HOW WE WENT FROM BLACK PANTHERS TO GANGBANGERS!

Over the years I have gained tremendous insight from a number of sources ranging from the Bay Area’s Black Nationalist legacy-the Black Panther Party founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale-to academic studies pertaining to northern and southern California’s street gang activity. In addition, I’ve seized the opportunity afforded by my incarceration.  I’ve walked-the-line at Santa Rita for four years, San Quentin and the New Folsom state prisons for ten, and have come to know many of the Los Angeles O.G.s, members of the 69th MOB, the Black Panther Party, etc. Their first hand accounts have been invaluable to say the least and have provided me insight on the movements they were part of that assisted to lay the foundation for their distinctive gang elements.

What was to be discovered about northern and southern California’s gang culture applies nationally. They are distinct because they were not cultivated by the same endowment. In other words, the character of a gang, or those considered criminal organizations, is a certain style of life and personal relations that are less a cause than a result-the result of the totality of physical characteristics of the environment coupled with its social influences, which have shaped the collective over a period of time. The differing tribal spirits of northern and southern California is the product of the social and economic influences exerted upon them.

Their differences, however, have developed against backgrounds of a similar nature. Each has had to endure obstacles of racial oppression, police brutality, poverty and drug infested neighborhoods. Each has experienced more or less favorable geographical circumstances-each area has a major shipping port. In addition, when considering South-Central, it is a densely populated metropolitan area that, due to its size, has gave way to close to 100 years of inoculate and predatory gang activity; while the history in the Bay Area tells of a village being shaped. This then collectiveness in the Bay Area I attribute to a relatively small Black population. This allowed for close relationships and open lines of communication.

Moreover, there were distinct social influences that shaped these regions. The Bay Area was greatly impacted by the philosophy of Black Nationalism. Los Angeles also shared in the philosophy of Black Nationalism. However, the experience would be short-lived. Notably, the endemic violence favored in this region would infect even its pro-community organizations, which lead to the Black Panther Party withdrawing from the LA region. For even they were not exempt from the fratricidal air. January 17, 1969, will forever remain a tragic day in Black Panther history. On this tragic day Black-on-Black violence beset by the US Organization would lead to the murders of Black Panther Party leaders Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter (n.b., the former leader of the Slauson gang) and John Huggins. This was said to have been the doing of the U.S. government-COINTELPRO having seized upon the animosity directed at the Black Panther Party by other pro-community groups in the LA region that did not take too kindly to the northern California organization having setup shop. Needless to say, to this day there remains this animosity between northern and southern California Blacks.

Having successfully pitted the US Organization against the Black Panther Party, the FBI would be puppeteer to Carter and Huggins’ fate. In recent years an interview with Black Panther Ericka Huggins-window of John Huggins-would receive a telling response to the question of COINTELPRO’s impact on the Black Panther Party:

  …it left many people dead, my husband John Huggins and Alprentice Carter another.  The [COINTELPRO] did not start with the [Black Panther Party]; it began to do its heinous dirty work with people like [Martin Luther King. Jr.] and the Civil rights Movement at all levels. Its intention was, as they said, to wipe out the [Black Panther Party] by the end of 1969… Looking back at it, taxpayers are appalled at what their money went to: to setting up situations where, for instance, John Huggins and Alprentice Carter could be killed at UCLA…. The FBI setup the circumstances for that; then the print media said it was Black on Black crime. But the FBI was a teacher for us. We learned to look at how insidious and subtle the work of a huge bureaucracy is and how fatal it could be for a small group of people who rebel against the status quo. So the FBI harmed, tortured, harassed and setup the circumstances to kill directly or indirectly many, many, people in the [Black Panther Party]… [J. Edgar] Hoover urged his special agents to “prevent the coalition of militant black nationalists groups… and leaders from gaining respectability… Prevent the rise of a black ‘messiah’ who would unify and electrify the militant Black Nationalist Movement.”   

By the early 1970s the assassination of revolutionary Black male political leaders in LA and abroad had created a climate of loss and chaos that was ripe for the growth of the gang element due to feelings of disempowerment that grew from a lack of Black resistance. Suddenly, this spirit of resistance, which had been grounded in an oppositional belief that white power was limited, that it could be challenged and transformed, had dissipated. Without the revolutionary zeal of “Black Power” the Black youth in LA were defenseless in face of their oppressors. Many already harbored feelings of being abandoned by the Black Nationalist organizations. And US organization leader Maulana Karenga had been slandered as a FBI informant. Thus, this organization did not appeal to the LA youth.  

Divested of affect, alienated from these organizations the sense of powerlessness caused by the absence of a revolutionary tempest would give way to the gang element. Tookie would write of the matter:  

The Crips was a vehicle to provide us with illusionary empowerment, payback, camaraderie, protection, thuggery, and a host of other benefits. We wanted to be exempt from being disenfranchised, dyseducated, disempowered, and destitute…We were seventeen-year-olds with minds polluted by misconceptions, and we wanted to be emancipated from the struggle against the conditions seeking our extinction or emasculation. But regardless of hostile opposition or lack of social privilege, my vested interest, like everyone else’s, was simply to survive….  

This can be said to have been the case in the Bay Area and elsewhere throughout the nation where Black Nationalism would eventually loose its zeal. However, it would be the Big Four, the Vice Lords, Black Disciples, etc., instead of the Crips and Bloods that would appeal to the ghetto youth.

Moreover, because Black Nationalism had such a strong presence in these regions, many of the gangs that would take shape, for example the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF), better understood and valued economics and structure. Notably, this organization was manipulated by agents of COINTELPRO to pump tons of heroin into the veins of the Black Nationalist Movement. It’s been said that the leadership of this prison gang was sold on the notion of keeping the Italian Mafia from controlling and profiting from the drug markets in the communities they were to return to; and that the profits they were to see from the sale of drugs would be a means to an end-THE END! Consequently, heroin and other drugs would in time become an “opportunity,” to say for lack of better term, to better position them economically. So they structured-up-MOBBED UP to organize and control the drug markets.

In much the same way, by the ‘80s the likes of lil’ D (aka Daryl Reed, Oakland millionaire drug dealer by age 20 ) would do the same with crack cocaine. However, the logic had changed. No longer were the Italians the motivating factor, it was about “Triple Beam Dreams” as Nas would rap:  

A project minded individual criminal tactics/ Us Black kids born with birth defects we hyperactive/ Mentally sex crazed, dysfunctional, they describe us/ They liars at the end of the day we fucking survivors/ I remember watching Scarface the first time/ Look at that big house, Porsche paid for by crime/ How could I sell this poison to my people in my mind/ They dumb and destroy themselves is how I rationalize…. 

Chapter 3 excerpt from incarcerated author Ivan Kilgore’s recently published book Domestic Genocide: The Institutionalization of Society. READ more excerpts at http://www.willisraisedblog.wordpress.com. Friend Ivan at Facebook. Contact him at:
Ivan Kilgore V31306
CSP-SACRAMENTO
FB2-118
P.O. BOX 290066
REPRESA, CA 95671.
EMAIL: domesticgenocide@hotmail.com.
Tweeter@domestic Genocid

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