According to the BUSSGs (Black Urban Social Street Groups), and the Black community in general, what was the original purpose and intentions of the early so-called gangs in L.A.?
Bastards of the Party is a documentary film released in 2005 that explores the history of black gangs in Los Angeles. It particularly focuses on the Bloods and the Crips, two of the citys most notorious gangs. Mr. Cle Sloan, the films narrator, begins by debunking a certain myth-that black gang animosity began in the early 1970s when gangs were formed to deal with a disagreement over a leather jacket. According to the film, these gangs date back to the 1940s and 1950s after the police created an extortion racket on Central Avenue meant to swindle music clubs owned by African Americans.
The first ever black gangs to emerge in Los Angeles during the late 1940s and early 1950s were formed as a defensive strategy to deal with the white violence that had become a thorn in the flesh of the African American community. In the areas surrounding the original black settlement of Central Avenue, white people were becoming intolerant of the gradually increasing black population that was migrating to the city after world war 11. The white community resented the fact that blacks were challenging the discriminatory housing laws that prevented them from buying property outside Central Avenue and integration into public schools.
Areas such as Huntington Park, South Gate, Bell, Compton, Inglewood, West LA, and Gardena all had organized white gangs that would hunt for and harass African Americans. The most prominent of these gangs was known as the Spook Hunters-spook was an offensive term used to describe a black person. Also, the Ku Klux Klan also emerged in Los Angeles during the 1940s. The earliest black gangs were formed to counter these white gangs, and acted as protectors for African American neighborhoods.
How did events in the 70s and the 80s (especially cocaine trafficking and police actions) act to negatively impact BUSSGs, as well as life in the Black urban community?
In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of events would negatively affect the Black Urban Social Street Groups. One was the Watts Riots of August 1965 that were triggered by the seemingly unfair arrest of a young African American man and his family. Given the long-simmering tensions over police brutality, the neighborhood of Watts erupted into violence. Following the riots, street clubs owned by blacks in South Los Angeles began to unite and create political strategies against police brutality. The Federal Bureau of Investigations working in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department felt threatened by the numbers and strength of Black Nationalist groups. They began intimidating, imprisoning, and even assassinating many of the movements leaders.
In the 1970s, the American economy began shifting from manufacturing and industry to the service sector. Consequently, factories began to close in Los Angeles, causing a decline in employment opportunities for African American workers. White residents began an exodus to the suburbs, causing an economic decline in South Central. With many their leaders either in prison or marginalized, black youth were without a role model. This situation led to the formation of gangs made up of young people, a notable example being The Crips. Rivalry between the Crips and other gangs intensified, and eventually led to the formation of a new gang known as The Bloods. Crack cocaine found its way to South Central in the early 1980s, devastating a black community that was already in a bad state. By 1983, gangs capitalized on its availability as a means of earning an income. Throughout the decade, the Crips and the Bloods became more involved in production and sale of the drug resulting in even more violence and destruction of the neighborhood.
What affect did the BPP (Black Panther Party) have on LAs urban community?
The Black Panther Party was formed in 1966 in Oakland, California. Its original title and the ideology that inspired its formation imply that the Party was meant to address the historical injustices that black people had been subjected to in the United States. The Party had a notable effect on the Los Angeles urban community. The Watts Uprising and the adverse segregation of the black community in the city both played a large part in spurring political mobilization meant to improve the lives of black residents. The advent of the Black Panther Party brought some tangible improvements to blacks living in South Central and Watts. After the Watts riots and the rise of the Partys activities in the city, gang violence reduced significantly. Residents focused their efforts on improving their communities in ways that the US had historically failed to do. the Party and its political mobilization appeared to counter Americas active efforts to keep minority communities in a subservient state. In fact, the re-emergence of gangs such as the Bloods is often linked to the demise of the Black Panther Party since many young blacks were left with no politically active role models to look up to.
What was the Bunchy Carter (a BPP member) and the US Organization dispute really about, and what was the outcome?
Bunchy Carter was the leader of the Los Angeles branch of the Black Panthers Party. In early 1968, he initiated a series of programs meant to improve living conditions in South Central. Among the initiatives was one called the Breakfast for Child program that served free breakfast to young children in the area. The program appeared to mock the US government as it claimed to feed hungry children when the government, despite having more resources, was allowing them to starve. For the US government, the program was seen as a place where young children were brainwashed into adopting the radical black ideology fronted by the Panthers. The disagreement between Carter and the government resulted in most of the children who benefited from the program later joining the Bloods and Crips gangs.
Effects of the Vietnam War on the Black urban community and BUSSGs
When the Vietnam War escalated, the US government failed to realize the racial nightmare that Americas involvement in the conflict would create. The war coincided with protests orchestrated by the Civil Rights Movement as well as the rise of Black Power in the 1960s. Blacks were being discriminated both at home and in the US military. However, the effects of the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power had been transferred to the war zone. Amidst rising tensions, African American soldiers embraced Black Power, both culturally and politically. It is evident that participation in the Vietnam War reinforced black consciousness. It went a long way in politicizing African Americans as it showed them the paradox of fighting for democracy in a foreign land when it was absent at home.
Effects of the Watts Urban Uprising on the Black urban community and BUSSGs
Following the Watts Riots of August 1965, the mass exodus of white people left most areas of south Los Angeles inhabited mainly by blacks. Since there no more white gangs to fight, some of the black gangs briefly fought each other. However, gang animosity virtually ended during this period as it marked the advent of the Civil Rights Movement. Most gang members became involved in the movement, joining organizations such as the Black Panther Movement.
Effects of the Rodney King Riots on the Black urban community and BUSSGs
On March 3, 1991, LAPD police officers were caught on camera brutally assaulting an African American motorist called Rodney King. The incident triggered riots in Los Angeles that left 53 people dead and caused damage worth more than $ 1 billion. Although a tragic, it was a case of black people speaking against oppression and being downtrodden for so long. The incidence also led to the perception that the only way issues facing blacks could be heard was through extreme acts such as riots.
The role of the media in escalating the rhetoric between the BUSSGs
Most of the media coverage of the Black Urban Social Street Groups depicts them as drugs and armed dealers, pimps and criminal gang members with a long history of murder, violence, and other serious felonies. This can be compared with how they report racial protests whereby single individuals with a criminal background altercate with law enforcement officers. When such a comparison is done, the media appears as if it is trying to stir more racism as opposed to covering criminal actions committed by gangs with long histories of crime.
What were the urban economic changes (mid 1970s to early 1980s) that affected BUSSGs and the LA urban community?
A number of urban economic changes that took place in Los Angeles between the mid-1970s and early 1980s affected the African American community significantly. Following the Watt Riots, California Governor Pat Brown formed the McCone Commission to look into the matter. The commission concluded that the main causes of the riots were high levels of unemployment and poor living conditions for blacks in the area. Despite these issues being highlighted, not much was done in terms of policy improvements that would change the economic conditions of black residents. Also, many of the promises made during the civil rights era of the 1960s as well as the Tom Bradley era of the 1970s and 1980s were not fulfilled. South Central was plagued by an unemployment rate as high as 25% couple with drug addiction and alcoholism at disturbing levels. The government was only making false commitments towards helping African Americans in Los Angeles.
What was significant about the mid-1980s prison construction boom in terms of its impact on Black community residents?
The rapid growth of the United States prison population, which started in the early 1980s, had a major effect on the African American community. At the time, there was a huge earnings gap between black men and their white counterparts. The average African American laborer was earning about a third less than the white worker, despite them having similar experience. However, the reported earnings among blacks did not put into consideration the different trends of imprisonment and employment. In addition to skewing labor market statistics, these trends hide the incapacitating economic consequences of mass incarceration of black men in the 1980s.
The number of people who are incarcerated in the United States has more than doubled in since the 1980s. Despite this large number including all ethnic and racial groups, it had disproportionate effect on black men. During the 1980s, about a third of African American males aged between 20 and 34 years who dropped from high school lived in prisons or jails. In Los Angeles, it would fair to state that the incarcerated fraction for this age group exceed the employment rate. The high number of imprisoned men adversely affected economics within the black communities. Most of them were breadwinners of their families before they landed in jail, meaning that their dependents on the outside had no source of income.
Witherspoon, D. (2013). Bastards of the Party directed by Cle" Bone" Sloan. Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 43(1), 74-77.
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