A Day in the Bronx: Remembering the Black Spades & Their Connection to Hip Hop

Karate Charlie & Bam Bam

Karate Charlie & Bam Bam

The notorious Black Spades was once the largest and most feared gang in New York City. Hailing from the Bronx, the Spades had as their warlord, Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. They were the precursors to Hip Hop.. We caught up with many of the members including original leader Bam Bam who gave 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 President of the Ghetto Brothers which was another large street organization highlighted in Jeff Chang’s book ‘Cant Stop Wont Stop’..


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 explained that early Hip Hop got people out of the gangs.. Today’s rap music gets people into them..

We hear an impassioned Bam Bam, original leader of the Black Spades speaking to young gang bangers in New York, Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings etc and explaining the direction they should really be taking.. powerful words..


Popmaster Fabel

Popmaster Fabel

At the 40th Anniversary of the Black Spades we see Bam Bam, original leader of the Black Spades re-uniting and talking with Karate Charlie of the Ghetto brothers. They talk about how the two gangs merged together to stop the Hells Angels from coming into the Bronx.

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 the 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… Charlie also explains how he taught martial arts throughout the community and had Ghetto Brothers patrol the subway years before the Guardian Angels under Curtis Sliwa came into being..


Charlie Rock Original Zulu King

Charlie Rock Original Zulu King

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 how the early gangs were organized and became targets to corrupt police.. He talks about how three members, Wildman, Soulski and Meathead Ron were murdered by police. He noted that because the Black Spades were organized many of them were targeted by the police who tried to break them up and shrink their numbers…

Charlie Rock also talks about how New York was segregated and runs down all the racial unrest and white gangs the Black Spades and later Zulu Nation had to fight.. He talks about the Golden Guineas and the Ministers up in Parkchester.. He talks about the White Assassins and the White Angels..

Rock also explained how the police used to work in concert with some of these white gangs to try and defeat the Black Spades which was the largest gang in NY.. He talks about how the police hung him over a rooftop and threatened to kill him..


Ron Wilkins: Self Hatred, Cultural Disorientation, Poverty & the ‘Gang’ Phenomenon

Long time activist, Freedom Fighter and original LA Gang member (Slausons) Ron Wilkins gives an excellent and insightful breakdown of the ‘gang’ phenomenon. He digs deep into some of the pressing issues around self-hate and cultural disorientation… definitely some words grow on.. -Davey D-

Ron Wilkins

The “gang” phenomenon among black youth can be attributed to three principal causes. Without a political decision from society’s rulers to forthrightly and comprehensively address these causes or pillars which initiate, fuel and sustain the growth of “gangs” and their resulting carnage, the problem will worsen.

The other force capable of resolving this crisis, and unquestionably the most significant one is our youth themselves, the street toughs who have been recruited into the “gangs”.It will require that they commit to reclaiming themselves as conscious African people and forging themselves into community builders and assets rather than continuing on as self destructive self haters, predators and liabilities.

Self Hatred

The most damaging of the three causes, and perhaps the least understood, is deeply rooted self hatred which arises from persons of color being dominated by whites and their culture in racially oppressive societies. In every conceivable way social institutions in these societies promote and/or glorify white values, conquests, interpretations of spirituality, heroes, beauty standards, holidays, military campaigns and perceptions of other peoples in the world. These same social institutions cast Africa and her scattered populations as an inferior, uncultured, unattractive, unsuccessful and subhuman species. The practice of labeling black people as inferior is reinforced daily in school classrooms, television programming, church gatherings and other social activities. On the big screen and on television most black figures are villains, comedians, athletes, gangsters or losers in some form or another. The places that black people call home are routinely characterized in the media as poor, run down and unsafe. The African roots of Christianity are ignored, and a whitenized Jesus is promulgated to symbolize a white savior and god, even though Christ did not come out of Europe. From kindergarten through to university education curricula the enormous contributions of Africa and her people to world history are routinely
overlooked, trivialized or misrepresented.

The net result of these cumulative experiences cause black youth to suffer horrific psychological damage which compel them to accept white characterizations of them as inferior. So much so, that they want absolutely nothing to do with Africa. Overwhelmed by the onslaught against their humanity as African people, its victims (black youth) unconsciously turn upon themselves in a desperate effort to destroy the negative representation. Failing to understand that their being disregarded,devalued and hated by white society is but a calculated move to turn them against themselves black youth unconsciously set out to destroy one another. The black youth who beats down or shoots another black youth has become so maladjusted psychologically that he has internalized this hatred and does not realize that the “rival” who he now devalues, hates and is determined to destroy is in a very real sense himself. The moment he shoots at another black youth who he regards as an enemy he is actually firing at a mirror image of himself. Threatening gestures and violent actions, identical to the behavior
of male combatants is also engaged in by young black females and for the exact same reasons.

Perhaps the most glaring display of psychologically maladjusted black girls and women, whether “gang” affiliated or not, are the extremes to which they go to alter their hair. The majority of them in every continent have become so ashamed of their natural kinky hair that they invest considerable time and spend exorbitant sums of money to change its appearance. Out of desperation they burn and straighten it to disguise themselves and to more closely resemble white females. They buy wigs and weaves, put dangerous chemicals in their hair and undergo expensive procedures to have “perms”. Black parents buy white dolls and backpacks emblazoned with images of Hanna Montana and other white idols for their daughters. These expressions of self hatred are the actions of mentally colonized people who are in dire need of knowledge of their own achievements and greatness which can then enable them to reclaim and celebrate themselves. Oddly enough, the doll experiment which was conducted by psychologist Kenneth B. Clark in the 1940’s and repeated by Kiri Davis in 2006 with
the same outcome underscores my point. When presented with both black and white dolls and asked which one they liked most, almost all of the young black girl subjects in both experiments selected white dolls.

Cultural Disorientation

“Gang” formation, affiliation and rivalry are both alien and contrary to African custom. Black youth who have evolved in western societies are generally cut off from knowledge of African history and customs, deprived of an orientation to African ways of being and behaviors and become culturally disoriented. In the words of the late distinguished historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke, “When people oppress you they take away the memory of what you were before they interrupted your society”. While early African societies were not perfect they were more human oriented and relations among and between people were not characterized by conflict and violence such as what exists in our communities today. If the African way of life and the African personality were understood and appreciated by present day African (black) youth, “gangs” and “gang conflict” would not exist. In early African societies relations between people were governed by honor and obligation. The other person was a fellow human being and it was on that basis that you were obligated to not be unfair to or do harm to him
or her. You thought too much of yourself than to lie, cheat, steal or injure him or her and bring dishonor upon yourself, your family, your clan and your tribe. African people practiced collectivism, in that we cared for one another and shared what we had with others in the community. There were humane relationships between women and men and women were not degraded. When a man took a wife there was an expectation in the community that she would be well treated and not beaten and abused. Women were revered as life givers; many societies were ruled by women and men did not feel insecure under their leadership. There was no prostitution and men did not abandon their families. Children were expected to treat elders with respect. Among the time honored African sayings, are these; “Where there is no shame, there is no honor”, “Virtue is
better than wealth”, “It takes a whole village to raise a child”, “If I stand tall, it is because I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me” and “The grateful man earns for himself yet another kindness”. African youth in every part of the world have a right and a responsibility to know their history and customs so that they can re conceptualize and reclaim themselves as members of the African family.


“Gangs” flourish in class societies where human priorities are lacking, large sectors of wage earners who are in need of work are unemployed and underemployed and the leadership has not advanced far enough to address social injustice and income inequality. If the rulers in these societies lack the imagination and initiative required to create meaningful employment for those without work, then they are obliged to locate and bring on board those persons who can make it happen. For starters, potential “gang” members and those who have transformed themselves must be provided with opportunities to earn income to support their families and themselves. Their representatives must be included in society’s decision making structures in substantive and meaningful ways. The society must reorder its priorities so that its young black men and women see it as their responsibility to make positive contributions to its peace, growth and development..

The three principal causes or pillars which initiate, fuel and sustain the growth of “gangs”, self hatred, cultural
disorientation and poverty must be properly understood and acted upon now, tomorrow is too late!

written by Ron Wilkins