whatever resources I was around at the time. Yes, I had a supportive grandfather but I needed more and clung to some people who I thought could lead me. This is what happens when you’re the black sheep of the family. This is what I imagine life is like for young black men out there in the life. I would tell both brothers and sisters to find good sources of encouragement in people who aren’t in your family. We all know that the government doesn’t care about how hard it is for young black and Hispanic people to grow up in the hood so it’s up to them to come up with solutions on their own and challenge the system. It doesn’t have to be like this. Your life doesn’t have to be my life.
ED: Your Documentary, “The Story of Aaron Wright”, will be dropping in September and will be featured at the Sundance Film Festival in California. What does that mean to you in regards to where you came from? And what is the message you hope to convey through your film?
AW: IN the mindset of a ghetto child, if I ever get to live a thousand years I’ll never be able to fantasize or imagine that I’d get to a place like that. That’s what Hollywood is to a ghetto child, coming from where I’m from… From Robert Taylor, in "The Hole", where there were killings, raping, kidnappings, trials, tribulations and turmoil to a comfortable, stable, solid place where I can tell my story. I KNOW that there are people out there who can relate to what I’ve been through. That’s why I exist.
My duties were to enforce laws that came down from the ministers and Sultan Supreme. I directed and enforced all violations, I made sure all weapons were cleaned and fired up. I didn’t run any drug lines. But when it came down to dealing with certain situations I had to deal with them.
ED: Would you tell young men and women going through the same plight you went through growing up in an organization like the MC’s?
AW: If it ever crosses their mind I’d advise them to walk away. Get into something constructive, because they will always and forever be a marked person through government through statistics, through the judicial system, through the city and the state. They’ll be cattle for the penal system.
In my life it wasn’t about not being loved as much as it was about not being heard. My family didn’t identify that I was in pain. They thought I was a wild child because of my dad. Incidentally, I was put into the situation I was in because my father was in the game. He wasn’t much of a father mostly because drugs took him and used him up; with that said, I felt like I didn’t get love from my father and my mother sometimes. With that said, it is very possible that my reason for joining the MC’s was so that I could be closer to my father. Almost everything I knew about being a man came from
ED: How did your dad get rank in the MC’s?
AW: From what I was told, my father grew up in it. He was born and raised in "The Hole".
ED: Who was Mickey Cogwell?
AW: Mickey Cogwell was an educated brother from the hood that loved his people; he was a spokesman for the streets. He was the Mayor of Black Folk and wasn’t afraid to walk in front of white folks and demand opportunities. Upon founding the MC’s, Mickey was clear not to be involved in the illegal aspect of the organization. Drugs, robberies and terrorism weren’t his thing. He was more in line with the political aspect of serving the community. That’s why you don’t hear too much about him, because he was part of the political sector. He was unionized man. He’d made peace with certain Greeks, Italians, Polish people in Chicago so that the African American man and Latino Man (respectfully) could have a chance to compete for jobs in the middle class, as well as their white counterparts. He was one of the first black “street men” who was educated and was invited to the inauguration of President Richard Nixon. No one knew that because people during that time they didn’t want to see another Malcolm X.
ED: So did you think of him, at the time, as militant??
AW: He was a revolutionary. He fought against the powers that be that treated African Americans and our Latino counterparts as second-rate citizens. I first met Mickey Cogwell when I was 5 years old. Someone in our midst called out to Mickey and asked him, “You know who that is?” Mickey said, “No…who is this lil’ man down here.” He said, that’s Stretch’s son!” Mickey then said, “Stretch’ boy? Look at em’; dark skinned like me an’ he bow-legged!”… I’m gon’ call you “Lil Stretch”! And that was the first time I heard anyone acknowledge my nickname, and it was basically given to me by Mickey Cogwell. That would be the last time I saw Mickey. He was killed a couple of months later during the winter of 1977.
ED: After Mickey’s death, what was it that put you into the position of Chief Enforcer of the MCs? And what were your duties?
AW: I was always out there protecting my people. I was a brawler. I fought every day. The older guys named me the Chief enforcer because I wouldn’t let anyone outside "The Hole" into our space. I became the Chief Enforcer for the MCs in the Hole when I was 13. I became Chief Enforcer of the MCs in the city sometime later.
ED: Wow! All at that early age?
AW: Yes, because while we had a perfect view of the lakefront from the building we lived in, we also had a good view of the Metra train that stopped in the area. Back then there was a lot of gang banging going on, so in order to keep me out of harm’s way, my mom made sure I had the necessities: (toys, books, television, radio, music and food.) My mom worked on and off but she always had good jobs and didn’t see a point of staying home, collecting welfare when she was able bodied. She was a worker; that’s where I get my work ethic/ mentality from.
ED: How long did you stay on Lake Park before finally moving into Robert Taylor? What were the circumstances that led your mom to move into “The Hole”?
AW: We only stayed on Lake Park for a year, but before we left, my mom got into a relationship with this guy who was a junkie (shooter). I remember him killing my dog, Elrod, who was only a German shepherd puppy at the time. He was my companion. One day I woke up to find him lying beside me in my bed, dead. Apparently, the guy snuck into the house one night and strangled my dog because the dog didn’t like him. Every time my dog saw him, he’d bite him; so he killed him. That was the first reason I didn’t like him. The second was when he tried to burn down my mom’s front door, attempting to burn us out because she didn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore. After she had him locked up, CHA presented her with an opportunity to move so she chose to live near her parents and that’s the day I moved into "The Hole”.
The first day we moved into "The Hole", we had to move all of our things from the fire lane into the building, we saw people taking our things and leaving the building with them. All of my toys were spread about the playground as if it were trash. At the time, they knew who my mother was but they didn’t know who my dad was.
ED: Who was your father? And what was your relationship like?
AW: My Father was Charles Edward Moody. He was one of Mickey Cogwell’s Finest. Mickey Cogwell was the founder of the Mickey Cobra street organization. My dad was one of those guys who would ‘get you’ if you needed to be ‘got’. He was strong, athletic, he ran fast, he was short, stocky and bow-legged and he even climbed buildings. His nickname was “Stretch” because he was one of the first guys to climb Robert Taylor from the first floor to the 16th floor. He would get to the top and do hand-stands and would never fall off. To me, he was invincible. The only problem is that he had developed a drug habit. Later, down the line, he would be caught slipping and they had to give him a violation. That meant that they beat him up really bad because they’d found out that he was using drugs. He was Superman to me, but drugs were the weakness that would take him down years later.
become a notorious street organization before you are even deemed a grown man. I didn’t think I could ever do his story justice but I set out to try because I realized quickly that in order to get to the genesis of the life of Aaron Wright, I had to get to know my brother all over again.
Aaron Demetrius Wright, who was affectionately and so aptly called, “Brick”, by his family because of his stocky build, grew up in poverty, as many blacks on the South Side of Chicago did on September 14, 1971. The condition of his upbringing, although not surprising to most of America, was but a symptom of what was happening socially in urban ghettos throughout this country. In this interview, we talk about what growing up on the South Side of Chicago, as a black child, a black teenager and a black man meant to him and means for so many other young brothers at this very moment.
ED: The book is entitled “Living in the Walls of Hell: The Aaron Wright Story” but I’d like to know about the times before hell became a reality for you. Did you have a good childhood?
AW: Well, when I was born, my mom Sharon Victoria Wright, lived with my grandparents, at 5247 S. Federal apartment 710 in the Robert Taylor Homes. There was no room for my siblings, my mother and I so my grandparents basically told her that she had to move and find her own apartment. Hell began for me at the age of 3, when we moved to 3939 S. Lake Park. That was the first apartment that my mom had by the lakefront. By that time, I’d seen killings, I’d seen kidnappings, people getting thrown over onto the train tracks, and I’d even witnessed people being hit by trains. This was between the ages of 2 and 3 years old.
wonder they immediately commenced to quieting down. Even while sitting, his form was intimidating. I noticed his broad shoulders, skin; dark as midnight and then his heavy-looking hands which he used to snap me back to life by simply pantomiming and nodding for me to continue to sing my song. Needless to say, I wasn’t afraid to sing there or anywhere after that all because someone stuck up for me.
Fast forward to October 2012 when I was contacted to write the book, “Living in the Walls of Hell: The Aaron Wright Story”. When Aaron’s name was mentioned, I thought I was dreaming and immediately jumped at the chance to listen to his story and even be in his presence. We met at a diner in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, to have our first preemptive interview and I must say that my idea of him being a big brother to me wasn’t far off from what his life was like before I met him and after we lost contact almost 21 years prior. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the story I’d never known about…that is, until now.
Somehow all of the stories I’d ever heard in life had paled in comparison to finding out that someone you looked up to was thrust into an existence that many would never ask for. Moving away from a crime-ridden neighborhood as a toddler into yet another potentially dangerous area, “The Hole” which was part of the Robert Taylor Homes, was traumatic. But even more than that, imagine being given the title of “Chief Enforcer” of what would
Written by Erica Daniels - firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was approached to write the book based on Aaron Wright’s life, I was taken aback, immediately to the time when I knew him in high school. Well, at least, when I thought I knew him. You see, I was presented with a great opportunity as a 15 year-old, attending DuSable High School in 1989 and that was to know, even for a short amount of time what it felt like to have a big brother watching over me. Mine and Aaron’s story is simple enough. I was a terribly awkward, shy, stringy dark-skinned girl back then but my interest for music is probably what, for the most part, helped me to break down the wall of shyness I’d built for myself. And I must admit, the day I first met Aaron was a glaring example of that fact.
I distinctly remember, during a rehearsal for a talent show I’d signed up for , standing on stage staring at the scant few onlookers sitting in the huge auditorium and wondering what I was doing up there. Then the music starts and I open my mouth to eke out the first line of the song “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston. Apparently I either sucked or hadn’t projected my voice loud enough because the peanut gallery in the front (consisting of about 4 people) started to point and laugh at me. Just then, I hear a deep, raspy voice snap gruffly at them, “Hey! Hey...Let Lil Mama sing!” As I panned over to the body that the voice came from, I noticed quickly how it was no