting it in his own way, resisting traditional medicine to seek treatment in Tijuana. He died en route to a clinic there.

A funeral service for Taylor, who is survived by four children, will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at City of Refuge Church, 14527 S. San Pedro St. in Gardena. Memorial donations may be sent to Unity One Foundation Inc., 3990 S. Menlo Ave., Los Angeles


MsPuddin said...

ok what is up with all of these noteworthy people dying lately. something just doesnt feel right.

Mista Jaycee said...

Death is a part of life and people die everyday just sometimes you notice more.

It is apointed once for man to die then after this the Judgement.
The Holy Bible


R2B2PHOENX said...

"som'thin doesn't feel right" (MsP) My sentiments exactly. Notwithstanding the generic "everyone dies" I thought it strange certain 45-58 yr olds are dying of stuff (cancer, MS, aneurysms, pneumonia, conjestive heart failure) MLK's daughter Yolanda, Bo Taylor, Bernie Mac, etc. -- D "Bo" Taylor set the bar for engagement, intervention, and consensus building -- all toward saving and changing lives. His efforts/accomplishments are felt by all-- and should be replicated.

Tiffany Justice said...

Rest in Peace Bo and may the Lord God be with you all.

I have long been completely disgusted with the United States. This country should be ashamed of itself for pushing people out of society like this.

When I was in grade school, we went over and over the American Revolution, George Washington, and the founders of the constitution time period. They never talked about anything else, and I thought it was weird that they never talked about what happened in this country between then and 1960ish.

Then I went to law school, and took Indian Law and found out why they never talked about it. It was because the United States was busy taking over Indian country and exterminating the Indian Tribes. Government--I'm not sure which ones though--state, federal, or what--was paying a lot of money if someone ripped the baby out of a pregnant Apache woman. The Government also paid for the murders of any Apache boys or Men if they could show a body.

No wonder they never talked about this in school. Maybe they were embarrassed or wanted to cover up the truth and forget about it. I hope the United States is embarrassed because of its behavior; it should be. Eminem said it best when he called us the "United States of Embarassment," because I'm ashamed that these black people have to live like this. It is really because of all the racism and oppression that caused this.

Tiffany Justice said...

No one expects anything from a young person of color. They put us into "go at your own pace" math classes where students don't do the work, and no one really expect them to. They are just passing them along, so they could never succeed in college with no math skills, English skills, or confidence. When I grew up, in school, I used to feel stupid. If you asked me, at the time, I would have said I was stupid. Then I found out that other Native Americans felt the same way that I did. Later, I went to a really good school though that (1)taught, and (2) had EXPECTATIONS for me. They expected me to turn in homework; they never even had to ask, and they taught me study skills, which I used to succeed for the first time ever in school. Now, I know I am smart, but I can't help how many others in our colored communities feel stupid because maybe nothing was expected of them, teachers were half-assing it or were unskilled, or whatever the case may be. The point is that they were fooled and are not stupid and could be taught; my problem was a lack of academic confidence.

I wish I could go to LA and challenge the police and the law. Maybe someday I could take the bar exam, become a lawyer in LA, and then help you guys fight to make your communities better.

What we need is more statistics collected because it is hard for the United States Supreme Court to ignore statistics. I would like to conduct a study of police violence by talking to members of each neighborhood and collect information to use to persuade the courts to change the law.

I think life would be better for black folks in the hood if the United States Supreme Court overruled Terry v. Ohio. (I'm going off my memory of Terry though, so bare with me.) In Terry v. Ohio, a black man was walking back and forth in front of a store. An undercover cop was watching him and thought he was casing the store. So the officer approached Terry and did a "pat down" search. He found that Terry had a gun. (So what? That doesn't mean he was going to rob a store or even shoot the officer; he could have been carrying it for protection, but back to the case.) The thing is that pat down searches were not officially okay until Terry v. Ohio. The Terry Court held that the pat down the officer did, was in deed a "search" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court said that the search was permissible because it was for the officer's own protection. But I now would like to challenge that president.

Terry did not make a move for his gun or point his gun at the police or make any threatening gestures or do anything violent. Why would the officer need protection from a person who chose not to use his gun on the police in the first place? This is true especially in the movie Straight Outta Compton when the police made NWA get on the ground face down and lock their fingers just to assert dominance and to bully. The police don't deserve this additional "protection" from the law because then they abuse it to make the lives of minorities more unbearable. Straight Outta Compton is just one example, but if we had some anonymous statistics to show the Court, it would be harder to deny the truth of the matter. It would be harder for them to ignore or for them to believe that police harassment is a figment of brown imaginations.

I'm tired of the oppression, but let's use our brains to solve our problems and promote peace. We will see. There are a few good members of the Court today.

Suing the police would drain them and make them fewer in numbers. If I could do anything, I would create legitimate opportunities for yall. Hit me up if you liked what I said.