Dear Culture

Tru’ish Black Stories: The death of Ricky Baker

Episode 33

Dear Culture takes a look at classic Black films that have shaped the culture and we start with John Singleton’sBoyz N The Hood.‘ More specifically the story of Ricky Baker, who died on the streets of South Central Los Angeles in the early ’90s. Most people know Ricky’s tragic outcome, but with the help of various guests and “people who lived it,” Panama Jackson examines what his death meant for the Black community.

LOS ANGELES – AUGUST 8: Director John Singelton (l) is reflected in a poster for his movie Boyz n the hood as he visits an exibition of African American film posters at the California African American Museum August 8, 2003 in Los Angeles. The posters which portray African American actors, directors and film crews was organized by the Smithsonian in conjuction with the Acadamy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio is Black Podcast Network Black Culture Amplified.

Panama Jackson [00:00:08] On October 13th, 1991, one of the most promising lights in the Black community was extinguished on the streets of South Central Los Angeles. This was a light who shone so bright that to date, according to our research, he’s the first and only person to take the SATs on a Saturday morning and receive his fully scored test results on a Sunday afternoon delivered by the postman. This is somebody whose import is so substantial to who we are and what we stand for as a community that he simply no by one name.

Trey [00:00:47] Ricky!

Panama Jackson [00:00:56] This is significant moments in Black history with Dear Culture.

Director [00:01:05] Quiet on the set.

Michael Harriot [00:01:11] Well, I think when you think about Ricky Baker, he is a tale, even if you don’t know the story of Ricky Baker. We’ve all heard the story of someone like Ricky Baker who’s, you know, killed after their high school graduation at a convenience store trying to buy some Hot Cheetos or somebody who was, you know, just hanging out at the mall and got in a wrong got in with the wrong crowd or.

Ricky Baker [00:01:45] I’m still trying to find out.

Michael Harriot [00:01:48] You know, Ricky Baker is the example of a cautionary tale that everyone has heard about. There’s always one star athlete who he could have been the one, if only he had been gunned down outside on the strip or if only he had stayed in the books or hadn’t got involved with the wrong crowd.

[00:02:14] Hey. Let them fight.

Michael Harriot [00:02:16] My name is Michael Harriet. I am a columnist at theGrio. I can remember going to the guys in my neighborhood and in breaking the news and how they poured out a little bit of their 40 for him. At the time, St. Ides was the thing. And I imagine that St. Ides made a hefty profit from just the little bit of beer that was poured out and people had replaced it by buying, of course, another 40 ounce.

Monique Judge [00:02:46] I am Monique Judge. I am a storyteller and a writer from Los Angeles, California. I knew Ricky because his girlfriend is my ex-boyfriend’s cousin. I mean, he was well known for football, but also because, you know, like his brother was also really well known. So.

Doughboy [00:03:05] We got from here? We got a problem?

Monique Judge [00:03:08] The two of them together. Like if you mentioned why you mention the other kind of thing. I mean, you know, there were brothers and you knew that they cared about each other.

[00:03:16] There you go!

[00:03:18] But because they were so different, you know, Ricky was into football. He really was like focused on that and Doughboy was in the gang, you know what I’m saying? So they were at odds in that regard. Plus, like, I don’t know if you know they Mama, but she kind of like, favored Ricky over Doughboy.

Mrs. Baker [00:03:37] I always knew you would amount to something.

Monique Judge [00:03:39] And I think that probably caused some tension, too, because like, Ricky was like her golden child and Doughboy was just like, you know, the screw up.

Doughboy [00:03:47] What you hit me?

Chris [00:03:50] Yo, Dough. Why she hit you?

Monique Judge [00:03:52] He went to jail, all that kind of stuff. So that I feel like addict to it or whatever. But at the end of the day, there was Doughboy’s brother, he was going to be down for him no matter what. You know what I’m saying?

Michael Harriot [00:04:04] And then, you know, I mean, what’s kind of unsaid here is that, like, we know that Doughboy and Ricky had different daddies, like when you could just look at them and tell because, like, Doughboy, why didn’t Doughboy play any football? Why was he, like, the opposite of the athlete that Ricky was? I don’t think that has anything to do with the father in the home. I think what this tale, you know is about is sure, like, if Ricky had a father in the home, maybe Doughboy wouldn’t have been a gangster.

Doughboy [00:04:40] That’s why fools be getting shit all the time. Trying to show how hard they is. Ignorant.

Michael Harriot [00:04:47] And if Doughboy wouldn’t have been a gangster, maybe his brother wouldn’t have got shot. But if you flip it around, like, what if if Doughboy and Ricky had a father in the home and Tre, didn’t.

Furious [00:05:00] You have to think, young brother.

Monique Judge [00:05:02] First of all, his daddy wasn’t having it. I don’t know if, you know, his dad were, like, Furious was not gonna let Trey be for the streets.

Furious [00:05:08] You’re my only son, and I’m not going to lose to no bullsh**, you hear?

Monique Judge [00:05:11] Yeah, you know what I’m saying? So as much as Trey wanted to hang out and be down with everybody, his daddy really had him, like, in the house doing his homework, getting good grades. We used to like, pass by and he’d be outside, like mowing the lawn and raking it up leaves and stuff because his dad just put him on that, you know what I’m saying? Then like when we got in high school, he got his little job in the mall or whatever. He thought he was doing something.

Doughboy [00:05:34] I heard you ike Mr. GQ Smooth, now.

Michael Harriot [00:05:36] When the news about Ricky first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related. And of course, that could mean any number of things. If you Black in America, you know what gang related means, that means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gangs, probably, you know, the other Black dudes.

Officer Coffey [00:06:00] What set you from? Look like one of them Crenshaw Mafia motherf.

Michael Harriot [00:06:06] So I think that was the first story that came out. And then, you know, because of that, all kinds of conspiracy theories, you know, rose up. There are some people who say that Ricky was never killed, that he changed his name and started hanging out with a new group of friends. A lot of people say they saw him in the nineties at a wedding as the best man. They say he changed his name and played for the New York Giants and hung out with those friends to this very day.

Doughboy [00:06:42] Ignorant.

Michael Harriot [00:06:42] So, you know, there are so many conspiracies because the first thing that we heard was gang related and we knew Ricky wouldn’t in the gang. Ricky was too smart for that. So the first initial news, I think, was just rumors.

Panama Jackson [00:06:55] Where were you when you found out Ricky was shot and killed, allegedly by Faires, so I’m not asking you to snitch if you actually know who shot him. But, you know, where were you when you found out Ricky was shot?

Monique Judge [00:07:10] So we found out that Sunday night on Crenshaw. Like everybody, every Sunday, we all go out on Crenshaw, you know, riding up and down. And we were riding up and down Crenshaw that Sunday night and people was asking, you know, where’s Trey? Where’s Ricky? Like, you know, where’s everybody at? Because we all would, like, gather at the same spot and they weren’t there. And then after someone came and told us that Ricky had been killed,.

Trey [00:07:37] Ricky.

Monique Judge [00:07:39] Coming back from a store or something.

Trey [00:07:40] Ricky!

Monique Judge [00:07:40] But he got gone in the alley.

Trey [00:07:44] Ricky!

Panama Jackson [00:07:54] And how did you feel when you heard that news that Ricky was shot?

Monique Judge [00:07:59] Man when the news of Ricky Garner killed hit the neighborhood. Everybody was saying, you know what I’m saying? Because it’s like, here’s this. Do we all grew up with him? We knew him like, you know, And like I said, he just he was a cool dude. He never bother anyone. He’d just mind his business and go to school, play football, and that’s it. And, you know, when something like that happens, it’s kind of like traumatic because then you start thinking about it could be you next, you know what I’m saying? And look, I’m not saying I know who did it.

[00:08:31] What am I supposed to do? Fool roll up and try to smoke me, I’m gonna shoot the motherf* if he don’t kill me first.

Monique Judge [00:08:37] But what I’m saying is that person, you know, they just be out there anyway wilding the person that they said did it right. I’m not going to say their name, but, you know, and so you start thinking like something like that might happen to you, Like it’s a lot of kids in our neighborhood. So now nobody want to have to worry about some dude riding up and down the street shooting people. You know what I mean?

Michael Harriot [00:09:04] Well, I think Ricky’s death, if he died, symbolizes the fragility of of life in general. I think it is the the limitations and the ceilings put upon us by circumstance. If Ricky lived in the suburbs, who knows, he might not have been involved with the few that you know from news reports and from rumors, it seems that he really didn’t have anything to do with it. And so I think it is it is about circumstance. It is about the violence of Black neighborhoods, existence in the first place. The idea that we are herded into these, you know, metaphorical cages in neighborhoods and, you know, during that time there was the gang life that was sprouting up around America. And one would hope that many people took away from that, that if you get involved in that kind of life or even, you know, get associated with it on the periphery, then you could end up like Ricky. You could end up shouting, one of your friends shouting and crying in an alley over your dead body. You could end up with him punching at the air while his girlfriend comforts him.

Monique Judge [00:10:36] I feel like Ricky dying had an impact on Black America because he was like a symbol of promise. You know what I’m saying? Like, that boy was really probably going to do something. In the NFL. In the world. You know, again, he had a son in that that baby grew up without knowing, you know, his daddy because he was just a little baby when Ricky died. And I think that it just makes us think about how precious life is and how we need to, you know, be careful. The things that we do, the places that we go, the people that we hang around. Because you never know what can be waiting for you around the corner.

Michael Harriot [00:11:17] I think about Ricky when I see a football game and wonder, like, what if that team, what could that team have been if Ricky would have been playing for them?

[00:11:31] Catch.

Young Doughboy [00:11:36] Man. You sorry.

Michael Harriot [00:11:38] You know, I think about Ricky when, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but you know, from the reports that I’ve seen and you know, the word of mouth on the street is that Doughboy eventually moved to Chicago, opened a very successful barber shop. You know, after spending a while, just kind of, you know, they said there was a period when he just hung out with a guy named Smokey. Smoking weed all day. And then he got fired with on his day off. Got his life together. And went to barber school. And you have to think like, you know, there were reports because, you know, there are Black reporters in Black media who, you know, kept up with Ricky’s family. And I remember when there was a report about Doughboy in danger of losing his barbershop, and you wonder if Ricky had made it to the league, would Doughboy have been in that kind of financial distress? So I think of many things that make me think of of Ricky Baker, of his circumstance, of the fragility of Black life in the ghetto.

Panama Jackson [00:12:55] You know, Doughboy died two weeks after Ricky, too. He was murdered in the streets two weeks after Ricky.

Michael Harriot [00:13:01] Well, I heard that they say they say Doughboy died two weeks after Ricky. But again, like we really don’t know. They’ll tell you anything because, I mean, I’ve seen those pictures of that dude, that book at that barbershop, and he looks a lot like Doughboy. Who knows, right? Like, maybe those killers were arrested and Doughboy and Ricky were in witness protection. You know, you never know because a lot of people say that COINTELPRO had a lot to do with Ricky’s death to prevent the rise of a of a Black running Messiah. So, you know, it’s really hard to talk about this without acknowledging that a lot of what we heard may not be true.

Monique Judge [00:13:46] Think about Ricky. You know, every time I pass by their house or I pass by Crenshaw High, I think about it. And I also think about him every time I’m writing down Crenshaw. Because, again, that was just like when we were young, that was like the gathering spot. You know, they don’t even let people drive up and down Crenshaw like that anymore. If the police see you pass by the same spot more than twice in 30 minutes, they’ll pull you over. So we can’t even do that anymore. So it’s like his memory is kind of tied to those memories of being out there on the block and just having fun, listening to music, drinking, chillin with everybody and stuff.

Michael Harriot [00:14:21] I think ultimately when I tell young people or tell, you know, my children about the story of Ricky Baker, I tell them about a guy who worked hard, who had a promising future, who was held down not by financial problems or his neighborhood, but by his family. And I think that it is a cautionary tale about how we must all lift each other up. Like if you’re going to be a gangster, that’s your personal choice. But you have a responsibility to protect literally your brother from harm. You have to send him home. And I also think it is about the the need to understand your circumstances. I think we should teach little kids that if somebody shoots at you, you know, you have to run in a serpentine fashion. And I don’t know if that would have saved Ricky’s life because, of course, it was an alley and if you know anything about double barrel, but that was a Winchester 500 shotgun, double barreled that Ricky was shot with, which is a smooth boy shotgun. So when you shoot buckshot, they spread it out. So, you know, I’ve heard people say that he should have run in a serpentine fashion. We don’t, you know, he probably would have been hit anyway. But, you know, when you look at the logistics of what happened to him, it wasn’t the stopping to pee that doomed him. It wasn’t being affiliated with a brother. I think maybe it was about splitting up. And see, that’s a metaphor for life. Right. When Ricky and Trey split up. Everybody knows, especially if you Black that you don’t split up. Harriet Tubman taught us that, like, 200 years ago. Never split up, splitting up metaphorically and in the case of Ricky Baker, literally would doom you. You are your brother’s keeper. Never split up.

Panama Jackson [00:16:47] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him?

Monique Judge [00:16:51] Ricky, you should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have gone with me there. But that’s okay, because what’s done is done. And now you’re not here. And I miss you. I hope you’re resting well. Why are you making me laugh, man?

Panama Jackson [00:17:11] Because that’s not where I saw that going. Oh, I wasn’t prepared. That was all. Next week on Dear Culture’s Tru-ish Black stories.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:17:19] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways, it’s, you know, I would say of my four, Randy Watson is my number one.