This groundbreaking book opens the door on the missing record of South Los Angeles juvenile gangs. It is the result of the unique friendship that developed between John Quicker and Akil Batani-Khalfani, aka Bird, who collaborated to show how structural marginality transformed hang-out street groups of non-White juveniles into gangs, paving the way for the rise of the infamous Crips and Bloods. Before Crips uses a macro historical analysis to sort through political and economic factors to explain the nature of gang creation.
The authors mine a critical archive, using direct interviews with original gang members as well as theory and literature reviews, to contextualize gang life and gang formation. They discuss (and fuss and cuss about) topics ranging from the criminal economy and conceptions of masculinity to racial and gendered politics and views of violence. Their insider/outsider approach not only illuminates gang values and organization, but what they did and why, and how they grew in a backdrop of inequality and police brutality that came to a head with the 1965 Watts Rebellion.
Providing an essential understanding of early South Los Angeles gang life, Before Crips explains what has remained constant, what has changed, and the roots of the violence that continues.
John C. Quicker is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the California State University Dominguez Hills and the author of Homegirls: Characterizing Chicana Gangs. Akil S. Batani-Khalfani is a South Los Angeles Street Sage. He is a former Youth Correctional Counselor for California Youth Authority and a former Youth Gang Counselor for the Los Angeles Community Youth Gang Services.
"A compelling sociological examination of the pre-1970 Los Angeles 'street groups' that improbably spawned the Crips and Bloods.... Gripping urban history."—Kirkus Reviews
"Quicker and Batani-Khalfani offer a penetrating look at the origins of Los Angeles gangs that were active between the 1940s and the 1960s.... VERDICT A sympathetic view of early youth gangs in Los Angeles, before they became known for crime."—Library Journal
"[A]n intriguing take on how the notorious Crips and Bloods gangs emerged from the streets of South Central Los Angeles. The [authors] use a macrohistorical analysis to engage the reader in the political and economic factors related to gang creation and affiliation. Birthed from a segregated city, Before Crips looks at the development of gang life between 1940 and 1970.... The backdrop of inequality and police brutality tells the story of a marginalized group of youth who had no other choice but to bond for protection. This account offers a pivotal review of the early years of gang life in LA and how deindustrialization and urban sprawl created the phenomenon of gang activity.... Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice
“Despite all the popular media renderings of LA’s infamous Crips and Bloods over the years, relatively little had been written about how these street groups came to be. Until now. Before Crips delivers the well-documented and engaging origin story that’s been missing. Quicker and Batani-Khalfani challenge conventional ‘gang’ research with compelling interviews, ethnographic observations, and questionnaire data involving Black Angelenos who were actually there in the early days.”—Darnell M. Hunt, Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and coeditor of Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities
"Before Crips provides a unique long-term historical account of street gangs in South Los Angeles neighborhoods, filling a major gap in our knowledge of gang formation and activity in the years prior to the Watts Riot in 1965. It provides critical answers for the disconnection in types of gangs and gang activities pre- and post-Watts and offers a new perspective on the origins and character of the Crips, exposing popular myths about this gang."—Delbert S. Elliott, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, and coauthor of The Prevention of Crime
“Before Crips provides a rich tapestry of insights and information about how gangs start, what neighborhoods they are found in, why some gangs are violent, and where law enforcement misdirects their interventions. It shows how and why Black gangs emerged in Los Angeles and their evolution into the most menacing gangs of all: Crips and Bloods. Quicker and Batani-Khalfani’s insider/outsider approach to what early Los Angeles was like, along with the detailed information about the neighborhoods that spawned Black street gangs, is enthralling.”—James Diego Vigil, Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology, Law, and Society at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California