Significant Moments in Black History: Nino Brown and Gee Money show us what real unity looks like — all the way to the bitter end

OPINION: The Harlem drug-dealing duo made it to the height of success and with one statement, changed the way the Black community was able to pull itself together.

Allen Payne and Wesley Snipes as "Gee Money" and "Nino Bown" in "New Jack City." (Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I wasn’t there on that rooftop where the second most famous four-word phrase in Black history was uttered but I feel like I was there, almost like a witness. When Gee Money told, nay implored to Nino, “WE ALL WE GOT!” he changed the course of unity for us all. 

9-1-1 Emergency! Reconnect the community!

Nino Brown and Gee Money were a legendary drug-dealing duo from Harlem. I know drug dealing is heavily frowned upon, as it should be, but the way they inspired the community through their words and phrases lives on. They’re both dead — Nino and Gee Money, that is. Nino caught a bullet while being led out of a courtroom and Gee Money, well, allegedly, Nino Brown shot him but, really there’s no proof. Besides, I don’t believe it anyway. 

Gee Money and Nino were tight. They were the “Let’s play basketball together in Stacy Adams and dress pants” kind of tight. You don’t do that unless you completely trust your teammate. I’m not sure if you’ve ever played ball in Stacy Adams but it is one of the hardest things to do; Stacy Adams shoes have zero traction. And they played ball on New York City’s concrete courts. They also got into real estate together, purchasing (some say they just took it, but the public records are really shoddy from back then) a huge mixed-use development in Harlem that they called The Carter. It had floors for business and floors for living. Nino and Gee Money were way ahead of the multiple-streams-of-income crowd. 

Anywho, they shared almost everything but when you share almost everything, something is going to go awry. Gee Money, they say, wanted to do business on the solo tip and well, that’s when everything fell off the tracks for the duo. Now, despite their issues, they had an empire to run together and they did it well. Yes, people lost their lives. Keith Sweat almost caught a hot one at an outdoor wedding in Harlem, which would have been an absolute travesty — he hadn’t even made “Twisted” yet when he was ducking and dodging bullets. 

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Anywho, Nino and Gee Money ended up having to have a lot of heart-to-heart convos and it was during one of those heart-to-hearts — their final one as far as I know — where Gee Money uttered that phrase that would carry families, friendships, gangs and organizations through the hardest of times. “We all we got” isn’t only a rallying cry but a statement of fact for underserved populations needing a reminder of their pride and strength. 

When my child or one of the homies seems to head astray, I pull them close and remind them that indeed, “WE ALL WE GOT!” I say it, shout it, exclaim it. I let the world know that all we have is us. I’m almost never wrong about that. 

Sadly, and again, allegedly, Nino Brown shot Gee Money shortly after Gee Money TOLD Nino those words. He also allegedly yelled, “Am I my brother’s keeper?!?!” There was a lot of potential irony on that roof. Ya know, allegedly. I wasn’t there as I said, so I can neither confirm nor deny who did it. But it was a sad end for a unified and dignified duo, one that ironically ended after one pointed out their unity and another cut them in half … allegedly. But they live in the lore of the Black community for giving us a phrase that I only wish Martin Luther King Jr. had access to as it could have punctuated so many of his speeches. 


Oh, and the most famous four-word phrase? “I have a dream!” You’re welcome. 

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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