Manuscript Finished!

The manuscript of Christopher Zoukis’ latest non-fiction project is finished!  Hooray!  The completed manuscript will be submitted to the publisher — Headpress of the U.K. — in the next few days.  Tentatively titled United Blood Nation:  The Untold Story of the East Coast Bloods, the book was a collaborative effort between Christopher Zoukis and John […]

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Mark Rothko

By Christopher Zoukis

East Marion Cemetery, Suffolk County, New York:  the odor of pine trees, grass and inactivity loiters in the air.  Tall pine trees responsible for the pitch smell stand in the distance like a living, green wall around the cemetery.  In symbology, evergreen signifies immortality.  Which is ironic, since all illusions of immortality have come and gone for the permanent residents of East Marion Cemetery. 

The dead know only disappointment.

In olden times pine trees were thought to preserve bodies from corruption, which explains why they used it in coffins and in cemeteries.  And the fruit of the pine tree, the cone, was considered both flame-shaped and phallic, representing masculine creative energy and fecundity and good luck.  To the Jews, the pine cone is a symbol of life.

There are lots of Jews buried here.

Grass in cemeteries signifies submission.  In this case, submission to death.  And grass abounds here, stretching far and wide.  Plus it adds a peaceful note to the proceedings. 

The tang of inactivity is the polite acknowledgement of the discomfiture that death has caused.  No one who resides here has anything to do.

Near one of the corners, not too far from the pine trees, sits a small gray boulder, weighing more than an American luxury car.  Its shape is that intended by God and nature, which is in a word, natural.  On one side, though, the front side, a machine has cut out a rectangle, leaving a smooth, flat surface.  This flat surface, and the letters and dates on it inform us that it is a gravestone.

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Bloods Redux

By Christopher Zoukis 

History

According to Julia Dunn, a gang “is an interstitial group, original formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict.”  The term ‘interstitial’ refers to a culturally isolated or marginalized group of individuals, who, because of external circumstances (racism, lack of education, unemployment), have been left behind.  These individuals adopt a ‘strength through numbers’ attitude, assume collective standards of behavior, develop ad hoc structures of hierarchy and esprit de corps.  They identify with others of similar circumstances and exhibit territorial tendencies.   Image courtesy coolchaser.com

After World War I, African-American enclaves sprouted up in the urban areas of major cities with the United States.  In the 1920s, Los Angeles encompassed large black conclaves, where unemployment was prevalent and poverty was the norm.  Within these enclaves, family members and friends banded together into loose, unorganized associations that were, for the most part, non-violent.  For lack of a better term, these associations came to be known as gangs.  The gangs of this historical time were non-territorial.  The primary function of such gangs was to present a ‘tough guy’ image and facilitate the accumulation of easy money by means of prostitution, forgery and theft.

Well-known gangs of this period – the 1920s and 1930s – included the Goodlows, the Kelleys, the Magnificents, the Driver Brothers, the Boozies and the Bloodgetts.  During the following decade, the 1940s, black gangs increased their numbers, along with their activities, which now included extortion and gambling, in addition to the usual prostitution, forgery and theft.  They provided ‘protection’ for local merchants, which was nothing more than simple coercion.  Merchants paid for the privilege of not having their places of business torched by their so-called protectors.

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Legends

By Christopher Zoukis Image courtesy mrzine.monthlyreview.org According to legend, Stanley Tookie Williams was the co-founder of the Crips.  The legend was nothing more than embellishment, encouraged by Tookie Williams.  The reality of the situation was this:  Raymond, wanting to expand the Crips to the west side of Los Angeles, approached Tookie Williams about running the […]

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O. G. Mack

By Christopher Zoukis

In 1993, O.G.Mack formed the East Coast version of the Bloods.  Mack called his organization the United Blood Nation, but most simply referred to it as the East Side Bloods. 

O.G. Mack, whose real name was Omar Portee grew up in the Bronx, where he was raised by his grandmother.  A member of a ruthlessly brutal gang called the One Eight Trey Gangsters, Mack was arrested in 1988 for armed robbery.  He was 16 years old at the time.  Mack spent the next three years in prison, Rikers Island.  After being released in 1991, Mack’s grandmother sent him to California to live with relatives.  Her goal was to separate him from the noxious influence of gangs.  It didn’t work.  Most of his relatives in L.A. were members of the Miller Gangster Bloods.  In no time at all, Mack was neck deep in the L.A. gang culture.  Although he never officially joined the Miller Gangster Bloods, Mack ran with the gang, whose members considered him a Blood.   O. G. Mack / Image courtesy thehoodup.com

Mack returned to the Bronx two years later, in 1993.  He immediately took up where he left off, re-uniting with the One Eight Trey Gangsters.  Impressed by Bloods’ culture in L.A., Mack wasted little time convincing his fellow gangbangers that they should become part of the Blood alliance.  The gangbangers liked what they heard.  The One Eight Trey Gangsters became the One Eight Trey Gangster Bloods. 

A few months later, O.G. Mack was arrested for attempted murder.  While awaiting trial, Mack was again held on Rikers Island, in the George Mochen Detention Center (GMDC), which was also called C-73.  Individuals in GMDC were considered problem inmates and were segregated from the general prison population.  On Rikers Island, where the prison was controlled by the Latino gangs, the independent black gangs found themselves fighting not only the Latino gangs, but also fighting other black gangs because of street grudges that carried over into prison.  Most of these independent black gangs were affiliated with the umbrella alliance known as the African Blood Brotherhood or the Almighty Blood Brotherhood.  Mack, realizing that the independent black gangs in prison needed a way to protect themselves from the Latino gangs, called for a meeting of independent black gang leaders.  Mack’s idea, which he presented to the leaders, was to unite as a set of the Bloods.  This unity would allow them to successfully defend themselves against the Latino gangs. 

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Blood Alliance

By Christopher Zoukis

Eventually, to protect themselves, the other gangs – the Compton Piru, the Brims near USC, the Swans, and the Bounty Hunters – formed an alliance called the Bloods.  The Bloods alliance was the result of the March 1972 murder of Robert Ballou, Jr.  It happened like this:  after a concert at the Hollywood Paladium, a rat-pack of twenty Crips assaulted a group of teenagers, robbing them of their wallets and jackets.  Robert Ballou, Jr. was one of the teenagers.  Ballou resisted, refusing to surrender his jacket to the Crips.  The Crips proceeded to jump him and beat him to death.   Image courtesy flickriver.com

The brutal murder of Ballou, who was a neutron – a person unaffiliated with a gang – incensed the Compton Piru.  The Piru went to war with the Crips.  Outnumbered, the Piru really had no chance against the superior forces of the Crips.  Realizing they needed help, the Piru approached the Lueders Park Hustlers about an alliance.  The Lueders Park Hustlers agreed to a meeting on Piru Street.  Not being shy, the Piru also invited every other gang that had grievances against the Crips.  One gang that had a grudge against the Crips was the L.A. Brims.  The Crips had murdered a gangbanger with the nickname of Lil Country, a member of the Brims.  The Denver Lanes and the Bishops sent representatives as well. 

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