Evans D. Hopkins

Evans D. Hopkins

A weeklong electronic journal.
June 27 1997 3:30 AM

Evans D. Hopkins

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       In the office, wrestling all morning with the computer, trying to hook up a borrowed printer and new modem fax, I am interrupted by a man I used to hang with, who drops by to tell me the deal on those of the old gang I've scrupulously avoided since my return. Half are in prison, several are dead, a few who've straightened up have homes and families. But he starts ticking off the names of those who are "out there on that crack," and I get a picture of just how devastating the cocaine scourge has been, even in such small communities as this.
       "Man, that cook-'em-up came through Danville like Grant went through Richmond," he says, "and it ain't let up yet." He begins to give me the lowdown on how a young cousin of mine had been into dealing before he was shot to death last year, but I stop him by saying I've work to get back to. He gives me his phone number and address, but I somehow "misplace" it as soon as he's out of the door.
       A friend from before my outlaw days, a former big-city journalist returned home to help in his dad's business, stops by to assist me with the computer. With his help I get online through a complimentary Internet package. I have him search for information on the war which has been ravaging Zaire and central Africa, in order to supplement information sent to me by a researcher. We find extensive coverage published by an organization called the Schiller Institute. Included are accounts of events held in Germany and America, wherein former high-ranking officials of Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda detail the ethnic cleansing and slaughter of refugees taking place in the region.
       I go home early, in order to chill out a little from a fairly hectic day, with the hope that I'll get a little work done on my novel. The rural greenery and early evening air help a little, but I can't quite find a way to enter the fictional world which had allowed me to mentally escape the confines of prison. Today the expanse and peace of the countryside cause me to think about places where land is purchased with atrocity and death. And the natural beauty just makes me think of all those souls lost to the savage illusions of drug use.
       My friend's use of the word genocide returns to mind. He used the term a lot when we were high school students, holding clandestine meetings in his basement, where he hid bundles of Black Panther newspapers from our parents, until weekends when we'd hawk them door-to-door. Once he got wound up again today, he spoke of the crack craze as genocide, along with the incarceration of black males. He seemed surprised when I told him that perhaps he was using the term a little too broadly. He's surprised, because I'm the one who entered the Black Panther Party, and he's the one who went to college and became an establishment journalist and businessman.

Evans D. Hopkins now writes from Danville, Va. He has contributed reportage and commentary to a variety of publications, including The New Yorker and the Washington Post, and is at work finishing an autobiography/prison memoir and a novel.