Todd and Lance Feurtado once devastated their neighborhood of South Jamaica as heads of a powerful drug ring. But after a lengthy stay in prison, a newfound devotion to religion and the creation of a youth oriented documentary, the brothers now seek to empower the people whom they once preyed upon.
“We try to reach out to the youth according to our experiences, because growing up we did not have anyone who could relate to us based on our experiences of being on the streets,” said Lance Feurtado, who spoke along with his brother at a program called “No More Chains,” at the True Deliverance Church in St. Albans last Friday.
The brothers were raised by their mother Alyce in South Jamaica in the 1970s. At that time, single parent households were uncommon and even looked down upon, they recalled.
“Our mother worked two jobs to support us and still did not make ends meet,” Todd Feurtado said. “She worked Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and we did not see her until midnight.”
Todd, Lance and a third brother, Tony, each joined gangs at age 11 to earn extra money.
“We did not have some of the other things that kids had on our block like two parents in the house, two incomes … So we decided to start trying to make money on our own, thus led us into the drug world.”
Their transition into the drug world started off small. At first, they started gambling by playing dice. They used their winnings to buy small amounts of marijuana and resell it. The size of their sales grew from quarter ounces to half pounds then full pounds. Then it was on to cocaine, sales of which skyrocketed in the mid 1970s.
After joining the Seven Crowns Gang in their midteens, the Feurtado brothers became very popular on the streets.
“There were many times we wanted to get out of the drug and gang world but we started to use the money we made from selling drugs to help other people pay their rent, bills and put food on the table.” Todd Feurtado said.
He said dealing drugs was a way to rebel against the establishment.
“Back then many of us African American youth had an anti white man mentality where we thought the white man left us with no choice but to do these things because we thought being black, we were not going to be able to get a job anyway,” he said.
By the 1990s, the Feurtados had created an expansive drug empire that spanned 23 states. But in 1995, the federal government made a massive sweep against the Feurtado family. The brothers were arrested and spent 10 years in prison. It was in prison that they became born again Christians.
“Getting arrested by the feds was the most beautiful thing that could have happened to us. That may sound strange, but it was at that time that reality set in, and we realized how much we were destroying our friends and family and especially ourselves,” Todd Feurtado said.
After being released from prison, the brothers started an organization called the King of Kings Foundation. The group’s mission is to teach young people how to empower themselves and be responsible citizens. They respond whenever they are asked to talk.
“We try to encourage the youth that there are so many programs out there and that they do not have to choose the path we chose when we were growing up. We know if there is no hope for our youth, then there is no hope for the future,” Lance Feurtado said.
In addition to speaking across the borough, Lance Feurtado founded a production company and with the help of York College based Hip Hop Youth Summit made a documentary film—also called “King of Kings”—about the history of the drug trade in Queens in the 1970s.
The production company’s motto is “Using street knowledge to help youth get through college.”
Lance Feurtado said with so many things distracting them, young people have a hard time focusing on their goals. “We try to target young people starting at the age of 12 and 13 because we were exposed to the streets at the tender age of 12 and 13,” he said.