Shattered Mirror is the introduction to the upcoming Jay Burton autobiography Shattered Mirror. In 1989 at the age of 16, Jay was arrested and convicted of a gang murder he was not a part of. Shattered Mirror is the life story of seeing it reflected through a shattered mirror.
This true story about my life was born out of necessity. To illuminate the true cause and effects of a young Black male growing up in a desperate search of an identity. How poverty and gangs can severely alter an innocent child’s life from a dream to a nightmare. How at 16-years-old, I would spend over 25 years in California’s worst prison for a murder I had never been charged with. My story also signifies how my life was completely shattered and broken. Eventho it showed me a place of struggle, I found the strength to push forward. From how I lived and encountered the betrayals, trials, and tribulations, suffered during my lifelong journey, to enlightenment and redemption. Yet with all the burdens and hurdles to jump over, I somehow persevered. In spite of the difficult oppositions, I seek out ways to put the shattered mirror back together. I constantly look for different approaches to patch things up piece by piece. I learned that in order to inspire others, I had to aspire to become better in my search for meaning of self, through the webs of deceit, trickeration, and flaws, that my uphill battle within this life has placed before me. I try to shed light and uncover the twisted ideologies of this tribalism mindstate I pledged my life to within the gang culture that I adopted at a very young age. A culture that fed off of Afrocide and ignorance that has in some form or fashion had some negative effect on an entire race of people within its influence.
In California it would be the Bounty Hunter Bloods in Watts, a notorious Los Angeles gang that groomed and indoctrinated me with the social ills of the gritty street-life from drug dealing to banging. Both the ideologies of the Bloods and the Crips I would experience. Since their inceptions in the 1970s, these ideologies aided in shaping how I viewed the world, and the political landscape that criminalized everything that I stood for. The gang culture I grew up in Los Angeles breeded many factions and rivalries.
The 1965 Watts Revolt with the Black community pitted against the brute force of the city’s racial injustices, only sparked the light to what was to be the next Revolutionary party to carry the torch for poverty stricken Black ghettos. However, the Bloods and Crips would counter any possible revolutionary cause. So would the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, along with their cohorts, would also be playing their part in creating a monster, in fact, it would be the Los Angeles County Sheriffs with a division that prided themselves as the “Lynwood Sheriffs Vikings.” In a published federal court case Thomas vs. The County of Los Angeles (1992), the court described them as a neo-Nazi, white supremacy gang. It would be this gang, not the Crips, that would change my life forever.
My account of life is based on my experience and how I would perceive my reality projected to be. It is not about heroes and martyrs. I’m forced to deal with the hurt and pain I took the people in my life through because of my own foolish pride. Pride that in the end leads to nothing but emptiness, misery, and spiritual oppression. In Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” Ironically, as a hood, we became outlaws. For many and sometimes obvious reasons, however, we took on counterproductive and detrimental acts. Thus, another secretive F.B.I. Memo of the 1960s about the fear of the inner-cities birthing another “Black Messiah,” would never materialize in my generation to carry the torch to mentally liberate us. The Bloods and Crips would be a non-social issue, because we would become our own worst enemy.
Shattered Mirror, Part I of the book, illustrates a reflection in the mirror of life’s perfect beginning, birth, nurturing, and love. However, an actual shattered mirror no longer portrays perfection. The webbed, spider-veined design, etched within the glass distorts the image, an image too hard to look at. To fix the imperfection, we often take paths of self-destruction, seeking a satisfactory end to our means despite the abnormality of it all.
Like Part I of Shattered Mirror, Part II, “Love, Loyalty, and Betrayal,” evokes my raw and sincere feelings into all that is villianous and corrupt, with what I took on as being the gospel. No matter how loyal I was to the “game,” it’s never enough to this disillusion victory we play from childhood to adulthood. And in many cases, until death do us part. We ingest the vileness of a twisted game concept, then refuse to let it digest its waste, and exit our system. Despite the foul odor permeating from the core of our soul, reminding us Daily that our ideology to this gang concept is rotting our existence. It’s this false consciousness indoctrinated into our heads that causes us to believe in the unbelievable. My struggle and sacrifice to the so-called “Cause,” when odds were visibly stacked against me, whether it was “homeboyism, comradism, or cronyism,” I had been loyal to it all. In contrast, betrayal has been returned constantly. I knew that blood makes you related to someone, but I also believe that loyalty to others makes you family. Then I learned the hard way, that one must always keep their grass cut low, so you can see the snakes crawling amongst you. In a game where there is a million souljahs, which I just happened to be only one of the million, sacrificing good men is just a part of the game. And whether you become a “has-been” or ” never-been” replacements are numerous, since betrayal is endless in this dog-eat-dog scheme that’s built on muscle and manipulation.
There was never a question to my loyalty to the “game” despite my betrayals to almost every woman that has been a part of my life. From my mother, sister, and all the girls or women who played a role in the development phase of my struggles. The “cloth” that I was cut from was equal to the beauty of the woman who has been a part of my life. It was “blood-in, blood-out,” with that banging mentality. No matter the consequences, there is no retreat nor surrender against society’s reenslavment of the Black-Male through it’s judicial system. Before the age of ten, almost half my peers would encounter a negative experience with police. Life in the ghetto is often associated with negativity, like drugs, gangs, poverty, illegitimacy, and every other social-ill the unfortunate have to bare. However, the experience itself, is what builds character and resilience against a position of oppression. Sadly, it would be during my long term imprisonment that I would become fully conscious and enlightened to the overall struggle and sacrifice that enabled me to become an empowered educated man, with a purpose to help lead my peers toward freedom.
From the concrete jungle to a concrete casket surrounded by barbwire, it became clear to me that it was not how you start but how you finish. I had to become a mental machine to politicize my movement. Forced physical isolation for years in attempts to break me only made me stronger. And unlike many, I could never become content with physical or mental imprisonment. Then I realized that all of my life’s experiences were by design. Everything I lost in my dark journey was actually a gain. The same gaines former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela had after spending 27 years in prison. The same gains that Black nationalist leader Malcolm X had after doing some years behind bars. The same gains boxing promoter Don King had after serving several years incarcerated. However my gains would come in the form of a freedom fighter, an advocate against a brute prison system. To take up such a position requires one to be prepared to be deemed an enemy combatant or terrorist, because in prison you are considered a slave, literally. To question and petition systematic inhumane treatment often comes with a form of retaliation. But I had to redeem myself and give back to those that my lifestyle had affected adversely throughout my life span.
On March 6, 1989, it had been reported in an investigative report, a red 1978 Cadillac Coupe Deville turned right off of Imperial Highway and onto Wilmington Avenue. This was known as territory belonging to the Carver Park Crips. Sometime before that, a 36-year-old Black motorist, Robert Harbor, parked his Cadilac at a fast food restaurant parking lot on Imperial. Harbor walked across the street to the liquor store and purchased a pack of cigarettes. Upon returning to his car, Harbor was approached by a lone male dressed in dark clothing who was armed with a 45 caliber handgun. The man demanded Harbor turn over his wallet. It only contained $40. The armed man demanded the car keys, and Harbor complied. He then drove off in Harbor’s car, speeding westbound on Imperial Highway. Afterwords, Harbor managed to flag down an unmarked police car. He briefed the deputies about his run-in with the armed man, who he described as being Black. Deputies then drove Harper to the M.L.K. Jr, hospital on Wilmington Avenue and 120th St.
It was further reported in the investgative report, that a large group of alleged members of the Crip gang were hanging out together on the street corner of Alabama Avenue, when the red Cadillac approached. A young Black female exited her Volkswagen Rabbit that was parked at the curb. Her boyfriend and his friend proceeded toward her. And in an instant, she saw a gun barrel pointing from the Cadillac’s window. This caused her to duck back into her car and lay across the front seat as gunshots erupted. The Cadillac slowly turned eastbound onto 118th Street as rapid shots repeated. The gang member dove to the ground next to his girlfriend’s car where he felt he had been shot. A fatal bullet ripped through the right flank and abdomen of his friend. While another bullet struck a young Black female in her leg. It snapped her right thigh and sent her to the ground. The car speed off, while auditory celebrations were heard coming from the car, ” Bounty Hunter…yeah,,,” as witnesses and victims hid and ducked for safety.
Simultaneously, deputy Ken Williams and his partner from the highway patrol were nearby patrolling when they heard the fired shots. They eventually observed a speeding Cadillac driving erratically Eastbound up Wilmington Avenue. The Cadillac crossed over a busy intersection at a red light on Imperial Highway. The patrol officer activated his siren and went into pursuit. One that quickly turned into a high speed chase. The patrol car got up close, bumper to bumper with the Cadillac attempting to halt the chase. It was of no avail. After turning left off of Wilmington and onto a residential area, accelerating to speeds up to 70 mph, just then did the deputy dispatched for back up, as he rode the bumper of the Cadillac.
Soon thereafter, The Cadillac came to a screeching halt and ran into some parked cars next to a church. The occupants quickly exited. The officers took to foot pursuit in either direction, chasing down the suspects. They disappeared behind some homes in the dark alley.
JAY BURTON is a volunteer Restorative Justice Coordinator, who has educated himself in law. In 2017 he pitched his paralegal service for prisoners at a Defy Ventures “Shark Tank-style Competition,” and won first prize. The competition puts prisoners before CEOs, venture capitalist, and other volunteer judges. Jay has also successfully sued the State of California for unconstitutional prison living conditions. Jay is currently doing a petition drive to come home at Change Dot Org. Please sign his petition.
Petition · California Prisoner Illegally Held Going On 32 Years · Change.org