When I attend a cultural event and there’s a request made to call out the ancestors, I revel in the opportunity to bypass the safe names like Malcolm, Marcus and Martin and yell out names like Larry Davis, Bumpy Johnson, Casper Holstein. My efforts, while arguably juvenile, serve a greater purpose to challenge our bourgeois perspective toward our so-called unsavory Black Legends and ancestors. Aren’t they also deserving of our honor, remembrance, and study?
Heck yeah they are, maybe even more so than many of the ones we honor by default convention. Facts, the majority of Black historical legends most familiar to the culture was propped up by the U.S. government and not by the people. That goes for Douglass, Tubman, and Truth – all Union Army agents and all hand picked for us but not necessarily by us. IJS.
Larry Davis was a crack dealer who attained enlightenment and wanted out of the game. His partners in crime, crooked cops, decided the only way out for Larry was death and went to execute him. To save himself, Larry shot his way through six of the blue shield assassins and evaded capture for seventeen days. His trial initiated the exposure of the NYPD’s corrupt complicity in the crack epidemic that seized the city.
Bumpy Johnson the legendary Harlem hustler once drove his crew in a caravan from Harlem to Peekskill, NY to pull legendary actor Paul Robeson from a lynch mob. Later Johnson’s loyalist provided volunteer security for Min. Malcolm X in Harlem.
A bold mix of activism, policy, philanthropy, Black nationalism, and vice, Casper Holstein is the genuine article, the primordial Black Gangster in the DNA of Johnson and Davis. His lasting impact on the culture in high and low places alike makes his going virtually un-saluted look crazy as hell and overdue for a revaluation.
Here are just some of the reasons you might want to pour a little something out for Casper Holstein, Harlem’s Bolito King.
That 3 numbers straight box you play was manifested from his mind right down to a percentage of the pot going towards education funding.
Casper sponsored scholarships to Howard, Fisk, Hampton Institute and Columbia University for poor Virgin Islands and Harlem students.
He didn’t just support academia, Casper donated so much to the arts that he was the third leading supporter in NY and the first leading Black supporter.
He was a friend of Marcus Garvey and a financial supporter of the UNIA. This was not easy for either of them. Marcus having to defend the friendship and Casper having to endure the “cold shoulder” or “fake warmth” from the rank and file who were happy to have his money just not his presence or association.
He was a staunch nationalist and vocal opponent of the Danish colonization and later US occupation of his Virgin Islands native homeland. He rose to leadership in both the Virgin Islands American Union and the Virgin Islands Congressional Council where he lead a victorious political attack to end the US Naval occupancy of the Islands.
At a time when Dubois and Washington withheld funding from “The Niggerati”(google it) whose writings were becoming just a little too “‘New!’ New Negro” for them, Holstein stepped in as the lead benefactor to Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, and the whole Harlem Renaissance.
He too put pen to paper and had his writings regarding the plight of his native Virgin Islands, black nationalism, and black education published across idealogical lines in the NAACP Crisis, the National Urban League’s Opportunity, and the UNIA Negro World.
He got the bag and put it back in the Harlem Community’s youth, students, artists, and I’ll say it again for clarification, Casper Holstein was the single largest donor to the early establishment and operations of the UNIA including significant funding for The Black Star Line.
He ain’t fold and he wasn’t no rat, when kidnapped by six white gangsters for $50, 000 dollars, he sent word to tell the police to stand down. Held for three days Holstein re-emerged saying the kidnappers felt bad that no one paid the ransom and set him free. Days later when police rounded up suspects, Holstein refused to identify the kidnappers, saying later that even though he could have he didn’t cough up his kidnappers to honor code of “The Business”.
As war was brewing in Harlem, Holstein got out the numbers racket to place his resources and energy into philanthropy and Black Nationalism. He was so successful that the corrupt cops choose character assasination instead of a bullet for him. They orchestrated the takedown of widely celebrated Casper Holstein by framing him for running numbers when it was common knowledge he was no longer active in the policy game.