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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Afrika Owes Is NOT A Victim

Reverend Calvin Butts continues to state that Afrika Owes is a victim of the streets and her situation is similar to Patty Hearst. Sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree with his interpretation of events. From what I’ve read, Afrika Owes was not taken against her will, nor was she under any duress when she acted as a member of the “137th Street Crew”. While I empathize for this girl, I also understand she must be made to take responsibility for her actions and face up to her crimes.

Afrika Owes is No Patty Hearst. Not by a long shot.

Nor is she a victim. Victims are people who have no control over what happens to them. Afrika Owes was in complete control of herself. While she was probably under a lot of peer pressure, she was acting of her own free will.

Don’t let Reverend Butts fool you, Afrika Owes had choices. She could have stayed the course at Deerfield Academy. She could have focused on her studies and stayed in The Church. And if she wanted to have a boyfriend, there were probably plenty of fine young brothas for her to date in the Youth ministry of the Abyssinian Baptist Church and the Student Leaders at Deerfield Academy.

But she chose to get involved Jaquan “Jay Cash” Layne. And she chose to be his boyfriend.

It was also her choice to get involved with the 137th Street Crew.

She chose to be a gun moll. No one forced her to carry Jaquan’s 9 millimeter pistol in her purse.

And it was of her volition that she willingly accepted gifts from Jay Cash knowing they were purchased with drug loot. Again, no one forced her to take the bling, clothes, and other stuff from this dude. Afrika Owes was no poor desperate chick from the hood that needed the money. This was a girl from a hardworking middle-class family that lived right across the street from the Abyssinian Baptist Church. In between her parents, the Church, and the prep school, she had a network of people who probably bought her anything she wanted.

It was also of her own volition that she chose to run drugs for the 137th Street Crew. Remember, she actually declined to sell drugs for Layne and the 137th Street Crew at her prep school at first, and then decided to do so later on.

Ultimately, it was the sum of her choices that led to her winding up in Rikers Island today.

Reverend Butts, Her Mother Karen Owes, and many in the Black community probably feel guilty. They feel like they’ve failed this girl. They need to stop feeling guilty because they haven’t done anything wrong. They didn’t fail anyone.

The only person who failed Afrika Owes is Afrika Owes.

From personal experience, I know peer pressure is rough. And I know a kid’s head can get messed up listening to the lies, false teachings and twisted propaganda preached by their friends and the media as truth while they search for their own identity. And in the ghetto those messages are not only telling a teenager that they not only have to “belong” but they have to be “Real” as they search for a true “Black” Identity.

But making excuses for Afrika Owes’ behavior isn’t gonna help her grow into a responsible young woman. She chose to get with this crew and sling the rocks and carry the nine. Now she’s got to face up to what she did and pay for her crimes, either with youthful offender status on probation or prison time.

While I support the future rehabilitation of this sista and I want to see her succeed in the future, I refuse to make excuses for her. Enabling her is only going to make her think she’s a victim of circumstances when she actually created her own tragic turn of events. 


  1. It's always so easy to claim victimhood, but who needs it. it's best when we move on beyond this, to survival, then thriving. There is no joy and no true satisfction in being a victim. It brings pity and the only person who wins is the one doing the pitying, to wit, "God, I'm glad I'm not her or him."

    As African Americans we've set up the pity party too long and it gets us nowhere and never will. Respect and maturity demand responsibility. Afrika is a victim of her own misguided imagination. Like too many, she heard the siren song of the malignant media that throws the limelight on the most negative aspects of our life today. She has my compassion, not my pity.

    I hope we all rise up and speak out as African Americans against this emotional cancer on our racial body. We can only treat it by recognizing it and refusing to be the negative people we have so long been depicted as being.

    Please keep up your good and important work on this.

  2. Yeah, I really believe that making a victim out of people keeps them from taking the steps to empower themselves. Reverend Butts is right that we need to support this girl, but he shouldn't portray her as a victim.

    Afrika bought into the media hype, made decisions to join the 137th Street Crew and has to take responsibility for her actions. While I feel compassion for her, I understand that those who do wrong must be punished for their crimes.

  3. Shawn, this article is a great follow up to your first article. I applaud you for standing up to what is right and seeing things for how they really are. I think that community leaders who portray those who break the law as 'victims' are doing a huge disservice to everyone.