Cornell “Black Benjie” Benjamin, leader of the Ghetto Brothers gang, was beaten to death on Dec. 8. 1971, while trying to keep the peace between two groups. Following that incident, a ceasefire was instituted, and instead of fighting, people started using artistry to bide the time. This allegedly set up the pieces for legends like Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Kool Herc to do what they’ve become known for.
“When I started unpeeling it, I was like, “Wow, this is the story behind the story.” It was the germination of the seed, the beginnings of hip-hop. We always could talk loosely about “hip-hop started when the gangs stopped, then all of a sudden they used hip-hop.” But those are broad strokes and laced with mythology. This [series] got to the detail of what was what. You could almost smell the fresh paint of the Cross Bronx Expressway over the rubble.”
The explanation of how Black Benjie’s death spurred the movement that created what became hip-hop is extremely important. Chuck felt the need for people to know that was paramount to understanding what came to be.
“It’s important to put that stuff into some kind of paper. When you come into the written fact of the matter, you pay a true respect to those people that paid the price. This documentary highlights what they all tried to do afterwards—keep the peace. The fact that it comes before the Holy Trinity [of hip-hop] — Kool Herc, Bambaataa, [and] later on Grandmaster Flash—is a great story to tell.”
The first episode of the series, titled “The Bronx is Burning,” happens in the South Bronx. It goes into the story of two groups deciding to end the bad blood between them and using that energy toward being more peaceful.
The killing of a peacekeeper and member of the Ghetto Brothers, Cornell “Black Benjie” Benjamin, presented the spark to end the violence in the streets.
Source: Black Enterprise