*** This is the introduction for my module at the “LET US MAKE MAN” Conference in Columbus, GA at Columbus State University on April 20th, 2013. This year, I will be speaking on “Gangs, Cliques, and Crews: The Misguided Spirit of Our Young Warriors”. This module is needed because today, in the state of Georgia and other non-historically gang filled areas we are beginning to see an influx of gang-related criminal activity. Please enjoy this teaser and register for the conference at http://www.LetUsMakeMan.net ***

In today’s American society street gangs are generally referenced in news stories and political rhetoric as problematic and violent criminal entities that terrorize peaceful citizens. However, historically speaking, gangs and youth clubs were not always synonymous with crime and violence. History shows that gangs and youth clubs in Black communities and other communities of color developed as a means for youth to protect themselves from racist European-descended mobs that frequently attacked Black people and other non-Europeans during the time in America’s history known as “The Great Migration”. During this time, Black people, generally from the south U.S. migrated north and west to seek jobs in urban factories and to escape Jim Crow racism in the south. So what transformed gangs into criminal organizations?

Some argue that the explosion of the availability of cheap crack cocaine contributed to the decline of moral values in street gangs. Others believe that in time, without adequate access to society and a means of supporting themselves, along with increasing isolation from older generations, created the conditions for gangs to endeavor into crime. During the 1960’s there were attempts made by organization like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the US Organization to recruit gang members. This was to politicize their young rage, refocus the energy of gang members towards positive community-building work, and incorporate the entire community. Due to the federal government interference of COINTELPRO these political organizations were destroyed and these young people, again, found themselves isolated and disconnected from their communities.

The 1970’s brought a new street culture that was glamourized in movies and music. This street culture included a hyper-masculine persona that would characterize gang membership from that point on. During this time, it was about making a name for themselves. Youth had to prove they were good at fighting or sports, as well as skilled at attracting women and hustling. Many of the original founders of some of America’s largest nationwide street gangs built their reputation on fighting ability or

We must examine our history, both the beautiful and the ugly, in order to prescribe a solution to the alarming rate of young Black people dying because of gang violence. It is not sufficient to simply increase police presence and put these young people in prison. Prison only contributes to the expansion of gangs and the diffusion of criminal influence to younger generations. Our communities can no longer declare war on our young women and men. We must explore strategies to transform this youth energy from destructive to constructive for our communities. This module is a guide to creating some of these strategies.

In today’s American society street gangs are generally referenced in news stories and political rhetoric as problematic and violent criminal entities that terrorize peaceful citizens. However, historically speaking, gangs and youth clubs were not originally synonymous with crime and violence. History shows that gangs and youth clubs in Black communities and other communities of color developed for youth to protect themselves from racist European-descended mobs frequently attacked Black people and other non-Europeans during the time in America’s history known as “The Great Migration”. During this time, Black people, generally from the south U.S. migrated north and west to seek jobs in urban factories and to escape Jim Crow racism in the south. So what transformed gangs into criminal organizations?

Some argue that the explosion of the availability of cheap crack cocaine contributed to the decline of moral values in street gangs. Others believe that in time, without adequate access to society and a means of supporting one’s self, along with increasing isolation from older generations, created the conditions for gangs to endeavor into crime. During the 1960’s there were attempts made by organization like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the US Organization to recruit gang members. This was to politicize their young rage, refocus the energy of gang members towards positive community-building work, and incorporate the entire community. Due to federal government interference from COINTELPRO these political organizations were destroyed and these young people, again, found themselves isolated and disconnected from their communities.

The 1970’s brought a new street culture that was glamourized in movies. This street culture included a hyper-masculine persona that would characterize gang membership from that point on. During this time, it was about making a name for one’s self. Youth had to prove they were good at fighting or sports, as well as skilled at attracting women and hustling. Many of the original founders of some of America’s largest nationwide street gangs built their reputation of fighting ability or

We must examine our history, both the beautiful and the ugly, in order to prescribe a solution the alarming rate of young Black people dying because of gang violence. It is not sufficient to simply increase police presence and put these young people in prison. Prison only contributes to the expansion of gangs and the diffusion of criminal influence to younger generations. Our communities can no longer declare war on our young women and men. We must explore strategies to transform this youth energy from destructive to constructive for our communities. This module is a guide to creating some of these strategies.

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