By Harold Bell
In the month of April I watched three friends of Kids In Trouble, Inc., and Inside Sports profiled on local and national television. First there was former boxer Derrick Holmes and singing phenom Stacy Lattisaw stories aired on Fox TV 5 News. On Sunday April 25th Dateline NBC spotlighted Mayor Dave Bing and how he plans to save his “Dead On Arrival” adopted hometown of Detroit.
All three stories are the spiritual rewards of people reaching out to help others. In the 70s and 80s Dave, Stacy and Derrick were all affiliated with Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports. One was a kid in trouble, and the other two were just reaching out and back to help kids in trouble.
Back in the day (any time before the 90’s) a do-wop vocalist group out of Washington, DC calling themselves The Clovers released a classic titled “Devil or Angel,” which inspired the title for this story.
The interviews on Fox 5 television with Derrik and Stacy brought a smile to my face and memories of days gone by. The Dateline story on Dave Bing made me a proud mentor and friend. In the 70s and 80s Derrik and Stacy were at the top of their games and professions and Dave was an NBA All-Star.
Inside Sports was the #1 sports talk show in DC and Kids In Trouble, Inc., was the #1 community based youth advocate group. The two programs were the first to encouraged pro athletes, entertainers and radio and television personalities to get involved to help improve the plight of inner-city children.
Celebrity tennis and golf tournaments and fashion shows sponsored by Kids In Trouble, Inc., and Inside Sports evolved from the two programs. Derrik and Stacey were two of the program’s fashion show models and Dave reached back to take several kids in trouble to his basketball camp in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. All three were the faces of hope for Kids In Trouble.
Other personalities and participants included Red Auerbach, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Sonny Hill Adrian Dantley, Sam Jones, Austin Carr, Adrian Branch, Len Bias (NBA), Roy Jefferson, Freddy Scott, Tim Baylor, Doug Williams (NFL), Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard (Boxing), Johnny Gantt (Boxing), Robert Hooks (Actor), Martin Wyatt, Fred Thomas, Paul Berry, Maureen Bunyan, Jim Vance (TV Media), Donnie Simpson (Radio), John Thompson (Georgetown U.) and the list goes on and on.
WETA television producer Jacqueline Toldt produced “Washington in the 70s” during Black History Month 2010. The show was misleading in that it had nothing to do with Black History. In fact, it appears that she made every effort to exclude Black History.
Ms. Toldt must have had her head in the sand. The content of the show proved she knows nothing about “Washington in the 70s.” Anyone living in DC during that era (black or white) was aware that the Nation’s Capitol was known all over the world as “Chocolate City.” It was never mentioned during the hour long program. The impact and contributions made by the above personalities were never cited.
How could you be in DC during the 70s and not know that WOL Radio was the flagship station with WHUR running a close second with “The Quiet Storm” radio show host Melvin Lindsey? WHFS FM in Bethesda, Maryland was not even on the radar screen.
How could you not know that Kids In Trouble was making a difference all over the city with Washington Redskin players Larry Brown, Roy Jefferson, Harold McLinton and Ted Vactor? Warner Wolf (TV 9) and Harold Bell ruled on air sports talk in the 70s!
It looks like the only qualification to be an Executive Producer at WETA is to have a driver’s license! She is further proof we must keep our own history.
In the 70s, Derrik Holmes and Sugar Ray Leonard were the darlings of amateur boxing in the DC area. Derrik was a champion right out of the box. He won the Junior division of the Golden Gloves in 1969 his first year on the boxing scene for the Kentland Boxing program. He then moved from Kentland to the Palmer Park, Maryland program.
His success led his friend and now boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard to join him on the team. Ray’s brother Roger Leonard was also a member of a program that was considered one of the best in the country. Derrik and Roger were considered the best boxers on the team during that era, but Ray was coming on fast.
According to boyhood friend Irvin Millard the workouts between Sugar Ray Leonard and Derrik Holmes were toe-to-toe knock down and drag out classics. There were many times Derrick gave better than he received. There was little or no animosity or jealousy among the fighters during this era. They were just two great competitors who were close friends in and out of the ring.
Derrick was riding high after winning a Gold Medal at a pre-Olympic tournament in Montreal in 1975, but his life would never be the same after the 1976 Olympic trials. He would make a bad decision that would turn his world upside down.
The name Charles Mooney an Olympic hopeful will forever be etched in the mind of Derrik Holmes. Derrik would lose a controversial decision to Mooney leading up to the U. S. Olympic Games in 1976.
The devastating lost to Mooney still haunts Derrik today some 34 years later. He keeps the photo that shows Mooney looking like the loser that he was but miss guided officials gave him the decision anyway.
One bad decision would lead to another. The next bad decision by Derrik was of his own doing and would cost him 23 years of his life in jail. He turned to drugs after losing to Mooney and the drugs would become his sparring partner, trainer, friend and his biggest opponent.
In the meantime Derrik along with Ray got involved with Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports via celebrity fashion shows.
The lost to Mooney was nothing compared to watching his close friend and sparring partner Sugar Ray Leonard go on to win a Gold Medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Sugar Ray’s boxing success would lead him into the boxing Hall of Fame and Derrik’s boxing failure would lead him to jail.
Sugar Ray Leonard had his own problems after his fairy tale win in Montreal. On his return to his home in Palmer Park newspaper headlines screamed and read “Sugar Ray Leonard has baby out of wedlock with high school sweetheart.” Ray hid in his home for weeks and refused to come out until I went over and coaxed him out.
Derrik’s problems led him to drugs and he became a kid in trouble. He had a flair and confident air about him and he took pride in being one of the fashion show’s top dressers. In 1983, all hell broke loose when I heard he had been arrested and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery in Clinton, Maryland. I called his friend and promoter Nat Williams and he confirmed the story. I felt responsible because I never saw it coming.
He was found guilty in 1984 and he would spend the next 23 years in jail, 5 of those years would be served in the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore, MD and 18 years in the Maryland Correctional Center in Hagerstown, MD. Baltimore and Hagerstown are in the top ten of the worst penal institutions in America. He has really been to hell and back.
The sentence never made sense to me. I have seen some first degree murder convictions and the accused were never given half the sentence Derrik was given for attempted murder. This is known as Just Us and Justice in America’s judicial system. Money buys Justice and a court appointed attorney buys jail time for Just Us.
Black men in America make up over half of the inmate population and we are only 13% of the entire population! America has the highest prison population in the world and black men are the backbone and foundation of the penal system.
Derrik wants to try to save kids in trouble by giving advice and teaching lessons in the Game Called Life using boxing as a vehicle. He does not want children to experience the hard knocks that await them in the criminal justice system. He has already been there and done that. There are not many of us who could survive 23 years in two of the toughest prisons in America. His story can save lives.
He believes by going up stream to fish the children out he will save and catch more children than having to wait to fish them out at the river’s end. Derrik says, “We must be more about prevention instead waiting around and re-acting after the fact.”
Long before Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Rihanna there was Stacy Lattisaw. She was a star at the tender age of 10 and at the age 12 she had signed a recording contract.
She was never a kid in trouble thanks to her two parents (Jerome and Saundra Lattisaw) who had her back. Jerome and I grew up together in a housing project in Northeast DC called Parkside. Stacy’s success never carried her far away from the NE community her father grew up in just to the other side of the railroad tracks by choice.
Jerome and Saundra are the prototype parents who are missing from our homes today, parents who have their children’s best interest at heart. Stacy has found peace of mind in the spiritual sounds of gospel music. Stacy’s first big hit was “Let Me Be Your Angel” and she has been that and more.
Dave Bing grew up in a tough Northeast DC neighborhood and barely escaped the pitfalls (drugs and jail) of many of his friends. Today he is the Mayor of a city in crisis but he thinks he can make a difference and bring a dying city back to life. His task can best be described in basketball terms, he is driving to the basket and there is Bill Russell on one side and Wilt Chamberlain on the other! Don’t count Dave Bing out. He has always found a way out of no way.
Dave, Stacy and Derrik are role models in the Game Called Life. They are reaching back to help others in their own way—each with the style of a champion.