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.
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.
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.
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.