A famous former Los Angeles cocaine kingpin is headed to Richmond this weekend to play softball — and also to apologize to local residents for his part in helping to create the crack epidemic in the U.S.
“Freeway” Rick Ross — not the rapper, but the reformed drug dealer who in the early 1980s made as much as $2 million in a day — is set to be the special guest at Soulful Softball Sundays, which begins at 2 p.m. at Nichol Park.
The weekly Richmond softball event was formed earlier this year in an effort to unify the community in response to a spate of gun violence.
Ross has been touring the country to apologize to communities who were affected by his drug empire, and also to take steps to right those wrongs, according to Rodney Alamo Brown, a community advocate who informed us of Ross’ planned visit.
“[Ross] understands his role and is truly honest about his demise of our people,” Brown said. “The truth of the matter is until we can forgive ourselves of our trespasses against our fellow brother, then nobody should register a complaint of Rick wanting to apologize to our city.”
Local groups The Sons of Issachar and Men and Women of Purpose are responsible for bringing Ross to Soulful Softball Sundays, Brown said.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Ross controlled the South Central Los Angeles streets where the crack epidemic was said to have begun, according to several news reports, including several from the San Jose Mercury News. At the time, few believed that Ross, despite being a savvy businessman, could effectively sell cocaine to the low-income community where he lived, since the drug was too expensive. But he distilled the powdered form of the drug into a smokeable rock called crack cocaine that was both highly-addictive and far less expensive. He then marketed the drugs to local gangs, the Mercury News said.
As the drug’s popularity soared, so did the drug problem in urban areas across the nation, the newspaper said. During his rise, prosecutors estimated that Ross made more than $600 million selling drugs, particularly after hooking up with the Nicaraguan trade.
Ross was given a life prison sentence in 1996, but says his learning to read while behind bars had a lot to do with his release in 2009. Since his release, Ross is back in action as an entrepreneur and also as a philanthropist. This year, he was featured in the documentary, Freeway: Crack in the System, and was portrayed by actor Michael K. Williams in last year’s film Kill the Messenger. Additionally, Richmond native Glenn Plummer AKA O.G. Bobby Johnson played Ross in the movie, 100 Kilos.
Also last year, Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography, was released.
Ross runs the Freeway Literacy Foundation promoting reading among youth, among other projects.