When you watch fictional television shows, watch fictional movies, read fictional stories about gangs you almost always see the leader of the gang as the main antagonist. He’s fearless, dangerous, violent and possibly a little bit of a sociopath. In fiction, gangs are drawn up as a group that came together to commit crimes and other rebellious acts as they refuse to conform to normal society. The stories are action packed with blood and criminality. Often the gangs in these stories fight with the police and wise off in court. As you watch you shake your head about how evil they are, but you keep watching and stuffing that popcorn in your face. Many people love gangbanging films and books, I myself am a fan as I grew up watching Colors and Blood in Blood Out just to name some. You may be snickering to yourself so far as you have read this article as it all sounds cheesy and silly about these villains wearing colors and flashing their symbols, but these fictional movies and books have painted a picture of gangs for generations.
When you turn on the television or check news feeds from media outlets around the country you hear or read the same stories of drugs, violence and intimidation from gangs. You see hard looking gang members posing for mug shots with facial tattoos as you think to yourself you wouldn’t want to run into that individual in a dark alley. You read heartbreaking stories of little boys and girls mowed down by gun fire as neighbors tell the press how sad it is because the parents are too agonized to speak to the media.
Many people around the country waited breathlessly for the final verdicts on the leadership of the biggest gangs in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s as RICO type indictments were handed down from anything from fraud to conspiracy murder charges. Law enforcement held so many press conferences during the 80s and 90s talking about how these criminal groups would be brought to justice as much of the middle class wanted to feel safer knowing these big-time gangsters were going to be locked up. Many of you are also puzzled that locking up the big gang guys didn’t cut off the head of the snake like it was believed to do, instead the snake grew many heads and mutated into an uncontrollable force. Many are left with the question of why locking up leadership of the big gangs like the Gangster Disciples, Black P stones, Latin Kings etc…didn’t do anything to stop gang violence, instead it made it worse.
I am hoping from this piece I can give you not only a better understanding of why those FBI driven busts didn’t work but also what these gangs really were based upon. You can read through each of my pages on the individual gangs’ histories, but you may not grasp the entire concept and that’s what this piece is meant for. I do not promote gang violence or criminal behavior and I am not here to excuse behavior like many groups have tried to advocate for years. I am only here to provide an understanding of what these groups were truly built upon. My info comes from the streets with very little from books. If I take anything from the books it is from authors that got their info from the streets. I take very little to nothing for this piece from law enforcement or Chicago Crime Commission reports as those are extremely disconnected from the real intentions of the gangs’ start up.
During my time researching Chicago gangs I have had the pleasure of interviewing founders, co-founders and original members of these gangs. I have met many good people and have been surprised over time to find out how decent many people are that I talk to even if they have a criminal record, even if they killed anyone in some cases. I talked to the founders and originals that started gangs in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and I often keep getting cycled back to the same theme over again. I interviewed men and women from all different groups in all different neighborhoods and I still get very strikingly similar reasons for the startup of these gangs and I have been taken back by it over the years. This understanding I developed was far beyond what I expected. To further validate these stories, I heard from other original members after that initial interview and other people in the community that knew these gangs and they all remarkably validated what the originals and founders said, is has been nothing short of incredible.
The cynical views, and differing life styles
People make assumptions on the gangs of Chicago and much of that assumption is based upon what they see in recent decades with gangs. There is a much deeper story than what is displayed in fiction, the news media and law enforcement. The common theme I often would hear about in the founding stories is just kids trying to hang out. Yes, it is that simple, it almost always started with kids hanging out in a neighborhood within a concrete jungle just looking to get through daily life. You might be puzzled by this and for sure I will expand on this for your better understanding.
You may have always heard that saying growing up spewed by older people telling you, “only cowards (wimps) join gangs!” People have been saying this for many generations, but it is a horribly generalized saying that doesn’t cover the main group of men and/or women that make up the main representation of the organization. I do agree that there are many that join gangs because they are cowards and/or wimps but these individuals do not make up the main nucleus of the gang, or at least I am speaking about the past, I can’t talk about the current structure so much. In the past decades the nucleus of the gang was fearless, tough, sometimes crazy and honorable. These were warriors, real men and women that could stand on their own if they needed to. Their combined honor is what made these organizations flourish like they did and made so many generations look up to the main foundations, although as the later generations came in the less connected they became to the foundation, hence, why the violence and criminality got worse over time.
Living in the city can sometimes be rough living, especially for the kids. When there are gangs or racial hate developing in a neighborhood it can make growing up very rough and complicate everyday life. An individual youth can be bullied by groups and shoved around a little, but the consequences often have been much harsher for groups of youths. Groups of youths often get targeted more intensely than individuals. I am not saying all groups of youths would be preyed upon, mainly youths gathering that engage in certain activities often became bigger targets for attacks from other groups.
As I expand on this, let us revert to that old saying, “Only cowards (wimps) join gangs.” We all know what this means, and it is a generalization that ALL gangs members are weak when not in numbers. This statement insinuates that members of the gang were perhaps cowardly and/or frail youths before they joined the gang and/or created the gang. This old saying goes hand in hand with the saying that “strength is greater in numbers.” Let’s examine many of the individuals that have said that saying that only wimps join gangs. We have heard it from our parents, grandparents, police officers, teachers just to name some or perhaps the crabby older people living down the block may have said it. The individuals that often have said it are often straight edge working class or middle-class individuals that were never involved in gangs and only know people that were involved. These individuals flew a straight path from the start or perhaps some were bad kids that straightened out, but you seldom hear this saying coming from former gang members and if you do, it is from someone that had minimal involvement in that gang life. For the most part this saying is heard from harsh authoritarian types that often may have cynical views and are dismissive of any sociological issues in society that can drive gangs to form.
Since much of the populace of people that believe only wimps and cowards join or start gangs often come from a lifestyle far removed from gangs, they often were the school mates of individuals they knew that were members of gangs and they perhaps developed a negative outlook of the gang life due to the actions of certain less desirable people in gangs. We all know there are some very undesirable individuals in gangs but what must be understood, at least in Chicago, the main founders and original members were very often not part of that undesirable population of sociopathic gang members. Often these same cynical individuals that will preach to you that gangs are for cowards often boast of their stories growing up without joining a gang and stories of bravado standing up to gang members that bullied them. Although some of those stories are fabricated sometimes, they are accurate; however, there is more to that story they don’t tell you. Many of times they stand up to a neighborhood bigshot gang member and the gang member does nothing to them, making this individual feel empowered; however, gang members often had rules to live by back then not to harm regular citizens, not only that they had to watch out for baiting as some people in the neighborhood would want to test the gang members and get them mad and act out. The Chicago Outfit which has had a very strong influence over Chicago street gangs had inadvertently taught these gang members to sometimes let things go. If someone gets in your face or tries to start trouble it might be best to walk away so the gang member is not taking someone’s bait. They are taught to deal with many issues later when the situation is discreet. Perhaps your uncle told you he stood up to a big time gang member and seemingly punked him out in front of the whole block but what he didn’t tell you is three nights later that gang member cornered him when he was alone with no witnesses and either scared the hell out of him or wailed on him something fierce. Real gangsters will handle issues when they need to only and real gangsters will get their payback when the time is right, he will have patience and stretch it on for days, months, or in some cases years but will get his reprisal.
Another aspect to cover is the lifestyle differences between the gang founders and the individual that insinuates that all gang members are cowards. Many times, the cynical one led a life of academics, playing some sports, often only hung with a few friends at most and many were not big into partying. The cynical ones often went down totally different paths than the gang founders and I often have talked to people with this view that seem very far removed from the gangs to the point where they barely know the gang members and only knew the gangs by seeing their faces in the neighborhood or keeping their ears to gossip in the neighborhood and in the school yard. This does not account for all the cynical types; some were partiers and had many friends, but they often dodged one key element and that’s a thing called jealousy.
Gangs often love partying, women, drinking and in the past years they loved playing sports. Sports rivalries heated up into gang like behavior. Gangs had always wanted to have the best women in their corner and loved to be involved in or throw the best parties. White gangs had all these agendas, but they also had another agenda many times and that was to keep their neighborhood over 95% white. Regardless of whether the existing gangs in each neighborhood only engaged in partying agendas or racial agendas, almost all the gangs engaged in bullying behavior of neighborhood youths. During my research I had learned of some bullying against individuals in neighborhoods, but the stories seldom seemed severe. The most severe case I would learn about through interviews were bullying acts against groups of youths instead of more against individuals.
In the Chicago neighborhoods of the past, groups of youths would gather to engage in rather harmless behavior. Some youths would gather to play sports and form S.A.Cs (social athletic clubs) registered with the city or just have underground sports teams. Kids loved sports back then more than they seemingly do these days. It was a passion, and after the game was over, they struck about the neighborhood frequenting the local drive ins, restaurants, parks and recreational areas. During their excursions in the neighborhood the team would often attract attention from the neighborhood girls. The girls would also hang around the ball fields and watch the boys in action, and as we know sometimes women love a man in uniform especially when he is athletic and playing like a champion. Soon the girls wanted to be a part of the team and clung to them and perhaps dated some of the boys. Some of the teams loved drinking and threw fun parties in the city parks or in basements of homes or in rented club houses. The word soon spread that certain S.A.C clubs had the best parties and attracted the best girls and soon their following would grow.
Some boys came together not based on sports, sometimes it was just about the partying. When you have five to ten boys gathering in a group with like mindedness it can be a recipe for fun especially if they love drinking and partying. Even if they weren’t drinkers if they drew the girls to hang out with them it got them attention from the neighborhood and made others want to hang out with them.
Some youths were loners and didn’t really have friends while others chose to just have one or two friends. These individuals often would not be noticed by much of the school or the girls and especially not the neighborhood gangs. Many of the loners and quiet ones sometimes grew up to be those cynical harsh types that would tell you that gangs are for wimps. Some may have been jealous of the gangs’ charisma and felt left out, some were turned down for membership while others got picked on by gangs. Some just developed cynical views based upon watching the violence in the neighborhood and becoming upset from it. No matter what the reason these individuals were often far removed from the lifestyle of the gangs as anytime I would talk to them, they seemed very removed as their stories didn’t match gang member stories and people that were on good terms with gangs. Their stories often seemed isolated and overly cynical with not much detail.
The creation of the gang
In recent months I have learned about how the youths lived on the streets of Chicago before the 1980s. In these communities that had gang activity there happened to be a lifestyle of latchkey children that often would separate from their homes at a very young age. Some children belonged to European, Hispanic or black southerner families where their parents had to leave school and provide for the family at a young age; therefore, they found it normal when their children, growing up Chicago, engaged in the same behavior. Not only did this effect families that migrated to Chicago, Chicago native families also had this same lifestyle where children as young as ten or eleven years old began leading their own lives outside the home and would often venture out for days or weeks without even making a phone call home. Children on the streets of Chicago often roamed the streets day and night with other youths and sought shelter in attics, club houses and sometimes teen age children would have their own rented apartments. In these older times children often grew up fast and in some cases a fifteen year old would have his own apartment, be married and have a child on the way. Attending school was also optional in these times as truancy laws were either non-existent or were seldom enforced. Children also had the option to remove their enrollment in school in these early times allowing them more time on the streets. This is how the original gang founders often grew up roaming the streets day and night partaking in mischief and eventually forming gangs for protection.
Regardless of if these groups of youths were coming together for partying, recreational activities, sports or whatever the reason if they developed any kind of following or attracted attention the neighborhood gangs would notice. In many cases gangs would approach S.A.Cs and cliques and hang out with them especially if the group was into partying and especially if they had girls to introduce the gang members to. After some time of hanging out the group of boys would end up getting roped into gang violence from rival gangs that often marked them as possible members of the gang the group was hanging out with which would draw them more into a decision to join the friendly gang. In other cases, the group would just become so close to the gang they would just all join the gang. These are examples of friendly and mutual scenarios in the neighborhood.
In other cases some S.A.Cs and cliques of boys had no interest in the neighborhood gangs either because they did not like any of them or just didn’t want to be part of someone else’s organization. These groups had their own agenda entirely and didn’t accept outsiders changing the way they did things. When gangs approached them for membership or bothered them, they stood up to the gangs and told them no way. These groups of youths often became some of the most popular and perhaps lured some of the best-looking girls and were a lot of fun. For the most part these groups were courageous young men that had honor and respect. Many times, in interviews I learned these young men were law abiding and even respectful to the elderly and female residents in the community, the makings of admirable men that just so happened to have a wild side too. These boys were not saints in any regard, they committed some petty crimes and drank underage or smoked some marijuana but overall they were decent kids and had the potential to be great street warriors, hence, why the gangs would sometimes want their whole crew to assimilate into the gang. Gangs often end up with pillaging mentality where they want to move in on something they value as a commodity, this is common gang behavior. In recent decades that often involves material possessions such as money, jewelry or expensive items, in these earlier years it involved popularity, women and territory. The gangs wanted what these cliques had, their girls, their parties, their friends and became jealous when they were denied these things.
It would often start off with a confrontation from the neighborhood gang. Perhaps a gang member would heckle a member of an independent clique causing a fight to happen. Perhaps it would involve an intense standoff with a gang as they formally confronted the crew and demanded they accept membership or be destroyed. Whatever the case is, it always started with confrontation from another group. It could be a confrontation from a gang or a confrontation with a racist group. In either case a group of individuals would begin threatening or engage in violent behavior against the clique or against certain members of the clique. This would begin an overall conflict between the gang and the clique. Soon heavy drama would ensue, and the clique would fight against the gang the best they could, but they were not as prepared for war as the gang was. The gang was already equipped with war strategy, weapons and urban warfare tactics that they learned from experience. Another factor was that the clique just would want the problems to go away which had them keep a defensive stance to only fight when provoked. Some cliques would just choose to run away especially if they were only pre-teen age. Some of the more developed gangs in the neighborhood that had been around awhile had some rather sociopathic members that were willing to go to great lengths to harm the clique, this would further try to keep the clique from engaging in highly offensive attacks against the gang. Suddenly hanging out with your friends and being popular became a dangerous game with dire consequences.
An individual youth or even a pair of youths can have a choice to not be part of a gang without suffering much consequence. In some rare cases some individual youths had been beaten or shot for not joining a gang but many times it is because that individual engaged in other actions that aroused anger in the gang. The cynical ones will tell you, you can grow up in the city without a gang and in a sense they are correct but not if you want to be part of a larger group of friends and engage in the same activities the gangs enjoy too. In these earlier years, gangs loved to play sports and party and we all know many of us out there grew up loving to party. What then becomes the solution to avoid this type of jealousy from gangs? You will need to not be part of a clique and stand out. It would be best to abstain from alcohol and marijuana use in groups and best to not get the attention of too many girls. Doesn’t sound very fair does it? That is almost like living under a regime. Why should playing sports with your friends while also becoming popular and adored from it be a problem? The varsity teams had protection from the schools, police and public officials so gangs couldn’t mess with them much but for the kids that didn’t make the team or didn’t want to be on the team they suffered consequences when being part of a successful S.A.C. These kids were on their own in the streets trying to get by and keeping their inner circle small and they often paid dearly for it. The cynical ones will tell you being in a gang is not necessary but when groups are targeted by other groups and are pursued relentlessly, what becomes the solution? Call the police? Such an action would make matters worse as the whole community would consider that group cowards that hide behind the police and the gang will surely want more reprisal. These are the hard streets of Chicago not some swanky suburb where you can call the cops if a group of kids won’t leave you alone and they will stop. In the city these groups will not fear having the police put on them and/or already have side deals with the cops and will deal with incarceration if needed and they will still get their revenge for tattle tales even if they face more legal consequences, sometimes getting even is all worth it. The question then becomes what do you do to fight back against such an enemy? Disband your group and live like a loner? That is foolish to walk away from your friends just because some other group of guys can’t stand your group’s charisma. Keep in mind also we are talking about cliques with courage, charisma and honor that will not back down, the same features that rival gang once had or still has in their inner circle, the heart of the street warrior is the same on both sides.
The solution becomes clear, it becomes time to fight back against the enemy not to bow down. Some of these cliques hold off for a few years from resorting to starting their own gang as others may need to put it together quicker depending on how badly they become terrorized. It starts with a sit down in a park, a basement, an alleyway or even a bowling alley. It becomes time to draw up a name, colors, symbols and to map out how to organize their new group. Homemade blades are made resembling prison shanks. Baseball bats, pipes and bottles are gathered in an organized fashion. Empty beer bottles are filled with gasoline with a rag stuffed into the top to make Molotov cocktails. Pipe bombs and other explosives are assembled, and the quantity is negotiated as members are ordered individually to gather the materials. Materials are stolen from grocery stores to assemble more weapons and certain refuse dumps are broken into to gather more weapon making materials. Makeshift shotguns are assembled using crude material. A few homes of known gun owners are burglarized to obtain pistols, revolvers and rifles for if things get too intense. One of the member’s older brother that just got back from the military is consulted to advise on tactical warfare strategy. Homemade maps are drawn with alleyways marked and rival gang haunts are marked. Strategies are drawn for guerrilla warfare style tactics through gangways and alleyways as each member is assigned a different role of attacks. Rules are drawn up to regulate gang member behavior and conduct to assure symmetrical operation. An action plan is created to raise funding through organized theft of hub caps, hood ornaments, mugging or all out auto theft to pay for defenses and possibly incarceration. Roles are assigned to each member including the election of the most organized, intelligent individual to lead the group.
For a short period of time the new gang leaves the spotlight as they remain in hideouts and/or scattered in their separate homes as the rival gang begins to believe they have defeated the clique and forced them into remission. Perhaps the new gang members even become truant in school to craft an illusion of defeat. The clique seems to disappear from the area as they equip themselves for war. One night as the rival gang engages in sloppy drunken behavior and relaxes in their hangout area, they are suddenly overwhelmed by attacks from an unknown group spewing from the alleyways and up the street. Sudden swift beatings occur in multiple areas within an organized radius, an explosion pierces the air as a gang members’ car is suddenly engulfed in flames. Some gang members choose to run but find there are two or three rivals waiting in the alleyways expecting their sudden departure as the fleeing ones are met with baseball bats and knife piercings. The gang is caught off guard and overwhelmed suddenly as terror invades their psyche as they are at the mercy of this attacking group to please stop this sudden violent attack. Trapped in the alleyways, trapped in the gangways there is no way out as they scream for re-enforcements. As the re-enforcements storm down the block to back up their attacked friends there is the sudden cry out from a youth on a high roof alerting his fellow new gang members that help has arrived as another group hiding in the alleyways begins pelting the backup with rocks and bottles slowing them down in time for the others to escape from their guerilla attack. After the new gang flees the scene as the sirens wail in the distance they laugh and giggle about how hard they just hit their enemy. Through heavy breaths as they take a break from fleeing five blocks away, they high five and laugh joyously about how such a tactic worked so well. Energies are high as they drink to their success and make light of the terror on their enemy’s faces and the fearful remarks some made while in submission. They bond, they drink they develop such an unbroken unity as they party the night away. They become uplifted and grow a stronger friendship as they worked together as brothers to defeat a larger enemy. Further satisfaction comes in the following days as they hear the gossip of police arresting their defeated foes instead of them. They glow when they hear rumor the rival gang thought they were attacked by thirty men when they were only attacked by seven as three others stood watch. This is the creation of the Chicago street gang, built upon honor, respect and loyalty as they fight alongside one another and become willing to die for one another. The bond of the inner circle of founders and originals of the most honorable street warriors you can find. They used tactics and their brains as they took on triple their numbers by hitting their enemy with psychological urban warfare.
As you can see, the new gang is not career criminals coming together. These are kids that played baseball, football, basketball together. These are boys that hung out in the neighborhood drinking together and chasing girls like so many boys love to do. The normal consequences boys usually face for this behavior in usually an alcohol arrest with a ticket but in the hard knock streets of Chicago the consequence is greater when groups must learn to fight for their right to exist and gather as a group. You may remember that Beastie Boys song You gotta Fight for your right to party, well this is very true for these cliques of boys that just want to hang out together. It was a sad phenomenon that boys couldn’t just be in peace, especially well-mannered young men. The vast majority of our major street gangs we see today all have this same story in their beginning.
The saddest of stories were the gangs created based upon racial ridicule and second-class treatment. Some of the gangs that would later develop to be predatory in later years started off as groups of Hispanic or black boys that just wanted to get around the neighborhood. These boys just wanted to swim in the pool, get on a school bus, go to school in general, go to the park, stay in the park or go to the grocery store to fulfill the small grocery list their mothers gave them. In racially changing neighborhoods boys were beaten and tormented often by white gangs. All major Hispanic and black gangs we know today all began in racially changing neighborhoods whether you are speaking of Mickey Cobras, Black P Stones, Latin Counts, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples (The Disciple part of their history) or Latin Kings and some of the roots of the Vice Lords. These groups started out as Hispanic or black kids just trying to use the same resources in the community as white kids but were the victims of repeated attacks as they attempted to do so over time. Sadly, as these larger groups first got bigger, they began to prey upon smaller groups of black or Hispanic youths, thus, causing new major gangs to form in defense. Many of the earliest and larger Hispanic and black gangs developed revolutionary views and forming these large gangs was a way of gaining power for Hispanic and black youths that suffered collective low self-esteem due to racial inequalities. Although these organizations would later evolve into criminal syndicates, they were never founded upon those principles at all.
The foundation: not what you may think
Something what truly shocked me when I began learning about the true histories of these major gangs in Chicago was that the founders and many of the original members had never done time in the prison system. Many just had multiple misdemeanor charges over time for behavior that is equal to that of a small-time crook. Founders often don’t have criminal records for conspiracy, murder, drug trafficking or any higher profile crimes. The worst offenses I came across with founders were the actions of Larry Hoover, the founder of the Gangster Disciples. It is important to understand what Larry Hoover is really charged with. True, Larry arranged for a man to be killed over drugs in 1973 but his other Rico type crimes that came in later years don’t even match up with the concepts he was attempting to create in his later decades. Some of his inner circle was engaging in higher profile crimes and much of the leadership of the Gangster Disciples downward was also engaging in such crimes, many of these individuals had never even met Larry Hoover or were any of Larry’s closest companions yet Larry was charged with all those crimes those other men committed rolled into a large Rico act package put together by the FBI and handed down by the courts as they decided to put a man away in an inhumane supermax facility for the rest of his life. It didn’t matter if Larry had no knowledge of such crimes it was the fact that he was the leader of the nation which automatically got him a conviction for these crimes he would otherwise either condemn or want no part of. A similar situation happened to Jeff Fort, former leader of the El Rukns and leader of the Black P Stones. Many times, Jeff Fort was incarcerated on charges he had nothing to with in the later 1960s and early 1970s, mostly for murder. The big one came in 1972 when he was finally convicted of a crime committed while he was locked up in jail in 1967 for a fraud done within his organization on the streets. He also happened to be in jail at the time for a murder he was later found not guilty of. Basically, a man was convicted of a crime he couldn’t commit because he was locked up for a crime he didn’t commit, let that sink in. He was then convicted on cocaine trafficking charges in 1984 for an endeavor that parts of his organization were involved in that Jeff wanted no part of beside a payment envelop here and there. While he sat in prison for that crime he was convicted of another crime committed in 1986 for engaging in conspiracy with an enemy of the United States of America even though there was not substantial evidence to convict him in a normal court of law; however, since it was classified as a terrorist act and he was classified as a terrorist his rights to a proper trial were stripped allowing the prosecution to have an unfair advantage in his trial. I have more information on all this on my Black P Stone page.
The Chicago Crime Commission gang books that are released every few years have also been controversial as men that have their mug shots featured in that book have come forward saying they have been retired for years and there hasn’t been any criminal records on them in decades. Not only are there false claims on leadership there are some men in those books that were later confirmed to be deceased for years yet listed as active leaders. Some of the men in those books were indeed founders and/or original members but never got involved in any major operations in later years that the gang later became involved in. It is often very rare for founders to get involved in high profile crimes and syndicate activity and usually if an original member does he is usually the only one from the original circle that got involved in Rico type acts yet in the eyes of the public the entire original crew was the ones that invented this behavior instead of isolating one individual that fell in love with making money. Even if an original became a syndicate type member he usually is not at the top of the totem pole for the syndicate operations and instead assumes a lower management level role in the gang’s operations mainly because the older generations are concerned about being victims of Rico indictments.
In fiction the founder/leader of the gang is always the big shot money maker and a heartless dictator syndicate kingpin but in the real-life streets of Chicago he is a respective kingpin benefitting his friends and the community. Many of these founders are found among regular classes of people that work hard for a living or perhaps are living off retirement from their former jobs while many battle health problems. COVID-19 ended up even killing some original members of gangs or older generation members. These are not men you should fear living next to and are very disconnected with the younger generations, in fact, many younger generations often don’t even know if these men are alive or dead.
Some of the gangs had a circle of equal founders that all seemed to simultaneously come up with the gang’s early structure. In other groups there was an early defined leader that directed the creation who becomes the overall founder of the organization. I have learned over time that when there is a founder, he is an individual with special traits that makes him stand out. Being tough and fearless is only a part of what makes a great founder. The most important feature a founder has is a good mind, a certain level of maturity and of course he is charismatic. When I have spoken to founders or heard the stories of how they were from people close to them I gather an advanced level of intelligence. Even if these men are not the best educated their innate intellect is still there and undeniable.
One of the founders I had the pleasure of speaking to the most was “Puncher” of the Ashland Vikings. The Ashland Vikings were a smaller outfit and began gangbanging in the year 1967. At the time of this article here in 2021 the Ashland Vikings are still in existence as generation after generation joined their ranks. When I learned the history of the Vikings from Puncher it made me realize more and more just how the Vikings got to the point of popularity to remain one of the permanent fixtures of Chicago gangland and it all starts with a well-crafted founding. Just like most founders Puncher had never been to prison mainly because he was smart and knew how to avoid such consequences, of course, not at the expense of others. Puncher was never an unjust tyrant syndicate leader but instead a leader among his friends as they just tried to get by as kids. Originally Puncher and his friends were Puerto Rican boys with a few white kids that liked to play Football at Ashland and Walton in the 1960s. They played Football as Puerto Rican migration was going on all around them in the East Village community. Puncher himself was part of a very early Puerto Rican migration wave that arrived in East Village in about 1957. He soon found a clique of friends by 1963 as they all organized themselves to play Football. These were good kids and were not law breakers or criminals when they came together. These boys were all around Puncher’s age of 11-12 years old. By 1965 the boys were close to high school age and decided to do what so many groups of kids did in Chicago, form a sports team. The Ashland Vikings Football team was created in 1965. After two years of partying and playing Football in the community while avoiding any connection with the local gangs, misfortune began to come upon them. I even asked Puncher about the Harrison Gents, P.V.Ps and Latin Kings between the years of 1963 to 1967 and he didn’t really know much showing how disconnected he was from gang life before starting the Ashland Vikings gang. He missed the migration of the Harrison Gents in 1964, he missed the formation of the Latin Kings in 1964 and he missed the formation of P.V.P in that same year because him and his friends just wanted to play Football. He only recalled witnessing a vicious gang fight in the neighborhood between the Latin Kings and Harrison Gents in 1965. He didn’t get more background of the previous years until he started the gang.
The Ashland Vikings Football team started to throw good parties in high school in the mid-60s and attracted girls. The only crime they were guilty of was underage drinking. As they gained popularity and more girls the neighborhood Latin Kings noticed and didn’t like it and started giving them a hard time. The P.V.Ps in the area also began picking on them as P.V.Ps didn’t like when groups of Hispanic kids would gather as they were known to be a white group that wasn’t always friendly to minority groups. Eventually the Vikings Football team was being chased up and down Ashland Avenue by the P.V.Ps and Latin Kings making for some really bad days for these kids. Puncher said all they could do was run away until one day he said, “why are we running?” At that moment he decided to convert their Football team into a street gang. Him and his friends didn’t want to do it, but they had no other choice. What would be the other choice? Break up their crew and become loners? This is not an option for youths that came together and grew to deeply respect each other as brothers. They now had to protect each other, and it turned out they discovered they were real street warriors. In 1967, they came out with black and green sweaters as they hit their enemies hard like the Gaylords, P.V.Ps, C-Notes and Latin Kings. The Ashland Vikings gained the respect of the Harrison Gents and they became brothers by 1968. Some of the rival Latin Kings respected the Vikings and even flipped to become Vikings, making some of the truest Vikings. The Vikings gained a lot of respect as they remained rather small in numbers as their recruitment was selective. The Vikings operated in small units and engaged in Gorilla style warfare to hit their enemies hard even the much older and dangerous Gaylords that were known for murdering enemies then tying them to their cars and dragging the dead bodies through the neighborhood for fun.
When I spoke to Puncher, I could see why the Vikings were brought up on such charisma. Puncher is an intelligent and inciteful man. Puncher writes well and even corrected me on some of my type o’s I didn’t notice when I wrote the Ashland Viking history. During his time with the Vikings he attempted to organize very positive activities for the Vikings and their allies like the U.P.C.I which was to be a community organization for Vikings and their allies to help the community. Puncher made sure the Vikings and their allies participated positively and respectfully in the Puerto Rican Day parades while carrying the Puerto Rican flag. When members went to prison it was because of their own side activities as the organization itself was not based upon a major ruthless syndicate operations. After Puncher retired from the organization in 1992 the organization became increasingly violent and a war with longtime friends the Harrison Gents was evidence of that; however, the war was mostly started by the Harrison Gents but the diplomacy between the organizations wasn’t there to help resolve this since Puncher was now retired. The older Harrison Gents had also retired at the same time, proving that younger generations can be wilder and harder to control. Puncher told me at one time there were over 300 Vikings in Chicago and West Town in the 1980s. It was merely impossible to control them all which contributed to those who ended up being bad seeds and needed to be dismissed from the gang. He worked with his inner circle exclusively as these men took care of their community and only worked for the common good. Unfortunately the inner circle did need to engage in violence to defend their community against rivals.
Don’t think I base everything I know about founders on just one man. Take the P.V.Ps as an example which is one of the rivals that caused the Vikings to start up. The P.V.Ps consist of three gangs, the Playboys, Ventures and Pulaski Park. The Playboys are the oldest forming in 1958, the Ventures and Pulaski Park followed starting in 1960. All three gangs formed in the West Town area and all three started because they were bullied by the older gangs in the area like Gaylords, C-Notes and Lazy Gents. The Playboys started as kids just trying to play baseball for fun, law abiding good kids that loved to do what most teens did in the 50s. They loved to visit local hangouts and hung with girls. By the time they reached Wells high school they were bullied right away out of jealously at the start of their freshman year causing them to convert their baseball team into a gang called the Naturals. The Naturals was the name of the baseball team and they tried to use this as the gang name but in order to get support from another group of close friends that weren’t on the team they had to shed the name and create the Playboy’s name. The Ventures and Pulaski Park had the same stories, kids trying to play sports and hang out until they came to Wells High and got bullied by the same gangs. In 1964 all three gangs came together out of hate for the same enemies and formed the Playboys Ventures Pulaski Park alliance.
The other enemies of the Vikings the Latin Kings had a similar founding story to the Vikings as they were once multiple groups or Puerto Rican boys being constantly harassed and bullied by white gangs especially the Gaylords, Playboys and C-Notes. An older Hispanic gang in the area taught them to stand up and created the Latin Kings organization to fight back against this racially driven bullying.
Now let’s go back to 1953. The Gaylords, who did all this bullying against the Latin Kings, Vikings and P.V.Ps also were the victims of bullying by groups like the C-Notes which caused them to convert their S.A.C club called the Gay Lords into the Gay Lords gang (became Gaylords as one word in 1960).
As you can see a group starts off as a group to fend off bullies but as they add new members over time those overzealous newer members start using the organization to bully other groups. It became a domino effect of sorts as one group would cause another group to start up and so on.
As I explored most of the histories of these Chicago gangs, I see a pattern of hate causing groups to form to defend against that hate. In the 1950s gangs formed along racial strife and this was much of the case for 1960s gangs to form. Another reason for 60s gangs forming was when one group would form because of racial issues the next group would form because that group that formed to combat racism got too big and became bullies themselves. In the 1970s gangs formed because these bigger gangs now dominated the neighborhoods. In the 1980s youths tried to create party crews or break-dancing crews so they could gather the positive side of the gangs and reject the negative. The positive parts of the gang life were the parties, girls, cool sweaters and colors. The negative was the violence and drama involved in gang life. Starting in the late 1970s and taking off in the early 80s and into the mid-80s party crews formed to only engage in the party aspect of the gang but soon local gangs became jealous of the following they achieved and the gangs began their attacks and bullying. Many party crews disbanded as many of their members assimilated into gangs and some crews even took their entire crew into the gang. Some party crews dared to stand alone in the 1980s and converted their party crew into a gang. Legendary gangs were born out of party crews like the Party Players, Party People, La Raza, City Knights, Brazers, Insane Majestics, Latin Pachucos, Krazy Get Down Boys and Latin Angels. By the 1990s youths gave up trying to start groups that tried to finagle around getting into gangbanging and if they formed any kind of organization they had to be prepared to gangbang right away, but even then new gangbanging groups were short lived and died out fast. The most successful new gangs of the 1990s formed out of older gangs like Familia Stones and Almighty Popes as examples. By the 1990s only the older gangs could survive as these older groups had developed such a complex mafioso that has always remained impenetrable. Larger gangs from other major cities usually have no issue establishing themselves in cities all over the country but whenever they tried setting up in the city of Chicago, they were largely unsuccessful. Chicago has their own flavor, their own style and neighborhoods and gangs don’t like outsiders coming in and changing things, hence, why gangs from other cities were met with violence.
The reason why the older organizations remain so successful all goes back to the founders as they laid out the foundation for these organizations and showed young men in the neighborhood that often lacked proper male role models how to become men and installed in them loyalty, honor and dignity with a nice little blend of being in slang terms a “bad ass.” Legends of founders and originals involves fighting several men at once successfully. Legends of marching down the block alone to challenge several rivals. Legends of beating up the toughest guys in the neighborhood. Legends of helping an elderly woman carry her groceries into her home. Legends of shoveling snow out of the driveway of the poor single mom that just had the father of her kids walk out on them so he could drink himself to death elsewhere. Legends of keeping people in the community safe from outside invaders. Puncher once told me that many times people on the block would often help gangs evade the police by letting them hide in their homes. This wasn’t done out of fear or control, the people in the community were grateful for the gang’s protection and saw them as neighbors not crooks; therefore, they helped them. In some areas of the city there was neighbors that would help the gangs out of fear but in most north side and many south side communities it was done out of courtesy because they were given the respect from the gangs. Neighborhood support for gangs is very much an underground thing and never makes the news ever. No one will ever admit to assisting gang members to allude the police and fail to call the police etc…you can believe what I write or not but if you talk to the neighborhoods they can verify this happened, this is street knowledge and not published occurrences. The only published incidents you see is the stories of fear where neighbors are too terrified to call the police or become so scared, they help the gangs unwillingly. Please understand that those gang groups those residents fear are not connected to the original foundation directly and are renegade groups out to terrorize the community. There are many situations of neighbors helping the gangs voluntarily. I want to add as well that the gangs wouldn’t often come knocking on the neighbor’s door, the neighbor would see the gang members running and gesture for them to come hide in their house as an offering. The neighbors knew these guys well and knew the crimes they likely committed were gang related issues against bad individuals and didn’t let that reflect their judgement.
In the past decades, heavily gang controlled blocks would often experience less crime from outsiders as far as rapes, break ins, theft and vehicular crimes are concerned. Gangs patrolled the blocks night and day and were a major presence. Gangs in the past years looked at it as disrespect for criminals to come into their territory and commit crimes, especially since the police and some of the community would point the fingers at the gangs as the cause which would be heat the gangs do not need put on them. Once again, this is undocumented behavior and you can choose to believe this or not if you want but you can also choose to talk to people of the neighborhoods and they can often say the same thing as I am. Not everyone is going to back this up and some may have a negative view, but this is what I was told by many sources but am not always at liberty to divulge their personal information. Even if I am not presenting hard evidence of this maybe you as the reader can look at it in a rational way. Think about if you were organizing a street gang, would you want troublemakers coming in from elsewhere and stealing from your neighbors? You would be concerned that if you let that happen the police would blame you. This could lead to increased police patrols and more harassment from the police making the gang’s activities more limited. Also consider, if gang members helped protect your child from being beaten by a rival gang or perhaps protected your property from being stolen would you possibly consider reciprocating by giving them a place to hide when the police were chasing them for committing a crime against another gang? I know some of you would say no way but for many of us it can leave you scratching your head and maybe thinking about if you were there in that neighborhood in the 60s, 70s, 80s or the 90s.
Some gangs had formed in Chicago dealing with racial injustice as movements against white gangs that dominated the neighborhoods. As stated earlier each very old and large Hispanic and black gang begins their story in racially changing communities as they were often the first Hispanic or black residents in these communities during a major migration wave. Before our country was reading about racial justice movements and civil rights marches, the streets of Chicago had their own movement and that was to form these neighborhood clubs to protect each other, a practice that began in 1919 during the race riots. Black men formed small gangs to protect the Bronzeville area from invading white gangs. These gangs didn’t need to get so big and involved because the assault was not happening daily. Once blacks migrated to Englewood, Woodlawn, Hyde Park, Near West Side (In higher numbers) and North Lawndale (In higher numbers) in the 1950s there was much anger from the majority white community that was not documented by newspapers or covered by any media sources. The youths went through the hardest times as they were victimized by white youths in the school yard and on the streets. Black youths felt outnumbered until they finally came together to form movement type organizations to protect each other and move in numbers. They could not represent their groups openly and breathe even one word about their organization or the police and the residents would go crazy over the fact that a black gang was now in their neighborhood. This is how secrecy within the oldest black organizations began. This is also how a new breed of black gangs developed that were much more influential and much more violent than the Bronzeville early gangs before the 1950s. These new groups had to be ruthless in order to survive on these streets, but they were also reclusive and well-guarded or else the community would close in on them. Law enforcement did eventually converge on these groups in 1957-1958 in the North Lawndale and Near West Side communities and on the south side in the early 60s and the results were devastating as reports of extreme police brutality and wrongful convictions happened as police raided suspected gang members and brutalized black teens. The issue on the west side caught the attention of civil rights groups and an investigation was launched by the ACLU and even the FBI after gang members were tortured while in police custody. When these raids happened, these communities had become majority black, now just imagine if the raids happened a few years sooner when the neighborhoods were still majority white it would have been much worse on the black youths and the whole neighborhood would have likely joined in to the point where it would have seemed like the old south. Some of the oldest Chicago gangs began in this time period and even had very early black power stances like Egyptian Cobras (now known as Mickey Cobras), Players (now known as Black P Stones) and Devil’s Disciples (now known as Black Disciples and some Gangster Disciple heritage). The Egyptian Cobras were especially unique as their organization was created with a deep understanding that reflects in the name they chose as they traced black power back to ancient Egypt and the power of the African people. The Players from the south side that would eventually become the Blackstone Raiders in 1955 were likely founded by Joel Smith who is the half-brother of future Black Panther leader Fred Hampton; therefore, the revolutionary mind was within that organization from the start, perhaps Fred Hampton was inspired by the Raiders. This spirit also showed itself by the late 1960s when Black P Stones were involved in the civil rights movement, the root of it all comes from the Players that they were once known as.
Let us look at brief histories of the major Chicago street gangs and you can see the true foundations. You can visit each of my individual gang pages for more of the founding stories but here a brief synopsis of how each gang began and you can see it isn’t what you may have thought before. It is indeed shocking.
14th Street Clovers: Were started in the Near West Side community as a baseball team for black youths. The group soon kept getting into fights with other baseball teams as they also faced discrimination from white groups in the community turning them into a street gang.
Ambrose: Started in either 1953 or 1954 in the Near West Side neighborhood by Italian youths because of problems they had with the dominant gang in the neighborhood the Taylor Street Dukes. The gang eventually became completely Hispanic and they relocated to Pilsen on 18th Street in 1960.
Ashland Vikings: A group of Puerto Rican kids came together in East Village to play football in 1963. By 1965 they formed their own Ashland Vikings football team and became very popular gaining negative attention from Latin Kings and P.V.Ps who began bullying and chasing them around. In 1967 the boys converted the football team into the Ashland Vikings gang to fight back.
Bishops: Were just a baseball team in the 1960s in Pilsen on 18th street until they had too many problems with Ambrose, Latin Kings and the Satan Disciples. Bishops then turned into a street gang in 1970 to defend against the larger gangs.
Black Disciples: Started in the year 1958 simultaneously in the Englewood and Hyde Park neighborhoods due to excessive harassment from white gangs and groups of angry whites. The most notable rivalry was with the Sons of Italy of Englewood that bullied these black youths. Disciples started as a defense against the white gangs.
Black P Stones: Started in possibly 1954 or earlier but for sure by 1955 going by the name of “Players.” The Players were formed in Englewood and Woodlawn to fight back against white gangs and angry whites that were not in favor of black migration to their community. In 1955 the Players failed to continue, and the Junior Players rebranded to become the Blackstone Raiders. By 1959 the organization had new leadership again under Jeff Fort and Eugene Hairston and became the Blackstone Rangers.
Black Souls: Were a roller skating and musical group in the East Garfield Park community. The boys loved to compete at a Near West Side rink and the original boys were musicians including founder Horace Willis. By 1962 Vice Lords bullied the boys excessively prompting them to start their own gang called the Black Souls.
Brazers: Were immigrant South American youths in Pilsen in the 1970s. The boys were bullied for being immigrants and called “Braceros,” slang for immigrant workers that carry money in their pockets, the boys used this name to go by Brazers creating their own gang to defend themselves. The Brazers moved to Uptown in 1980 and became a full-blown street gang.
Bush Nation: This group formed in the 1960s in the South Chicago area after increased Mexican migration to the community caused deeper resentment and discrimination against Mexican people. The Bush Nation stood up to discrimination, police mistreatment and predatory gangs in the area.
City Knights: Were a group of Mexican youths in the early 1980s from the Back of the Yards that created a party crew to avoid gang activity but reap the benefits of gang life. The City Knights continued to find conflict with other party crews and gangs like Latin Kings, Party Players and Saints until they had no choice but to embrace gang life by 1981.
Deacons: This group was assembled the very first year people moved into the Ida B. Wells public housing project in 1941. The projects were heavily protested by the white community in neighboring Oakland. The Deacons came together to police the projects and protect residents. Soon the main issue was other black street gangs causing issues in the area, the Deacons then organized gang fights in the Bronzeville area to keep the streets in line.
Four Corner Hustlers: Were created in 1968 by black youths in the West Garfield Park neighborhood by former Vice Lord gang members but were created for the sole purpose of protecting the “four corners” area of this neighborhood against their former gang they felt was destroying the community. Four Corner Hustlers began as a protection group until their founder was incarcerated for a long period of time.
Gaylords: In 1950 a Gaylords group started in Little Village by young white men in their 20s who were fed up with the arrival of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. In 1953 boys hanging out in East Village/Noble Square later became known as a S.A.C called the Gay Lords who became fed up with being bullied by groups like the C-Notes and converted into a gang in 1958. Both Gaylord groups were white.
Ghetto Brothers Organization/Yates Boys Organization: These were two groups of Puerto Rican boys growing up in the Logan Square community in the late 1960s that found themselves victim to bullying by Gaylords and Imperial Gangsters. Both groups then started their own gangs in 1970 to fight back. By 1977 the groups came together kind of as one group as GBO/YBO until YBO went extinct in 1980. GBO would live on another 10 years until extinction.
Harrison Gents: Consisted of black and Puerto Rican boys from the Near West Side that came together as friends in 1957. The boys prided themselves as being respectful to women as “gentlemen.” In 1959 neighborhood gangs began harassing them perhaps because of their following from women causing them to create the Harrison Gents street gang for defense.
Imperial Chaplins: This was originally a baseball team of black youths in the Near West Side community in the 1940s. As time went on the Chaplins began fighting with other baseball teams. The Chaplins also dealt with racial discrimination in the area from bullying white gangs.
Imperial Gangsters: Started by Puerto Rican youths from West Humboldt Park in 1964 because of Latin Kings trying to dominate the neighborhood among the Puerto Rican youths.
Insane Deuces: Formed by Puerto Rican and white youths from the Lathrop public housing projects in the North Center neighborhood in the year 1970. The boys were being harassed by groups like the Simon City Royals and Paulina Berry Community prompting them to form their own gang. Members consisted of Junior Barons, but the Barons were going extinct. Under the leadership of former Morgan Deuce Lil Richie, they started their own gang to fight back and protect the projects.
Insane Dragons: Started in East Humboldt Park in 1970 by Puerto Rican youths that became fed up with Latin Kings and white gangs in the area that harassed them. They began their own decent mannered group that would fight back.
Insane Majestics: Were a break-dancing crew formed in about 1985 in the Marshall Square community consisting of white and Mexican members. The crew attempted to stay away from gang life but became bullied by Latin Kings as they grew a larger following. In the late 1980s members began moving to Cicero and by 1990 the Majestic Party Crew started gangbanging to fight back in this new gang crowded environment. In 1992 they became the Insane Majestics.
Insane Unknowns: Began in Bucktown in the early 1960s consisting of the very first Puerto Rican youths to move into the area. A white youth started this group called the Unknown Souls at the time as they fought back against racist white gangs. In 1967 they became the Insane Unknowns.
King Cobras: Formed in 1972 in the South Deering community by Mexican youths. The group was started to fend off attacks from Latin Kings attempting to colonize the area.
Krazy Get Down Boys: Formed in 1989 in the Marquette Park community as a party crew but soon began getting problems from Latin Kings and Satan Disciples in the neighborhood. In 1992, the Krazy Get Down Boys could no longer function as just a party crew due to too much bullying from the gangs and became a street gang.
La Raza: Were formed in the Pilsen community by boys who recently migrated from Mexico. Americanized Mexican youths, primarily from street gangs like Latin Kings and Latin Counts bullied these youths and picked on them in the streets sometimes robbing them of their money. In 1980 the boys came together to create their own group as a movement. By 1981 the pressure to gangbang mounted and the boys joined the Folk alliance and became a gang but did not manifest into a violent entity until 1984, at that point they often became more violent than their rivals. By the year 1988, law enforcement had deemed La Raza to be one of the more violent groups in the Pilsen and Back of the Yards areas.
Latin Angels: Kids that came together in the late 1980s that formed a low rider car enthusiast group in Cicero. They had a close relationship with the neighborhood Two Two Boys gang. On one 1993 summer day, while in the presence of Two Two Boys, Latin Kings drove up and Two Two Boys gangbanged in front of the Latin Angels causing the Latin Kings to mark the boys then came back shooting killing a Latin Angel. Latin Angels then had no choice but to go to war with both groups, against Latin Kings because of the death and against the Two Twos for roping them into a gang conflict.
Latin Counts: Started in 1955 as the Texans on 17th and 18th Streets in Pilsen. These were the boys of the earliest Mexican migrants to Pilsen that were the victims of bullying, antagonizing and being treated second class. Police and neighborhood gangs harassed and beat the boys until they formed the Texans to stand up to these problems. As more gangs entered Pilsen from outside neighborhoods like Ambrose and Satan Disciples the Texans had to rebrand as the Latin Counts and were forced to become a full-on street gang to fight back.
Latin Eagles: Started as Puerto Rican boys trying to grow up in their new surroundings in the Lakeview community that was not in favor of the new Puerto Rican wave of the early 1960s. Puerto Rican youths were bullied and attacked after causing many to form clubs and groups so they could move in numbers. When this was not enough the Latin Eagles were put together to fight back against the white gangs that bullied Puerto Rican youths.
Latin Kings: The foundation of the Latin Kings comes from a group called the Imperials that started in the Near West Side community in 1954. Gangs were ripe in this community since Chicago’s beginning and many Italian and Irish gangs were very racist especially against Puerto Ricans. By 1964, the Imperials had grown older and witnessed the same discrimination in new neighborhoods Puerto Ricans had migrated to like Wicker Park and Humboldt Park. The same discrimination was seen on the south side in the Mexican community prompting the Imperials to create one major organization to combat this mistreatment of Hispanic people.
Latin Lovers: Started in the Logan Square community by Puerto Rican youths that began a club called the Haas Parkers in 1970. Throughout the early 1970s the Haas Parkers boys were bullied by organized gangs like Imperial Gangsters and Gaylords until they had enough and organized themselves into the Latin Lovers.
Latin Pachucos: These were Mexican youths growing up in West Humboldt Park trying to get by in a majority black and Puerto Rican community in the early 1980s. The boys started their own little party clique called the Pachucos as they represented their Mexican pride with zoot suit type styles but only for fun and for their own group. The neighborhood gang the Insane Unknowns became jealous and demanded their membership while a rival to the Unknowns the Maniac Latin Disciples mistook the Pachucos as Unknowns and attacked them. Unknowns demanded membership more after the MLD attacks and when this was refused the Unknowns violently attacked the Pachuco Boys. By the year 1984 the boys had no choice but to accept an offer from the Latin Kings for an alliance, the Pachucos then converted into a full-blown gang and rebranded as Latin Pachucos.
Latin Souls: When Puerto Rican people began migrating to the southern Back of the Yards and northern Englewood areas in the early 1960s, they faced discrimination and bullying from white groups and black groups in the area. Eventually the youths banded together and formed the Village Sharks to protect each other. When more Puerto Rican families arrived in about 1967 another gang migrated to the area called the Emerald Knights. Village Sharks and Emerald Knights became allies as they both faced the same plight from bullying groups. In the year 1971 the Knights and Sharks united and became a group for both Puerto Rican and Mexican youths to create the Latin Souls.
Maniac Latin Disciples: In the summer of 1966 Puerto Rican and black youths all over the city came together to unite against racism as gangs of both races came together. During this bonding the very large Black Disciples sponsored a group of Puerto Rican youths from East Humboldt Park that were bullied by white gangs in the area. As this group became a Disciple group they were branded as the Latin Disciples.
Mickey Cobras: Started as black youths growing up in the mean streets of the Near West Side in the early 1950s. This neighborhood was ripe with gangs and violence since Chicago’s beginning and there was a history of hate and discrimination toward blacks that escalated by the early 1950s. A group of boys that were part of a social athletic club called the Imperial Chaplins (later became a gang too) decided it was time to truly stand up to being pushed around and started the Egyptian Cobras in 1954. Over time the Cobras would become known as the Mickey Cobras of today.
Orquestra Albany: These were Puerto Rican boys growing up in the Logan Square community in the late 1960s facing discrimination from neighborhood gangs like the Gaylords. The boys started their own salsa band called La Orquestra Albany and distanced themselves from gang life while trying to focus on the music. The group became popular in the early 1970s and threw parties that neighborhood Latin Kings became jealous of leading Latin Kings to crash a party and be disrespectful. A fight broke out and a member of the band was killed by Latin Kings. The boys had no choice but to turn their band into a gang to fight back against Gaylords and Latin Kings.
Party People: Started out as young Mexican youths growing up in the Pilsen community in the late 1970s. Most were recent immigrants from Mexico which caused them to be bullied by Americanized Mexican youths in the neighborhood especially Americanized Mexican gangs. The boys attempted to band together as just a party crew that adopted the finer things of gang life only like parties, sweaters and relations with women. Within just one year their founder was stabbed to death by gang members of other gangs as jealousy caused the Party People to be bigger targets. The boys had no choice but to ally with Two Six and join the Folk alliances, thus, becoming an official street gang.
Party Players: Started by Mexican youths in the Back of the Yards community in 1977 meant to just be a party crew that fell in love with only the finer qualities of gang life like parties and courting women. In the year 1981 their exploits became too wild leading to the arrest and conviction of their founder Joe Max for murder. The group suffered too much violence from the dominant Saints street gang in the area and had no choice but to ally with another gang Two Six who helped the Party Players convert into a full fledged gang and provided them weapons.
Playboys Ventures Pulaski Park: This consisted of three gangs from roughly the same areas in West Town. All three groups started out as baseball teams and/or just groups of kids hanging out until they were bullied at Wells High School by older gangs like C-Notes, Gaylords, Lazy Gents and Dominos. The three groups formed gangs to fight back.
Puerto Rican Stones: In the summer of 1966 Puerto Rican and black youths came together to unite against racism each racial group faced. The black and Puerto Rican gangs also united this summer. The Blackstone Rangers sponsored a group of Puerto Rican youths from West Town as they were called Puerto Rican Stones.
Rebels: Started in the year 1949 as a social athletic club for boys that played sports such as football in the Back of the Yards community. In 1955 or 1956 the founder of the group left the group to get married and start a family shortly after high school. After the founder left the Rebels started to get into conflict with the many neighborhood greaser gangs leading the Rebels to become a large and violent greaser group too as they made the news for the first time in 1956 when a member was shot and killed.
Stoned Freaks or most other groups with “Freaks” in their name: Freaks were always groups of youths that liked to party and use certain drugs since the late 1960s. These groups of “Freaks” would often be bullied by neighborhood gangs or by Puerto Rican or Mexican gangs. Eventually these hippie type freak groups began fighting back turning their clubs into gangs. The most notorious and longest lasting Freak group was the Stoned Freaks.
Tall Arabian Posse (TAP Boys): In the year 1991 when the Gulf war was in full swing, Arab Americans around the country suffered discrimination and racial attacks. Along 63rd Street in the Marquette Park neighborhood this Arab settlement suffered the same hate as the many Islamic communities around the country. Arab youths from 63rd Street began to fight back creating their own gang called the Tall Arabian Posse. The group sunk into deeper criminal activities in 1992 when they unofficially joined the People alliance alongside the Latin Kings.
Two Two Boys: This group began in the year 1976 in the Marshall Square community. As these teens just tried to play baseball around Harrison High School the 24th and Marshall Boulevard Latin Kings began to bully them until they fought back and created their own group to defend their neighborhood by Cermack and California.
Vice Lords: The original group was formed in 1958 in the juvenile detention center known as Illinois State Reformatory for Boys. The original group consisted of just seven boys, only two of which were part of street gangs. The boys wanted to be in control of detention center work duties so they could gain the best benefits. As a result of their efforts they ended up inadvertently creating an organization they felt tasked to give a name too. The Vice Lord name was then created in the detention center that was originally aimed as just to be a work group but soon spread deeply on the streets.
Villa Lobos: The Villa Lobos began in the year 1960 in the Lincoln Park or Logan Square communities. Along Armitage Avenue many Puerto Rican people had settled the area circa 1960 and were often the victims of racial discrimination and racial attacks. Some groups of Puerto Rican youths formed social athletic clubs to stay in numbers and avoid attack while other groups formed gangs to violently fight back like the Young Lords. The Villa Lobos were one such group that formed to fight back until they moved to Pilsen in 1967.
Young Lords: This group formed along Armitage Avenue in the year 1959 as the first Puerto Rican gang in Lincoln Park to violently fight back against racist white gangs. In the year 1966 the Young Lords rebranded themselves as a political group and disengaged in gang activity.
As you can see, the basis of the gang founding is not quite as expected. Many gangs have stereotypes engrained in them thanks to television, gossip and media that leads us to believe these groups started off as criminal organizations. Not all the notorious gangs of Chicago are listed above, some I couldn’t list because I don’t know enough about their history and others are not listed because they were cases of being born as a criminal group. The vast majority of gangs that were born as criminal groups didn’t come along until the 1980s or 1990s. Some groups like the Simon City Royal’s foundation were often some of the earliest clubs in their respective areas that later caused other gangs to form to defend against them. The C-Notes and Chi-West are other examples of being some of the first groups in their areas that perhaps started the issues that later gangs fought against. C-Notes are rumored to have been born out of the Chicago Outfit and/or created by Chicago Outfit members when they were young. The C-Notes were one of the most notorious groups on the north side that triggered a slew of complaints from neighborhood youths that cited this organization as the reason for their creation, the Gaylords of the north side is one of them.
How the foundation lost control
You may still have that nagging question of how and why the gangs spun into a different direction and began taking on criminal endeavors. You may also ask why are there cases of rape? Why are children being killed in the streets by gang members? Why are they selling drugs to kids and infecting the streets with drugs? Why are they robbing and stealing from the community? This criminal activity has been going on for decades and people of Chicago have been asking these types of questions pertaining to why these gangs hurt people. You may also wonder why these gangs turn around and bully other groups after they were once bullied. You may be thinking they should empathize with others as they experienced it too. In order to provide insight into these questions it is important to determine who in the gang is accountable for these disagreeable actions.
During my research I have come across old articles from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that talk about gang members committing despicable crimes. I have read about an innocent man being shot to death after trying to stop a gang member from stealing a bike from a girl. I have read about gang members opening fire on a crowd and hitting innocent people killing them on the spot. I have read about a 13-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl being raped during a gang initiation. I have read about hold ups at restaurants and convenient stores where the clerk was shot to death by the gang member. I have read about a gang member killing a 60-year-old man begging for his life as he was shot execution style on the streets. I have read about a gang member strangling a woman to death then strangling her 18-month-old and 8-month-old babies to death. I have read about three gang members that robbed three people in their house while they raped the 20 year old woman then shooting all three in the head execution style killing one of the men and paralyzing the woman, as they exited they turned on the gas on the stove. I have read about countless evil crimes that gang members commit but I always end up noticing something about a lot of these guys that do the most heinous of the crimes, they many times end up dead or forgotten about. As I stated before, the gang is not built upon committing heinous crimes such as the murder and rape of innocent people. This is often the actions of certain gang members or a group within the gang that act alone.
What must be understood is these gangs come from hardened and sometimes communities plagued with violence and broken homes. Many children in these communities often come from households that are full of abuse, neglect, addiction or many other issues. When many of them grow older they become very violent and fit in among the criminal element of society. When these children are often not socialized properly in society, they often become sociopathic teenagers or adults. These hardened criminal minded individuals become common place in city neighborhoods and mix in with other youths that are not sociopathic. Many of the original founders were not sociopaths and many of them came from decent homes that functioned well despite the social and economic plights they faced. The founders and original members are charismatic and become father figures to other youths in the community and are even father like figures to the sociopathic criminal element of the community until they find out how bad of seeds those bad ones really are then they have no choice but to turn their back on those types. Some of the wild minded criminal types will attach themselves to the gang and easily achieve membership as they are often fearless and can become valuable assets to the gang because of their willingness to commit violent actions without remorse or shame. These traits become highly valued by leaders of breakaway groups of the gang or by later generation leaders but not by the original circle of the gang. It becomes very difficult for circles outside the original circle of the gang to reject these individuals or condemn their membership due to the loyalty these individuals showed to the gang. Compare it to if you had a brother that you were close to that would die for you but he just killed and raped someone you don’t know or have nothing to do with, would you turn him in and/or disown him? I know many of you would say hell yes you would but think about if you were out there in the streets in a gang and many were out to beat you down or kill you and that wild guy in your gang will take a life for you. Instead of condemning the gang members that commit these crimes the gang just seems to forget about them or not talk about them, comparative to a family shame. When these crimes are committed by gang members, they are usually subject to “violations” which is a punishment. Violations are usually brutal beatings given to gang members that commit such heinous and immoral acts but often the violations are not given out because many times the gang really doesn’t want that guy to join the other side and go against them. These are very tough situations when the gang is in the presence of the real sick ones but one thing, I notice is they almost never worship those guys. You will be also surprised that the original circle and some respected leaders will share the same belief as you, they will turn on that bad seed quickly if they learn a member is killing kids, raping women or doing other despicable acts. The founders and originals mirror many of the same morals as regular people in society. When talking to many older gang members and being a part of private Facebook groups dedicated to gang heritage I have not once seen pictures of guys that were rapists and child killers be put on a pedestal and told they were “good guys.” Whenever someone Facebook posts an article in these groups about a gang member doing something horrid, I see mad faces and angry comments. None of these organizations condone, encourage and entices heinous crimes as many of these men are fathers and husbands who respect their mothers and love their children; therefore, crimes against children and women make them sick. As a reader you may still not grasp how these gangs can allow sociopaths into their ranks but you have to think about it this way, that sociopath is going to kill, rape and rob anyway so he may as well be on your side so when another gang moves against you, you will have him on your side to do a lot of the heavy lifting of removing enemies. Think of it as owning a killer attack dog to help defend your turf. You know that dog is mean and hard to control but it will protect you and your family, but sometimes those mean dogs can turn on their masters. The best approach the gang takes is to just let that individual be forgotten as they are often not close to the main circle of originals and founders. The original circle though will not want anything to do with that killer attack dog, in fact, they often do not know about that killer dog and when they find out they quietly and secretly put that dog down and you don’t hear from that mean dog anymore. The original circle and later leaders that follow in the original’s footsteps would rather have a loyal soldier in their group that can be vicious when enemies come around but can be controlled just like a trained German Shephard instead of a wild mad dog. The original circle will not hesitate for a moment to dispose of a bad seed. Perhaps leaders of outside circles of the gang will be passive about such acts and only try to forget about that gang member but the true inner circle or any leadership connected to the old morals will very quickly and fiercely make that member vanish and be never heard from again, no exceptions! You can use your imagination to understand what I mean by “vanish.”
These sociopathic types are almost never in direct connection with the original circle of the gang. The clubs’ ethical leaders and more serious members will distance themselves deliberately from the renegade groups that will not conform to their rules or bi-laws in order to detach from the consequences of their reckless and highly immoral behavior. Multiple circles may even develop within the gang of groups that have higher morals and other groups that seem to lack a conscious. The sociopathic groups are very short lived as those gang members usually end up dead or incarcerated but the more moral groups tend to last a long time and even tend to return after stints in prison. The community can sometimes recognize these individuals and these are the guys the neighborhood tends to assist. Many of times these sociopathic or less ethical groups within the gang end up inadvertently becoming a shield from law enforcement for the inner circle. Puncher put it to me this way, in all major gangs over time the number of members will increase to the point where independent branches, renegade factions or even small packs of two or three sociopathic loners will develop. Here is where random acts of unspeakable crimes come from. So it is important to know that there is a distinction between the branches directly connected to and still governed by the original founders, and not to put them all in the same category just because they display the same name and colors. In his personal experience when those ruthless groups would commit those crimes, instead of sending in his Rajas (members of his inner circle) to deal with it, it was more strategic to let the police come in and deal directly with those self absorbed sections. The police ten times out of ten would find who they were looking for which would blur the lines or shift the attention off the activities performed by the true and much more mature warriors within the inner circle of the founder. These sociopathic or sloppy self-centered members are often very egotistic and aggressive gaining the attention of everyone around and as a result unware of creating this position of vantage for the true leaders.
Another aspect of importance is to understand there are punishments within the gang for heinous crimes. If the inner circles of moral members have any type of close connection to the sociopaths, they will delegate severe punishment or removal of that bad seed. What is never published in the news paper or talked about by law enforcement is how gangs remove members all the time for despicable acts. Bad seeds sometimes vanish from the streets suddenly or get severe treatment in the prison system. If the sociopath is far removed from any moral aspect of the gang he may get away with it and maybe even be celebrated for his crimes but this is a rare occurrence, usually they can only hope to get away with it and not be killed or tortured by their own gang.
Sometimes leadership will dismiss members of the gang because of the overall reckless behavior. The wild ones may not have committed any heinous crimes but they maybe too loud and bringing too much trouble causing the community and police to grumble about them. Of course, the community and police will immediately point to the gang as the cause of the trouble not the individual(s) causing the trouble, this is when the inner circle has to make the decision to either eject that gang member or make him disappear.
What needs to be understood also is when these gangs get so big it becomes impossible for leaders to control the masses. If you look at corporate models of large businesses, when will you ever see one manager directly control hundreds of employees? Never. It is impossible and several leaders need to be established to manage sub-groups. Even then at times it is still impossible for the inner circle to control all of the leaders in the sub-groups, hence, why immoral groups in the gang end up existing. Puncher told me when you have hundreds of members no one can get to know everyone in the gang, in fact, new Vikings could pop up daily and Puncher himself wouldn’t have any knowledge or control of all who was coming and going in his organization. So he had to concentrate on the more stronger and well disciplined sections which were connected to his inner circle. I even told him once that there were Ashland Vikings in California since the 1990s and although he felt very honored about it he had no knowledge about the existence of that faction during that time. In my research I found that all original founders in some form or another also had experiences similar to this, as one just cant control everything.
Another question that sociologists, criminologists and a lot of people wonder is how these gangs became criminal organizations when they were not supposed to be built upon criminal endeavors. This came about stemming from the earliest forms of money-making gangs partook in during their early years. In the early years of gangs between the 19th century into the 1970s gang members committed such money making crimes as: auto theft, auto part theft (mainly hub caps), hustling in card games and other illegal gambling, armed robbery, purse snatching and mugging, theft, train car robbery, shaking down store owners for protection, warehouse robbery, semi-truck robbery or theft, carjacking, fraud. These criminal activities often have one-time payouts and are often very difficult to perform at times. These crimes also draw lots of attention and have led to incarceration.
I was shocked to learn that in these early decades gangs sold drugs in these older times, even children as young as eleven. They sold anything from Marijuana to Heroin and kilos of drugs were sold by older gang members. The difference between the drug dealing within the gangs in the 1950s and 1960s compared to the 1980s and later was the presence of moral structure and rules within the gang to not destroy entire communities over the drug dealing. Another factor was that neighborhood defense and protection took major precedence over drug profits. The teen gang members of these early years also had less to show for drug trafficking as a lot of the money they made was given to their parents to help support them and/or young drug dealing gangs members of the 50s, 60s and 70s would often use that money to pay rent for their own apartments. In the 1980s and later youths under eighteen were forbidden from renting property; therefore, that cost was no longer an option leaving more money to be spent on vanities which caught the public eye. In these earlier years law enforcement was also not aware that gangs were selling drugs in large volumes as they focused on organized crime instead.
During the 1970s and especially by the 1980s gang members adapted to the much easier and quieter method of making money which was to get involved in drug distribution. As time passed, they realized they had the power and resources for distribution due to already having a structural mafiosis. As law enforcement closed in on small time hustles and gang participation in social service activities that earned a paycheck, the gang needed a way of income to support their organization’s sociological cause such as aiding the community. The larger gangs took on the role of being bigger brothers to their community as larger gangs often provided school children with lunches, set up organizations to gather children after school for extracurricular activities to keep them off the streets, organize legally to battle slumlords that put out unfair evictions or create job training programs. These are activities you can read about in various books written about the Vice Lords, Black P Stones and Latin Kings but what is not in books is how more smaller gangs had this going for them too. When social services were ordered to withdraw from these communities by the government in the early 1970s it left no income for these groups to work with the community causing a void. The gangs had learned from social service groups how to organize payroll and accounting. They also had learned how to manage a business by taking on leadership roles at various community organizations. With this new knowledge that was taught to them they now could operate a drug trafficking operation. Social service groups had good intentions trying to uplift these gangs but once the government abruptly pulled the plug and offered no alternative it caused severe damage to the communities that were aided by these programs, the void then needed to be filled. The ironic thing is most of these social services groups that groomed these gangs were all government organizations. The government created this and destroyed it at the same time giving rise to mafiosos.
As time passed, the drug syndicate became increasingly greedy and many factions broke away out of self-interest. The money that passed through these organizations was plentiful and could have been used for many positives for the organization but several groups within the organization wanted to keep all the profits for themselves and were willing to lash out violently against leadership that would get in their way. One may ask why these rouge groups became dominant instead of the main leadership. The best way to answer that is the groups that offered more money were the ones that would win, and more groups of the gang followed this path because it meant getting paid more money. Even though following the organizational laws is more honorable and structured, the renegade way paid more money. Early law enforcement efforts in the 1980s and 1990s geared toward the prosecution of the top leadership of these organizations also crippled the organizational structure that kept these organizations from becoming rampant in the streets. Bullets could now fly freely as innocent people and children began to be mowed down by gunfire. Without the founders and top leaders in the organizations there was no one there to put an end to highly immoral behavior. Top law enforcement agencies preached to the public that all leadership needed to be removed from these organizations to make them be reduced to nothing. Granted many of the leaders were convicted of violent crimes but there was always a civility to these earlier leaders that you don’t see as much of today. When law enforcement cut off the head of the snake the snake grew a set of new and much uglier heads and the organizations became several times more deadly.
Bottom line is young misguided men in the city need role models and structure that they often cannot get either at home or from the rest of society, so they turned to the gangs to organize them and guide them on a path. That path may have not been the best path, but it gave them structure and rules to live by and many eventually evolved into responsible and decent older men that raised families and eventually became law abiding citizens after tiring of incarceration and dealing with drama. Older members of gangs I have interviewed, or I have read text from all recall the gang fondly. Seldom do I ever hear much negative feedback from them about their organizations, but they are all very quick to speak out with disapproval about these newer generations even if they associate with the newer generations in any way. Unfortunately, young men in the city also need money and many live-in communities that lack resources and guidance toward building a future for themselves leading many young men to sway more toward making money even if it means abandoning morality and structure. Leading this lifestyle often ends up tragic as young men are gunned down in the streets at a young age and/or incarcerated with lengthy sentences. The cost upon society for young men in these renegade cliques is also extensively damaging as scores of groups of young men wonder the streets committing violent crimes in the name of the almighty dollar. On the streets of Chicago in the past two decades the main nation worshipped is the almighty dollar and this means bodies will stack up on the street corners even if it is innocent children caught in the crossfire. Older gang members shake their heads as they glance at the chalk lines traced around an innocent child even too young for Kindergarten that was gunned down on a Sunday morning. As the elders preach on the streets they are regarded only as ramblers, old heads, or fools from a distant past now long gone. Once valiant warriors that bravely patrolled the streets and fought for their territory have now become older men that are often not heard. The youth rule the streets as they move with small cliques and move as gangs of bandits. As one older Black P Stone that joined in 1979 put it as I interviewed him, he referred to them as “young cowboys.”
Although most of the newer generations are wild with seemingly no morals there are a few young men in the gangs that do attach themselves to the older gang members and celebrate the heritage of their organizations. These young men are often decently mannered and are not free of moral obligation. These young men will not show up in newspapers convicted of rape, murder of innocents or for murdering their leaders. I have met some of these young men along the way and they are polite and respectful and educated, all characteristics of a real gangster. There was a time where young men like this were celebrated and promoted heavily within the gang structure. Young men like this have chosen the path of being a gangster. Those that chose to rape, murder innocents and kill their own for greed are basically just bandits and nothing more.
Below is a piece that I worked the closest with Puncher on as we turned his personal experiences into a full understanding of the moral code and moral structure of the original group within the gangs.
On one of my interviews Puncher said because of his own experiences in dealing with other gangs he could spot the old schoolers or those who still had direct lines into the original circle of the gang. Included were members from the Black Gangster Disciples and C-Notes that he had sit-downs with to discuss business or to negotiate terms in settling conflicts. He added that during any type of talks or gatherings it was easy to know who was who, as certain individuals had the typical traits that descended from the original founding fathers of the 50’s and 60’s. After one of those sit-downs he recalls himself and an old school Spanish Cobra talking for another hour on how the old ways of that era no longer existed. As with most original founders, Puncher sought out these characteristics in the gangs or individuals that he got close to. A good example is when he created the U.P.C.I. (United Patriots Creating Identity) which was an alliance of six gangs in the west town area of Chicago to better the community. As I recall the first two leaders he pulled in was C.M. president of the Latin Disciples out of Huron and Ada and David president of the Harrison Gents out of Cortez and Ashland. Reason being that they were also around his age and had that old-school mentality, and as history shows by the early 90’s when all three of them were fully retired all the younger generations that were once in the U.P.C.I. went to war against each other. Here we can see the psychological differences in how the original gangs of the 50’s and 60’s differed from the future branches or factions that descended from their own gangs. Now, does that mean that the original founders and their organizations were only do gooders? Of course not, they weren’t the Boy Scouts. But there were lines that could not be crossed in their own gang, and they were proud of upholding that standard of honor to represent their gang. Those who came from the roots or from the original start point of their club made it a point for other gangs to recognize the caliber or high level of stature that was required in order to belong in their gang. But lets be clear, even then a gang and acts of violence for whatever reason go hand in hand. Puncher had a saying, ‘It isn’t what we do or who we do it to, it’s how we do it and why’. Because as with all founders, if you took kindness for weakness, they were quick to correct it. Two of these founders who were around the age of 70 expressed to me that in the early era of the founders it was not so easy to become a member of just any club. For instance who you were and what you stood for played a big role in becoming an official member of the gang and as I mentioned earlier no crazies were allowed either. But then the topic of girls came up. Since it was not so uncommon for girls to have some sort of rank in the organization, and many of them had great influence on the decisions the founders would make. Puncher himself claimed that his best body guard was Lady Chris (his mate). They went on to say that especially in that era the clubs were vary protective of their girls and the girls had the rights to choose who they wanted to be with or not. They were not passed around like some gangs still do today. Also worth mentioning, these woman were bad-asses in their own rights. They wore the colors, packed weapons, recruited other girls into their groups and went on special missions for the club. In other words not just proving themselves but earning the respect of the gang. Evidence of these essential characteristics in woman of gangs were more apparent in the groups that evolved into social action organizations, which was during the up-rise movements of the 60’s. Woman from the Black Panthers and Young Lords were known for these traits. In fact girls from that era that remained in gangs carried those traits into the late 70’s and early part of the 80’s.While I’m on the subject of characteristics I have to point out that root similarities can still be found in those types of groups that became activist or evolved to higher standards. For example, they all started out as kids trying to survive in an area that the city basically turned a blind eye to. Then trying to protect themselves from the rival gangs, hence the first creation of their gang. They all also went into trying to improve their communities. Here is where they enter the political arena which gives them justifiable reasons in becoming a group with revolutionary and socialistic views against government control. Nowhere was this more evident than in Chicago during the mid to late 60’s. Puncher told me once, ‘ It’s true that the founders created the gangs, but it was the policies of the system that created the founders’.
This article is dedicated to “Puncher” the founder of the Ashland Vikings. Puncher dedicated his time to helping me understand the foundation of a Chicago gang and gave me the idea to write this piece.