We Remember the Rodney King Uprisings and the Historic Gang Truce of 1992

As we look back on the 20th anniversary of the Rodney King/ LA Uprisings there are a few things to keep in mind that’ll hopefully bring all that went down April 29th 1992 into a clearer perspective..

The vicious beating of unarmed motorist Rodney King which was caught on tape, March 3 1991 by bystander George Holiday angered many. But at the same time it gave people some sort of hope that things would change. The video tape was seemed the crucial piece of evidence that many had long been waiting for that would vindicate thousands of Black and Brown folks living in Southern, Cali who had long complained about the brutality of LAPD…Many felt it would lead to the arrest and criminal punishment of the 4 officers who were seen striking King over 50 times with batons and tasering him. The video tape underscored the long list of social and political conditions that were leading up to the 92 Uprisings. You can peep that infamous video HERE

The Sordid Legacy of Daryl Gates and LAPD

Rodney King

Prior to the Rodney King beating, many in the mainstream (whites) were dismissive of complaints from people in the hood about LA police brutality. In their minds they figured whatever was done by the police was justified, after all many had come to believe that areas like South Central LA, Watts, Compton and East LA to name a few, were ‘infested’ with out of control gangbangers who needed to be ‘suppressed’ at all costs.

I use words like ‘infested‘ and  ‘suppressed‘ deliberately because that’s the dehumanizing language often used by the main antagonistic to Black and Brown communities in LA at that time, former Police Chief, the late Daryl Gates.

For those who don’t know, Gates was a  media savvy, sadistic man who ran a well-heeled media campaign that convinced the world that his police force needed to be further militarized. Building off the legacy and policies of his mentor and predecessor LA’s police chief William H Parker, Gates started dressing his officers in military garb and supplying them with military weapons. He also got the department to  adopt intrusive tactics more associated with Marine invasions vs protecting and serving the community which is the slogan seen on LA police cars.

Gates used the influx of crack cocaine and fights over drug turf as the rationale for ramping up his force. He even went out and got a tank that was modified to knock down crack houses. This tank was immortalized in the song Batter Ram by LA rapper Toddy Tee.. The Batterram garnered headlines when zealous officers knocked down the homes of innocent people thanks to faulty information or them being overzealous. Gates was unapologetic.

His campaign was suppression of the Black and Brown folks, no matter what walk of life. Under an infamous policy known as Operation Hammer, everyone from those communities who came in contact with LAPD  was seen as a gang member. Again this is not exaggeration. Part of Gate’s strategy was to establish an extensive gang database, hence anyone pulled over for a traffic violation or stopped and detained for minor infractions was most likely to be entered into the database.

Gate’s policy was simple; you were associated with a particular gang based upon the neighborhood you lived in. The result of this policy was aggressive and harsh treatment, suspicion & profiling and oftentimes arrest when police pulled you over or detained you and found your name listed in the gang database.

Any crime committed against you was tainted as ‘gang related‘. The implication was , you were a victim of a robbery, or assault because of gang ties. This resulting in many crimes not being taken seriously. On top of that, complaints against the police was put on the back burner, especially if it could be shown that you were a ‘gang member’ listed in the database. By the time the Rodney King/LA Uprisings kicked off, a whooping 47% of Black males between the ages of 21-25 in Los Angles were deemed gang members thanks to the database.

LAPD’s Unwritten Policy of Suppression

The unwritten policy of LAPD dating back to the 1950s under Chief William H Parker was to establish dominance send a strong message to the growing population of Black and Brown folks that the police were in charge. This was done two ways. First, Parker notoriously recruited officers from states throughout the South, which were still immersed in Jim Crow. Many of the officers harbored strong anti-Black sentiments and carried it with them to their new jobs in Los Angeles.

LAPD Chief William H Parker

Second, his officers would make it a point to stop and detain Black youth while they were pre-teens or in their early teens. This was Parker’s way of as a way establishing presence. He wanted certain residents of LA to know the police were always around and ready to roll and clamp down. Parker’s attitude was get to them while they’re young and put fear in them. The adults who were stopped by his men were treated even more harshly. Oftentimes they were talked to in a demeaning manner i.e. being  called ‘boy’ or a racial epithet.

Parker’s cops were known to purposely embarrass adults in front  of their kids or on husbands in front of their wives.. All this hostility was complicated by the fact that LA at that time was very segregated and had on its books housing covenants which restricted the areas that Black and Brown folks could live..

Watts was the main Black area was known among police officers as ‘the Duck Pond. Here officers who patrolled it, did so with the goal of containing Black residents and keeping them from entering into white sections of the city.

There was study done in the 60s that showed that 90% of the juveniles arrested by LAPD were not charged. This was essentially Stop-N-Frisk ala NYPD decades before it showed up as police practice in NYC. Many say Parker’s harsh policing policies led to the 1965 Watts Riots/Rebellions..

It’s important to understand this history when looking at the Rodney King uprisings. Its important for folks to know and understand how deep rooted and systemic police/ community relations were and the type of discontent that it caused.  In the 1965 Watts rebellion, in spite of the resulting  39 dead and over a 1000 injured, conditions and policy didn’t change too much in LA. If anything they got worse.

By the 1980s  LA’s first Black Mayor Tom Bradley continued that harsh policing when he famously ordered massive roundups and arrests via Daryl Gates, of Black and Brown men as LA hosted the 1984 Olympics. It’s reported that over 25 thousand were locked up. A few years later Gates implemented Operation Hammer which was a system of gang sweeps and massive arrests. One weekend he locked up over 1200 residents suspected of being ‘gang members’.

Gates said there was a war going on in the streets and his police force was determined to fight it. However, as we now know Gate’s war machine should’ve been directed at the government who supplied infamous drug dealers like Freeway Rick with the cocaine and not the community who were catching hell on both ends. On one hand, many in  Black and Brown communities fell prey to crack addiction or crack related violence. While on the other hand, they also felt the the wide sweeping brunt of Daryl Gates and his brutalizing police force.

Latasha Harlins

Latasha Harlins

In looking at the Rodney King uprisings, many believe you can not overlook the shooting death of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins at the hands of Korean grocery store owner Soon Ja Du. her death happened 2 weeks after Rodney King was beaten.. A video tape surfaced showing Harlin’s being shot in the back of the head as she attempted to leave a store where she was suspected of ‘stealing a soda.

According to court transcripts, what went down was; Harlin put a soda in her backpack and went to the counter to pay for it. Ja Du not seeing the money in Harlins’ hand grabbed her and a tussle ensued.  During the struggle, Du threw a stool at Harlin, she in turn picked up the soda and threw it on the counter. Harlins then turned to leave the store at which point Du pulled out a gun and shot her in the head claiming she feared for her life.

Tensions between Black and Korean merchants exploded. Korean merchants felt that they were frequent victims to violent crimes at the hands of Blacks. Black customers felt they were always being far too often deemed suspicious and treated badly by Koreans who were getting money from the community yet didn’t live there or show respect. Harlins murder was the tipping point.

Verdicts Gone Wrong

The trials demanding justice for Harlin and King looked to be open and shut with convictions eminent. Many in the Black community were hopeful, after al,l both incidents were caught on tape. Unfortunately these trials were anything but simple.

In spite of the video and contradictory testimony Du was sentenced to 5 years probation at the conclusion of her November 1991 trial. A news report at the time showed a Korean man being sentenced around the same time for being cruel to a dog. He received 30 days.. That was contrasted with the Harlin’s verdict and caused widespread outrage. You can peep that video HERE.

Koon, Powell, Briseno & Wind

The Rodney King trial took a longer path. First, it was moved out of LA to Simi Valley which is home to a lot of police officers. defense lawyers claimed there was too much pre-trial publicity.

Second, there were no African-Americans on the jury. The trial to convict LAPD officers  Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind was heard by a jury consisting of ten whites, one Latino and one Asian..

On April 29 1992, that Simi Valley jury acquitted all 4 officers. Once the word got out, all hell broke loose. The result?  53 people dead, about 2,500 injured and more than $400 million in property damage.

The sentiment was Black life didn’t matter and there would never be any justice for those who found themselves on the receiving end of oppression and abuse.People were angery and felt hopeless, as if nothing they did mattered or would be given a fair shot.

Mayor Tom Bradley visibly taken a back by the verdict publicly stated; ‘the jury’s verdict will not blind us to what we saw on that videotape. The men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the L.A.P.D.

Then President Bush sr stated; ‘viewed from outside the trial, it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video. Those civil rights leaders with whom I met were stunned. And so was I and so was Barbara and so were my kids’.

Daryl Gates defended his department and his decision not to have extra officers on hand after the verdict was read.. He claimed that his department would shut down any disturbance. After the uprising, Gates was asked to step down, by Mayor Bradley, he steadfastly refused and a huge public dispute between the two men emerged. Gates finally stepped down, two months later in June 1992.

6 months after the uprising Gates showed his true sadistic colors when he acknowledged that he made errors in judgement around handling the uprising. He said; “Clearly that night we should have gone down there and shot a few peoplethat’s exactly what we should have done. We should have blown a few heads off.’

The 92 Gang Truce

The LA Uprising brought to life a beautiful facet that had  been in the works for a couple of years prior and had been cemented two days before the infamous Rodney King verdict.

Rival Blood and Crip sets in Watts signed historic Gang Truce on April 27th. More than 300 gang members showed up at City hall to mark the occasion. Many didn’t realize a truce had went into effect until all the turmoil jumped off and folks noticed that rivals gangs were working hand in hand, calling for unity and exuding a spirit of cooperation. There were signs painted all over the city that read Crip, Bloods and Eses Together. Many thought the lopsided verdict brought everyone together overnight. The truth of the matter was the ensuing rebellion underscored and accentuated the peace and healing work various cliques had been working toward…

What led to the truce was gang members tiring of senseless deaths. LA had its highest murder rate two years in row leading up to the uprising. Much of the violence was around drug turf. In response gang members in Watts began to wake up and start a process that would eventually lead to peace.

Landmark meetings with Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and later numerous gatherings at the home of former football legend Jim Brown played key roles in helping facilitate the various peace process gang members had undertaken..Its said Brown put almost half a million dollars of his own money into efforts to lay down a foundation for peace.

The 92 Gang Truce set off similar efforts throughout LA and around the nation. Its also one of the most under reported facets of what went down 20 years ago.


Aqeela Sherills

We recently sat down with Aqeela Sherrills who was part of that important process. In this interview he gives an indepth run down of what took place and what’s going on now in LA, 20 years later. He talks in great detail about the decrease in crime because of the Truce. He noted that LA has its lowest crime in over 40 years and that its currently in its 8th year of decreases. He also talked about how the 92 Gang Truce was an inspiration for the Million man march which took place 3 years later.

He also goes into detail explaining the attempts to break the Truce.. The main culprit? LAPD. He noted that the police had strong economic incentive to keep the chaos going due to the huge amount of income they were generating via overtime pay and the formation of specialized task force. It was in their interests to play up the fear and downplay the truce.

In our interview  Aqeela also talks about the Black/ Brown conflict. He explains how a lot of the beef has been rival gangs (one Black  one Brown) going at it and not so much due to racial hatred..

Here’s a link to this insightful interview..that aired yesterday on our TRadioV show

Below is an incredible clip just days after the Rodney King Uprising..It aired on Nightline w/ Ted Koppell and features gang members Bone and Lil Monster


We went digging in the crates to pull out an insightful interview w/ former Gang member Twilight Bey who was the inspiration for the PBS show Twilight LA…He gives a solid breakdown of the 92 Gang Truce and what led up to LA Uprisings..  Much of what he said 10 years ago holds true today.. Below pt 1 of the 4pt conversation..


The Role of Hip Hop

As we close out we have to acknowledge the role music and Hip Hop played in the Rodney King/ LA Uprisings.. First a bit of history… Back in 1965 during the Watts Rebellion, the media and the police blamed popular African-American disc jockey Magnifigent Montague for setting it off. Montague was heard on KGFJ where he frequently peppered his on air banter in between the hottest R&B and Soul songs of the day with tidbits about African American history. He would often have guest on his show including Malcolm X. Martin Luther King name checks him in a couple of speeches praising him for his activism.

Montague had a slogan that he used whenever he played a hit record.. That phrase was ‘Burn Baby Burn‘. Listeners would call up when he played a dope song and repeat the phrase.  During the Watts Rebellion in 65, folks in the streets adapted the phrase. Some flipped it and said Burn Whitey Burn..

Montague was on the air encouraging folks to go home, but that didn’t stop Chief William Parker from publicly calling for Montague to be fired. LAPD also stepped to him to stop using the phrase. Montague kept his job, but dropped the slogan and changed it to Learn Baby learn as he committed himself to working with youth and calling for peace.

Ice Cube

The scapegoating of Montague should be noted because years later during the 92 Uprisings, folks blamed rappers like Ice Cube for setting a tone that would lead to social unrest.  Folks looked at songs like Black Korea, which Cube did in homage to Latasha Harlin 7 months before the 92 unrest where he warned Korean merchants to respect the Black fist or get burned to a crisp.. When folks went after Korean stores during the rebellion, Cube was called to task and accused of being racist..

What was overlooked was that Cube and many others were soundtracking the emotions and sentiments held by many at that time.. We could look back to Toddy Tee doing Batterram and Ice T doing 6 N the Morning as giving us early glimpse into what Black folks in LA were struggling with..

NWA‘s Fuck tha Police took it to a whole other level and became an anthem, which netted response from police departament and the FBI.. Police in cities throughout the country pressured venue owners to not allow the song to be played.. An FBI member sent a letter to the group condemning the group.

After the uprisings Cube shunned his critics and turned up the heat with songs like We Had to Tear This Mother Up Here he talks about going after the Simi Valley jury and personally assaulting the 4 officers who were aquitted. He name checks each of them and drops a line explaining the violent manner he would like to see befall them.

Meanwhile, his then newly signed artist Kam who was apart of the Gang Truce documents and celebrates it in his song Peace Treaty . His video brings to life the beauty of unity that was unfolding in Watts.

In the wake of that dozens of songs emerged referencing the 92 Gang Truce, the LA Uprisings and anger toward the police.


As we look back on the 20th anniversary, lets allow what occurred to be an inspiration. Lets learn lessons from the historic gang truce, lets try to bring similar efforts in our own communities. Lets also learn the lessons of a police force that refuses to change. 20 years after the Uprisings we seen the police departments get worse. It was just last week that we saw the investigation into LA sheriffs about a group of rogue cops calling themselves the Jump Off Boys.. The struggle continues..

written by Davey D

Dear Lil Wayne Stop Promoting the Bloods

Dear Lil Wayne Stop Promoting the Bloods

By Casey Gane-McCalla November 4, 2009 3:58 pm


Dear Lil Wayne,

My friend brought over your mixtape , No Ceilings, the other day and I gave it a listen. I have to say I was impressed. You clearly are a talented rapper with an excellent ability to ride beats, clever wordplay and smart punchlines.

Still one thing about the mixtape disturbed me. Your constant references to the Blood gang and soo woops seem like something a 15 year old kid might be saying, not a veteran rapper who has been in the game for more than 10 years.

I realize that many people in poor neighborhoods join gangs because of peer pressure, the threat of other gangs, for a way to make money and for  a sense of family. Still, you have been a professional rapper earning money since you were 14. What reason did you have for joining the Bloods? It seems that you are claiming the Bloods to increase your street credibility and help your record sales.

After the Derrion Albert beating, we see the negative effects gangs have on African American youth. Everyday, gang violence leads to teenagers in the hood getting stabbed, shot or jumped. As the “Best Rapper Alive,” when you start bigging up a gang it makes it seem cool to your young fans. These young fans who use your slang, dress like you dress and idolize you, now want to be in a gang like you.

I know you don’t think you’re a role model. Still your record label, BET and urban and pop radio are constantly marketing your music to children between the ages of 10 and 14. When they play you Lollipop single on BET, the kids who watch you buy your album and mixtapes and get to hear all your Blood gang propaganda.

Hopefully, your time in jail will give you time to reflect about your actions. Gang violence is a big problem for young black males.  In L.A. two thirds of all youth killings are gang related. Gang members are 60 times more likely to be killed than non gang members.

Being in the Bloods might be cool for you, but for the thousands of kids in the hood who join, it is a deadly choice, that far to often leads them to jail or the morgue.

Please, for the sake of your impressionable fans and the image of African Americans across the world, stop promoting the Bloods. You are a very clever young man with more power than you may know.


Casey Gane-McCalla

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Black History Fact: Exploring the Historic Links of Early Hip-Hop and Gang Culture


Exploring the Historic Links of Early Hip-Hop and Gang Culture
by Davey D

According to the popular narrative, hip-hop grew out of gang culture in the South Bronx.

One of its pioneers – gang leader Afrika Bambaataa, who had turned his life around – used hip-hop to get people out of gangs and into something more positive.

Bambaataa had led a division of the Black Spades in the Bronx River Houses project before deciding to take his followers in a new direction, first by forming “the Organization“.

” Later, after learning about the Zulus of South Africa, who fought colonial rule, Bambaataa transformed the Organization into the Mighty Zulu Nation, now known as the Universal Zulu Nation.

It remains not only the oldest but the largest hip-hop organization, with chapters on every continent and tens of thousands of members.

Now on many levels that very familiar narrative is true. However, it’s so much more complicated. Most people when they hear this tend to gloss over the full significance of the gangs. Very few of us Hip Hop aficionados have rarely taken time to see how Bambaataa’s actions came about.

We don’t ask how gang culture played a role in birthing Hip Hop? Did Bambaataa bring about this turn around as a part of some government program or did he do this on his own? Was Bambaataa the only gang leader striving for positive change? Who were the other gangs and gang leaders alongside and before Bambaataa? Were the gangs in the 1970s the same as the gangs we read and hear about today in the news which are often depicted as violent prone and conduits for drugs, murder and mayhem?

Nobody will deny that much of what is reported is not true in particular instances but there is another side to the story.

Many of us caught a glimpse of that ‘other story’ when we read Bay Area author Jeff Chang‘s award winning book ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop A History of the Hip Hop Generation‘.

Here Chang loaned some keen insight into the Ghetto Brothers which was major Bronx gang that preceded the birth of Hip Hop.

Chang’s chronicling of the Ghetto Brothers brought to light some very important facts that are often overlooked including how highly organized the early Bronx gangs were and how they were highly influenced and politicized by the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.

War councils, peace treaties and the forming alliances were highly structured with very few things done haphazardly. Many of the gangs were about protecting the community from the police, marauding racist white gangs that resented Blacks and Puerto Ricans moving into their rapidly integrating neighborhoods, drug addicts and drug dealers.

The most important facet Chang brought to life is the 1971 Gang Truce which was designed to unite all of the city’s gangs.

This historic gang truce was said to be loosely depicted in the opening scenes of the cult movie classic ‘Warriors‘ with the movie’s large dominant gang ‘The Rifts being a combination of the real life Ghetto Brothers and the Black Spades-New York’s largest gang.

This past month (June 28 2008) at the Mitchell Housing projects in New York’s infamous South Bronx, those of us who are dedicated to unearthing and preserving Hip Hop history and culture were treated to a landmark moment. Former gang members came from all over the city and throughout the country to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Black Spades. It was an incredible sight to behold and gave folks an opportunity to soak up history that has long been hidden.

To start, the Spades came together because over the past few years many of the former members either through Zulu Nation or within their own organizations have been working to bring about peace and provide guidance to young people who have become attracted to New York’s new gang problem which consist of many west coast and Chicago gangs like the Bloods, Crips, MS13, Latin Kings and others.

Hip Hop dance pioneer Popmaster Fabel and a member of the East Harlem street organization the Savage Samuri, pointed out the irony of how Hip Hop provided a cultural imperative through traditional dance, music and artistic traditions helped move people away from the destructive aspects of gang life. Today through corporate co-option of the culture which manifests itself in the continuous highlighting of death instead of life, so much of commercial Hip Hop has now become a draw for youngsters to get involved with gangs.

Fabel who is putting the finishing touches of his ground breaking film ‘Apache Line From Gangs to Hip Hop‘ took time to explain in great detail why it was important to understand the inner workings of the street organizations that gave birth to Hip Hop. Fabel doesn’t use the word gang because he sees it as a media driven term that was attached to young Black and Latino youths who saw the older leadership in their community came decimated in the 1970s through the FBI’s Cointel-pro program, the Vietnam War, and War on Youth which later morphed into the War on Drugs.

Fabel painstaking details in his film how in the backdrop of that cultural and social devastation young people at that time attempted to find their voice and identity and a sense of family within the early Bronx street organizations.

Fabel then introduced me to Karate Charlie the former president of the Ghetto Brothers and prominently featured in Fabel’s film. Charlie who looks like someone in his 60s talked about how he was a former marine who went AWOL when he saw how the government had destroyed the Black Panthers and Young Lords and other leaders in the community. He talked about how it was disturbing to him to be fighting a war overseas when there was a war at home being waged on Black and Brown communities.

“I took off my government uniform and put on the uniform of the Ghetto Brothers and went about protecting our community”, Karate Charlie said.

He then talked emphatically about how he and others would teach everyone martial arts and to speak Spanish. He talked about how they fought to make sure heroin which was flooding the community much like crack did in the 80s would be kept out along with the dealers and addicts.

He also talked about how the Ghetto Brothers would patrol the subways and protect people long before Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels came along.

Karate Charlie of the Ghetto Brothers has just written a book called ‘I Smile to Keep from Crying‘. He ended by talking about how it was important that they tell their own stories and not have outsiders come along and exploit them and their message. Many of the Spades were guarded and wanted to make sure that the message of the day was unity and changing lives, not glamorizing death and mayhem.

Charlie’s story were reiterated throughout the day by other gang members who talked about how they saw themselves as children to the Panthers and Young Lords who really wanted to make a change and found themselves dealing with overwhelming forces outside their control. On the stage alongside the Spade pictures and memorabilia were old flyers of the Black Panthers and Young Lords.

As I listened to these stories I couldn’t help but draw parallels to what was depicted in the film ‘Bastards of the Party‘ put out by Bone who is a member of the LA Bloods and traced the groups history. His story had some much similarity to what these old Bronx gang members were talking about.

Fabel pointed out how many of the early gangs had a cultural elements that they used to communicate and express themselves. The Ghetto Brothers had a band that actually put out records.

The Black Spades adapted James Brown and changed the lyrics to his song Soul Power to ‘Spade Power‘. We saw that actually demonstrated that afternoon with some of the Spades doing their original dances. As I watched it you could not help note that long before the infamous Crip walk and Blood dances that are ritualistically done by gangs today and glorified by rappers in their videos, the street tribes before them had their own dances. As Fabel pointed out it what we were seeing was an example of that cultural imperative. He too later joined the circle and danced and showed off the moves that he had picked up from the generation before him.

Perhaps the most incredible moment of the afternoon came when Karate Charlie came together and hooked up with Bam Bam who was an original leader of the Black Spades 1st division and the person who gave Afrika Bambaataa permission to use the name Bam. The pair had not seen each other in close to 40 years when they came together and attempted to put together the 1971 Gang Truce. Bam spoke passionately about what it meant when they all came together to unify. He talked about how the Spades protected the community. He then addressed the younger members and told them its easy to take a life, but if one is really tough try saving one. If you’re really tough try living instead of dying. Words cannot describe what was taking place.

Fabel reiterated that Hip Hop came out of the government’s attempt to crush leadership in our communities. What he talked about that afternoon clearly underscored what we heard from Spade members which is-Unity amongst disenfranchised and marginalized communities was and continues to be threatening to many who wish to keep the status quo.

But at long last many of these stories are finally coming to light in the movie Apache Line.

Fabel did his movie after coming face to face with a young Blood gang member in his class where he teaches. He saw this young man who was on a path to self destruction and wanted to help him and others like him out. Hence he spent the last few years meticulously documenting the culture and people who came before him who were in gangs. Fabel has been troubled by the Hollywoodizing of inner city gang culture which has stripped away the deeper meanings and messages. His film will force folks to go in a new direction.

Another highlight of the afternoon was talking with original Zulu King and B-Boy Charlie Rock who was once a member of Black Spades 22cd division. He talked about the early gangs like the Black Spades evolved into the Zulu Nation and later Hip Hop’s early crews. In our interview he identified many of the early Hip Hop Crews and talked about the gangs that they came from or were most likely affiliated with…

Charlie Rock

Rock also talked about how the Spades and other large gangs came under-fire from the police with some of the members assassinated. He talked about the police killings of members Wildman, Soulski and Meathead Ron.

Rock saw those murderers as part and parcel to the attacks and killings that were simultaneously happening to Panthers, Young Lords and other Black Liberation organizations. He talked about how the police hung him over a roof top and threatened to kill him. He attributed these attacks to the fact that the Black Spades were willing to confront the police and that the gang was so large and organized. They were a threat and he felt there was an attempt to cripple them by killing off members.

Rock reminded us that the Black Spades and other groups were not alone in the Bronx. There was a litany of white gangs who had proceeded them and in fact used to start trouble with groups like the Spades until they began dominating. In our interview Charlie Rock talks about white gangs like the Golden Guineas, The Ministers, the White Angels and the White Assassins. He also talked about how the police would sometimes help these white gangs in attacking the Black Spades.  Rock’s remarks were deep and reminded me of the stories we heard surrounding the origins of Black gangs in LA and in Chicago. At the center were white gangs and police reigning terror on the community. Rock speaks to this issue in our interview..

Below are some interviews we did during the 40th anniversary gathering of the Black Spades. We caught up with many of the members including original leader Bam Bam who gave Afrika Bambaataa his name. We spoke with Hip Hop legend Popmaster Fabel who is finishing up a documentary on early gang culture called ‘The Apache Line‘. We also hear from Karate Charlie who was the former President of the Ghetto Brothers


We talk with Hip Hop legend Popmaster Fabel who talks to us about the important role early gang culture played in bringing Hip Hop to life. We also talk about how pop culture is exploiting gang life and leading people astray. Fabel explianed that early Hip Hop got people out of the gangs.. Today’s rap music gets people into them..We hear an impassioned Bam Bam, orginal leader of the Black Spades speaking to young gangbangers in New York, Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings etc and explaining the direction they should really be taking.. His words of warning are very powerful…


At the 40th Anniversary of the Black Spades we see Bam Bam re-uniting and talking with Karate Charlie after 40 years.  They talk about how the two gangs merged together to stop the Hells Angels from coming into the Bronx and stepping to another gang….We chop it up with Popmaster Fabel about his new documentary The Apache Line from gangs to Hip Hop.. We also talk to him about the current move to try and pit Black against Brown.. Fabel gives a history of why that happens and talks about how early Black and Brown gangs came together.We also speak with Karate Charlie who is featured in Fabel’s documentary about the legacy of the Ghetto Brothers. He talks about how the Black Spades the Ghetto Brothers united and became a family. He also talked about how they protected the community against the police..


We caught up with original B-Boy and Zulu Charlie Rock who hails from the 22cd division of the Black Spades up on Gun Hill road in the Bronx.. He talks about how the Black Spades evolved and became the Zulu Nation..He talks about Disco King Mario and the founding Spade chapters at Bronxdale Housing project which was known as Chuck City…He also talks about a segregated New York,  the white gangs and corrupt police that waged war on the Black Spades.


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