Boston's crack era effectively began in late 1986, when Darryl Whiting stepped into Roxbury's Orchard Park projects. The jewels he wore, rumored to be made from a huge diamond he brought back from Africa, seemed to blind the whole city to what was coming.
They already called him "God." The nickname came from his religion; he'd joined the Five Percent Nation, an offshoot of the Nation of Islam, as a 12-year-old juvenile delinquent. In this sect, the men all take the name Allah`. Originally a stick-up kid in New York City, he'd just been paroled from six years in state prison. He was 30 years old and looking for a career change and a new city.
Whiting relocated to Boston on the eve of a boom in the cocaine trade. Drug counselors had warned police of an increase in cocaine smoking in Dorchester and Roxbury over the past year. The city's first crack house was already in operation, in the 100 block of Columbia Road. But it was not until Whiting began to build his $11 million empire that the full force of the crack epidemic hit Boston. By the time he was done, the dirt path around Orchard Park projects known as Bump Road was a 24-hour cocaine depot that grossed as much as $100,000 a day.
Yet to law enforcement, Whiting remained a shadowy figure; as late as 1990, the US attorney at the time said he'd only heard "bits and pieces" about Whiting. It was not until Whiting gave a notorious interview to the Phoenix that law enforcement went undercover to trap the kingpin.
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Twenty years ago this month, Whiting became the first man in Massachusetts sentenced to life in prison on drug charges. The story of his rise and fall is Boston's crack creation tale — full of myths and clues that offer insight to today's deadly gang culture.
'CLASSIC BIG-TIME DRUG DEALER'
Mann Terror, a Boston rapper raised in Orchard Park, was 12 when Whiting arrived. He saw first-hand the mesmerizing effect Whiting had on the community: "When God walked through the projects," says Terror, "it was like everything just kind of stopped."
On arrival, Whiting's MO for establishing a beachhead was simple: he found a series of vulnerable women — usually single mothers — and convinced them, through bribes or threats, to let him stay with them and run drugs out of their apartments. One of the first was Miss Carol, one former resident remembers.
"Miss Carol was the older OG lady in the projects," said the former resident. "Everybody would go through her house, smoke a little weed. When [Whiting] came in through her it wasn't like they took the project over. They just started a little operation."
The "little operation" soon became a gold mine, as Whiting made it clear that anyone who didn't buy his crack would receive a beatdown. He cut an imposing figure: "Darryl was a big, physical, athletic-looking guy," former federal prosecutor Paul Kelly recalls, "over six foot two, sharp dresser, deep voice, rode around in a Mercedes Benz, always wore dark glasses and a leather coat. Very quickly if you saw him, you'd think: classic big-time drug dealer. And he seemed to like that."