By LENNOX FARRELL
Their two sons were facing prison sentences. It was real life, but unfolded like the enactment of dramatic episodes. The evening occurred a decade ago. Then, we had met to commiserate with a family, close friends. They had lived for several decades in America and had done most everything that one could describe as successful. Their family home had once sprawled on several acres in upstate New York. Vintage cars rested in garages; regaled in summer, and used for special occasions, weddings, etc. Their daughter was a successful entrepreneur; their two boys well-connected as lawyer, physician, and sought after as people to know.
They were also church people, respected and welcomed, donating much to charity.
One West Indian student, majoring in computer science, and a part-time employee had been the first to alert them of the stock market storm about to break. They had gone to the authorities to report the “pump and dump” crime being committed under their company’s name. It was a scheme in which stock prices had been artificially inflated, and after “insiders” had skimmed off the top, the price had dropped, leaving investors with bird-poop instead of eagles’ talons.
The boys claimed not to have known about the scheme, and were counter-accused of reporting it as part of their game plan. At worst, they had unfortunately been infiltrated by gangsters, Wall Street types; one of whom was a Black American woman; an imitation-type Angela Davis. She, under testimony later turned out to have been an FBI plant. She had also made a killing from the scheme; monies which like the other 25 or more millions had also disappeared, unaccounted for.
The two boys had questions about her. They were also privy to other information that was helpful to their case; that is, if those who had warned them would maintain their testimony in court. But the one person whose testimony was central to their defense was now incommunicado. It had been the young student whose school fees they had paid; and who had warned them. He was more than family, which is why they were so confused and concerned that he wasn’t then to be found.
Among the other mysteries surrounding this case was the fact that the mother of the two sons had experienced dreams in which she had been warned about one of their associates. He, it later turned out was a convicted pedophile, and even more, associated undercover with a “Colombian drug cartel”…some of which unfolded during the trial, but which didn’t seem to matter. One other fact that the judge openly considered in summary, and why he issued a lighter sentence than the prosecution wanted – and served in a facility that was more golf resort than prison – was evidence in which one of the contenders had oft described the two boys as “ni**ers playing White”.
Their parents remain convinced, in addition to their former colleagues making off with untraceable millions, that the boys were primarily seen as “uppity”. She blames them, too, for not taking her advice. They’d called her old-fashioned; of “not being with the real world”. Unfortunately for them, hers had been the world more real than theirs of high-life companions, Tiffany gear and Italian shoes.
Meanwhile, what had happened to the young man who had first warned them of what was being done to their company, and for which they would take the fall? Between his warning them, and their reporting the matter, he had had two experiences with characters he confided were “official”. On one occasion, he had been driving a car belonging to one of the sons, the eldest. It had been along a highway in Long Island, where he had been sideswiped from behind in a way that had flipped the vehicle; rolling it down an embankment.
The other vehicle had vanished. As it later turned out, no insurance claim could be assessed because there had been no record on file of the accident – even though police had come, and a tow-truck had hauled out the vehicle. The young man had survived with a neck injury; told the family of the incident; confessed to threats made against him of deportation and prison…then gone incommunicado.
In short, having been blessed by this family, and a Christian young man wanting to do what was right, he’d nonetheless buckled. The boys went to prison; leniently, considering the circumstances; but unable to later practice their profession. Their properties had all been confiscated to refund clients who had purchased stock.
What’s the point of this? Two.
First, it is that we, as older Black Canadians who have made our careers, raised and supported our families, achieved most of our goals in life, career and community, sometimes move on, placidly accepting that while much wrong is being done to our youth, yet “what to do?” Especially, it is so easy to make excuses; many of them making bad choices, and paying the penalty.
But there is an old saying in Trinidad; one from the “Old Folks”; most now dead and gone, but a saying as relevant as tomorrow: “what ain’t meet yuh yet, ain’t pass yuh”. In essence it’s a caution. A warning that “the good we could do and do not; or the evil that we shouldn’t do and do, like Moko, does boomerang back on yuh”.
Or as Shakespeare in “Julius Caesar” said through Mark Anthony, “the evil that men do live after them (though the good is oft interr’d with the bones)”. Every aspect of our history and ancestry: spiritual, secular, for better or ill, instructs us into our doing all we can, for as long as we can, for as many as we can, regardless. We are where we are today because of others who never lived to see what their efforts ensured for us.
Secondly, and to return to this tale, when on the evening of our visit that the judge had sentenced the two boys of this family to prison, their mother confided of something resting on her soul. It was another tale; and one that had occurred decades earlier – her husband advised her against repeating – and which was eerily similar to the unfolding of their current tragedy. It described a time when they had then been young arrivals in New York; during the 1960s Vietnam War.
The husband had been a trained electrician in Trinidad; had furthered his training in New York; was in demand; and within a short time – she a homemaker and he making money galore – they had bought several properties; most to be rented out. In one of these, with an apartment downstairs, they had as tenant, a young man; church member and proven trustworthy.
However, he had later been accused by the police of “robbing drug dealers at gunpoint”. This family had been stunned because on the Friday evening during which he had purportedly committed this crime, he had been at home worshipping with them.
For sure, the police had been badly mistaken. The family said so; ensuring his mother that they would testify to his innocence in court. That is, until two officers visited their home, made it abundantly clear that if they defended the “criminal” instead of admitting their mistake saying he had been at home, they would be deported…and after they had served prison sentences for “lying during their residency immigration status”.
The mother of the two sons now being lost to imprisonment, wept, remembering the “reddened eyes of the boy’s mother” decades earlier, then pleading in court with her to “tell the truth as a Christian and help save my only son”.