The Legacy of 18th Street and Hoover

An example of 18th Street markings on the West Coast of the United States. These threatening eyesores have the potential to be flags of peace.

An example of 18th Street markings on the West Coast of the United States. These threatening eyesores have the potential to be flags of peace.

I sure would like to move on with my life and go forward rather than to live in the past; but so much keeps me from doing so. I would like to say that I can just get up, forgive and forget but the obstacles are so many.

As Los Angeles and other portions of the West Coast of the United States burned to the ground, I thought things over carefully. This was the first time there had been such unity in decades.

Mexicans, Blacks, Arabs (mostly in Long Beach) were all moving on one thing: It was time to come together and to move against the ultra-militarised police force which answered to no one but itself.

Rumours abounded after this huge truce about a possible Muslim army being raised as gang members converted to Islam in droves (news reports were intentionally fed to the major outlets stating that gang members would convert to Islam, subvert American and replace the US Constitution with the “Koran”).

I met Big Adam from Samoan Warriors, a man whose reputation preceded him in a major way. I had hatred for him and he felt the same way. He told me as much when we met; but it was different. Both he and I wanted to put the past behind us. We shook hands as friends and agreed that we would try again.

The colour line would be forgotten about and we would think more constructively about moving forward. The Rollin’ 60s’ Big Mike recognised me and smiled at me with an air of genuine friendship.

Yes, those heady days of the year 1992. I had changed, they had changed. Many of us changed. Red, blue, navy, orange and black all mixed together in a swirl of neighbourhoods, races, men and women with cars tricked out and barbecues in tow.

It lasted for a relatively short period of time as some could not forget the fact that these men who were now supposed to be their friends had killed family members, sometimes in front of the victims. Rival neighbourhoods had members that felt this to be an insurmountable obstacle.

From the years 1988-1992, nearly 20,000 people who were born in the years 1969, 1972 and 1974 erased each other from the Earth in paramilitary violence so systematic and ruthless that the aforementioned generations – even with their children – have less of their generation left than when they started.

What this means is that those generations will die out more quickly than any others known. The baby boomers are still alive and well, absorbing the pensions and all form of government programmes for themselves and their children;

But people of my generation will wink out of existence without having made any mark other than the spectacular murders that we witnessed in the 1980s into the mid-1990s. I would love to move on but the problem is I know so many on both ends of the colour line who are still caught in this monster.

One sad event and two glimmers of hope reached me not long ago. George  Hendricks, Jr. was murdered in cold blood due to belonging to the neighbourhood that I was from and being on the other side of the colour line.

Known to us and others as “P-Nutt,” he was also known for something else. He was one of those who encouraged me to go back to school after I had ran away from home and dropped out.

George took our neighbourhood, the colours of our neighbourhood, and literally put it on the map. It is due to him and a handful of others like Ray-Ray, Caspar, Tank and so many others that this gang phenomenon spread like a wild fire.

P-Nutt in a memorial photo after his death in Seattle, far from the original place where the neighbourhood was founded.

P-Nutt in a memorial photo after his death in Seattle, far from the original place where the neighbourhood was founded.

Yet these same individuals, along with our sister neighbourhoods of 18th Street, bought my family groceries when they needed them and had our power put back on by paying the bill when it was cut off by the electricity company. Yes, it was these men.

Street warriors, “paras” (a friendly nickname for paramilitary), gang members, gangsters…whatever. The point is that these individuals, as wrong as they lived, wanted something more positive for others around them and pushed whenever possible for them to leave, to come “out of uniform.”

I was one of those pushed to do so. I still to this day thank these individuals, particularly those mentioned above and Guy Washington, another giant in this world of mine that I lived in those years ago.

The 1992 peace treaty, brokered and negotiated mainly by Muslims and for the most part based on a series of armistice packages bearing a resemblance to the Oslo Peace Accords and the Good Friday Agreement, was not kept by all neighbourhoods.

Watts had some of the last neighbourhoods to abandon the treaty in 2005 and I cannot say how disappointed I was with everything that happened. Saddened beyond words, I called and spoke to people and asked why.

Again, as I said above the colour line issues were extreme and deep and needed massive ironing out. “It’s gonna take more than just meeting with them damn 60s at Leimert Park a couple of times for me to think they’re serious with this thing, man,” Li’l Ren had told me more than once.

However, Allah gave us another chance to pull it together. It came in a very strange way as well. In the United States, when Darryl Gates (a creep of an a human being) and others declared “war and gangs,” they did not just resort to brutality that would have had them hauled up in front of the Hague if Amnesty International had had the guts to take them on,

(I would have no objections to being a witness and mentioning how many times as a child I witnessed them shoot children in the back walking home from school or how many times I saw them rape twelve year olds and kill them in the street)

they even used deportation. This practice, known in slang by people such as myself, was called “vanning” or  “white vanning.”  People caught out after curfew in the lock down areas had not only death to look forward to in life. White vans would sometimes appear and the occupants would shove them in the back and slam the doors, speeding off into the distance.

An example of 11-Deuce Hoover Criminal Gang graffiti. Peace between rival neighbourhoods would no longer make going outside a dare but a pleasure in these impoverished areas.

An example of 11-Deuce Hoover Criminal Gang graffiti. Peace between rival neighbourhoods would no longer make going outside a dare but a pleasure in these impoverished areas.

Youngsters who were from a particular neighbourhood found themselves shipped off to Central America or Mexico. Sometimes, they would be used as forced labour or shock troops in covert wars abroad. Those that lived to tell the tale went into detail with me. We saw the vans.

Tomas called me once from Central America and laughed with irony over the phone about how although he was  a Chicano he had never been to Mexico, much less Central America; but now he was there. Men from Hoover Criminals, Hoover Locos, 18th Street, a paramilitary or gang comprised of perhaps 30,000 or more members had some numbers deported.

Central America and Mexico became the next gang spots as these deported gang members went to war with a new enemy in Latin America: Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Both groups jockeyed not merely for drugs but for territory.

Places there became centres of war…where it had never been seen before. Dust was getting kicked up big time and West Coast style due to a decision that the US made. When these individuals come back into the US and to my old neighbourhood to continue the wars, they are said to be “immigrants causing trouble.”

Men speaking with clear American accents from Central America are part of the problem not the cause. If the US had not triggered the gang bangin’ culture and then in response to it spread the disease like HPV, then we would not see the type of violence known on the West Coast embroiling Mexico, Central and now increasingly South America.

Now picture this…

These men recently came together and decided for a change. They were going to take another stab at a treaty that failed in 1992; but this time, they vowed it would be different. Men from Hoover, 18th Street, MS-13, interlocked fingers and hands and acted like brothers.

Crime dropped all over the US and in Latin America to record lows (the same thing happened in 1992) and change was on the rise. Police and military could not claim it as a victory as unemployment was as high as a skyscraper and repression was worse than ever.

I feel like this might lead to something; but I know that governments and secret hands have been trying to spoil the peace process and ruin things. My hope is with them and when I speak to former members and current members, they are mostly all in the mood for something positive.

“I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid to live,” Li’l Ren once told me. He wants children but doesn’t know what type of father he will be and what he could offer children when he has been embroiled in a life of war in a foreign country.

I pray for their guidance and their safety. I know that every time one of them chooses light over darkness, good over evil, that they will struggle and some of them will succeed. I owe it to them to keep their names alive with me on the other side of the line and let people know what is really happening.

After all they encouraged me to do and how much they spurred me on to success I owe them that. Besides, no imam, spokesmen for Islam or jamats are going to do it. So it might as well be the people on the street who are relevant.

Remember that often those worse than you want you to be better than them for no other reason than that they care for you and want you to succeed.

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