Thursday, March 10, 7 pm: Bob Halloran, “White Devil: The True Story of the First White Asian Crime Boss”

In August 2013, “Bac Guai” John Willis, also known as the “White Devil” because of his notorious ferocity, was sentenced to 20 years for drug trafficking and money laundering. Willis, according to prosecutors, was “the kingpin, organizer and leader of a vast conspiracy,” all within the legendarily insular and vicious Chinese mafia.
It started when John Willis was 16 years old . . . his life seemed hopeless. His father had abandoned his family years earlier, his older brother had just died of a heart attack, and his mother was dying. John was alone, sleeping on the floor of his deceased brother’s home. Desperate, John reached out to Woping, a young Chinese man Willis had rescued from a bar fight weeks before. Woping literally picks him up off the street, taking him home to live among his own brothers and sisters. Soon, Willis is accompanying Woping to meet his Chinese mobster friends, and starts working for them.

Journalist Bob Halloran tells the tale of John Willis, aka White Devil, the only white man to ever rise through the ranks in the Chinese mafia. Willis began as an enforcer, riding around with other gang members to “encourage” people to pay their debts. He soon graduated to even more dangerous work as a full-fledged gang member, barely escaping with his life on several occasions. Told to Halloran from Willis’s prison cell, White Devil is a shocking portrait of a man who was allowed access into a secret world, and who is paying the price for his hardened life. As a white man navigating an otherwise exclusively Asian world, Willis was at first an interesting anomaly, but his ruthless devotion to his adopted culture eventually led to him emerging as a leader. He organized his own gang of co-conspirators and began an extremely lucrative criminal venture selling tens of thousands of oxycodone pills. A year-long FBI investigation brought him down, and John pleaded guilty to save the love of his life from prosecution. He has no regrets. White Devil explores the workings of the Chinese mafia, and he speaks frankly about his relationships with other gang members, the crimes he committed, and why he’ll never rat out any of his brothers to the cops.

Saturday, March 12, 1 pm: Girl Scout Birthday Celebration: Short film screening and presentation by Alecia Orsini

Join us as we celebrate the 104th birthday of the Girl Scouts with a short film presentation and talk by Alecia Orsini. Alecia will narrate the 1918 silent film “The Golden Eaglet,” which explores the history of the organization. She will also discuss the exciting renaissance that’s happening in girl scouting in Falmouth.

Alecia Orsini has been girl scouting for 27 years. A lifetime member of GSUSA, she started as a Daisy, became a leader, and ran scouting for her home town. She also spent seven years as an educator and guide at the Juliette Low Birthplace in Savannah. Alecia will share insights into “the original J Low,” the spirited woman whose belief in the potential of every young girl ultimately changed the world when she founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.

This family-friendly event will be held in the Cultural Center, 55 Palmer Avenue, and refreshments will be provided. Admission is free but donations to the Falmouth Girl Scout program will be accepted and cookies will be available for purchase!1924 Girl Scout troop on library steps

Saturday, March 19, 2 pm: Colin Woodard, “American Character: The Epic Struggle between Individual Liberty and the Common Good”

The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in our history, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention and in the run up to the Civil War to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the civil rights movement, and the Tea Party. In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these two key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation’s existence, from the first colonies through the Gilded Age, Great Depression and the present day, and he explores how different regions of the country have successfully or disastrously accommodated them. The independent streak found its most pernicious form in the antebellum South but was balanced in the Gilded Age by communitarian reform efforts; the New Deal was an example of a successful coalition between communitarian-minded Eastern elites and Southerners.

Woodard argues that maintaining a liberal democracy, a society where mass human freedom is possible, requires finding a balance between protecting  individual liberty and nurturing a free society. Going to either libertarian or collectivist extremes results in tyranny. But where does the “sweet spot” lie in the United States, a federation of disparate regional cultures that have always strongly disagreed on these issues?