The meaning behind the Folk and People alliances

Most of us around this country and many people abroad have heard of the Folk and People street gang alliances. These alliances are now present in all 50 states and even some foreign countries.  Almost all Chicago street gangs are bound to one or the other of these two alliances and many organizations nationwide are also tied to these two rival groups.  Folk and People caught on like wild fire in the early 1980s as nation after nation absorbed into these two alliances and became especially enforced in Illinois and midwest prisons.  Thousands have lost their lives over wars between Folk and People since inception of the alliances in 1978, but many lives were saved by these alliances as well.  You might be surprised to hear that these alliances were not created to be enemies.  You may also be surprised to learn that Folk and People are basically the same thing.

Think about this; when you look up the definition of “Folk” or “People” in the dictionary and thesaurus you will see one of the top results mentions “Folk” or “People” as the first result.  Take a look at the screen shots below when I looked up Folk and People in the thesaurus and dictionary.

As you can see, when the search result is “Folk,” it can’t help but to mention “People.”  Now when I looked up “People” it got away from “folk” due the fact folk actually means “people” by definition, but when looking up “people” in the thesaurus you can see “folk” is one of the top results.  They are indeed synonymous with each other and are one in the same.  Do you think it was sheer coincidence that the creators of these alliances invented names of the basically the same meaning?  The answer to that is no; there was deliberation in using those names to signify sameness.  A lot of this whole story is more deeply rooted in Gangster Disciple history because it was the leader of the Black Gangster Disciple nation that created this idea of complete unity among the nations.  That man is Larry Hoover, a name that some hate but most, whether People or Folk, have respect for among the old timers out there of all races and organizations.  The black man, the Hispanic man, the white man all have a respect for Larry Hoover because of his accomplishments while incarcerated in state prisons due to his prison rights advocacy for all inmates.  To understand Folk and People it is important to understand where this comes from and how the alliances are as much the same as they are different.

During the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, street gangs in Chicago exploded as many people were moving about the city, especially black and Hispanic people were moving about after being constantly removed from their homes due to city renovations.

Puerto Rican people were displaced three times in Chicago as they were first removed from the Old Town neighborhood in the late 1950s.  They were displaced again from Lincoln Park due to urban renewal efforts.  They were also simultaneously displaced from the Near West Side when the highway systems were put in place and the new UIC campus was built.  Mexican people suffered major displacement out of the Near West Side in the later 1950s for the same reasons and were all around deported in the 1930s.  Blacks were displaced at first when they were forced to leave the South Loop because of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 when their homes were burned down.  They were displaced again out of parts of Fuller Park, Armour Square and the Near West Side in the later 1950s thanks to highway construction.  As blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans were moving about the city to West Town, Englewood, Roseland, Back of the Yards, Humboldt Park, Lincoln Park, Uptown, Logan Square, Austin, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Bridgeport, Little Village, Pilsen, Greater Grand Crossing, Woodlawn, South Shore and South Chicago in the 1950s and 60s a huge explosion of racial tensions overflowed as now the Irish, German, Italian, Czech, Bohemian, Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian residents of Chicago felt threatened that their neighborhoods and properties were going to go down in value because of their new colored arrivals.  Were they correct?  To a large extent they were because that’s how our city was designed here in Chicago.  The Chicago machine automatically depreciated the value of homes, businesses and entire neighborhoods once people of color move in.  It was a system set up to cause certain people of color to fail and for white families living nearby to also suffer as their homes were brought down in value.

It was easier for the upper middle class whites to move.  At the first sign of other races moving in they could afford to pack up and leave in the first signs of migration before the system could red flag their properties.  The problem with this was their departure also brought down the value of the neighborhood.  The white families that remained that couldn’t afford to move to the swanky suburbs suffered from deteriorated neighborhood conditions as property values plummeted, police cut back on patrols and drugs flooded a now desperate community.  The whites blamed their new black and Hispanic neighbors; however, many did not realize this was all set up by city planning and wealthy elites.

Many of times migrants from impoverished slums of Mexico, Puerto Rico or the southern United States were not taught how to function in more sophisticated urban dwellings.  When these families arrived they often lacked basic knowledge of how to tend to their rented properties and slum lords could care less to help them along.  Most of these families were also impoverished and struggling to find adequate employment which caused many to resort to vices like selling drugs and once those drugs were seen in these former pristine communities it caused a major backlash of hate.

Bottom line is, everyone was in the same boat whether they realized it or not.  City planning left these neighborhoods to their fate and redlined them from getting proper investment and renovations creating urban slums and high crime areas.  In this country and in this city alike there has been a history of not helping the poor or helping destitute neighborhoods enough.  The gangs were the ones to step in and help families and youths after the city turned their backs on these communities.  The gangs stepped up as older brothers, father figures or even acting as a policing type group to keep out those that would cause harm.

In the black ghettos of the south side and west side the gangs helped combat racial discrimination practices.  Some gangs wouldn’t allow blacks to use certain facilities in changing neighborhoods, the black gang would step in and fight for their rights.  Black gangs protested unfair employment opportunities and marched against unjust police procedures that brought harassment to the black community on no basis.  Black gangs brought out picket signs on the west side and protested the wrecking ball coming to destroy homes that were slotted for demolition for highway and UIC construction.  All the black gangs protested and fought for civil rights while in later years they did sell drugs so they could feed their families.  All black gangs fought for social justice whether you were a Black P Stone, a Vice Lords, a Four Corner Hustler, a Black Soul, a Black Disciple, a Del Viking, a Supreme Gangster, a Egyptian Cobra or whatever, they all fought for the same causes and this very often brought them together at the same conferences, the same protests, the same urban renewal meetings or for all around peace treaties.  Black gangs were formed along some of the same blood lines and everyone that was in a gang had either brothers, cousins, uncles etc… that was in a rival gang but family ties were often deeper and could help ignore all those rivalries.  Family ties also kept truces in place or created them to begin with and could keep rivals even negotiating organized and clean wars.

The same can be said within Hispanic gangs as family blood lines run deep and whether you are a Latin King, Maniac Latin Disciple, Two Six, Ambrose, Spanish Cobra or a Latin Count the struggle becomes all the same and this often brought Hispanics and blacks together as they went through the same struggles.  Mexicans and Puerto Ricans could come together as they were both Hispanic and of the same color. Mexicans and whites very often would come together since the 1950s as they both had issues with blacks and Puerto Ricans.  In later years Puerto Ricans and whites could even find common ground and even in some cases all races could come together in one organization.

It started to become realized by the 1970s more and more that the struggle was often the same in many ways as all the gangs were going through some of the same hard times.  A gang member would put in his work and fight for the neighborhood while sometimes getting into some more serious crimes like murder for vengeance or selling drugs to pay the bills and this landed many gang members in prison.  By the 1970s the prison systems were becoming packed with gang members to the point where the gangs were running the prison.

On the inside of the prison walls a prisoner was often reduced to being treated as a sub-human. State budgets cut back on resources and food quality for prisoners and prison guards were often brutal to inmates.  The conditions in these Illinois prisons were often times far below the standard of living humans should be subject to.  This was a problem all over the country back in these times and it caused many of protests nationwide.  In Statesville prison in Crest Hill Illinois the conditions in this maximum security prison were in a bad state as well and the prisoners were fed up.

Larry Hoover was incarcerated within these walls at the time serving a very long sentence for a murder he committed in 1973 when a junkie was trying to rip him off and Larry responded by removing him, so to say.  Larry Hoover was the leader of the Supreme Gangsters and the whole Gangster Nation on the streets, in prison this was now the Black Gangster Disciples, he ran it all.  Larry was highly respected back in those days and the whole BGDN honored him deeply.  Larry had allies too from Hispanic and white gangs that were arranged in 1973 with Simon City Royals, Ambrose and the Ashland Vikings.  Larry was highly intelligent and charismatic.  Larry grew up in Englewood and knew all the Disciples, Gangsters and Stones in the area and would even shake hands with a former enemy that was looking to make a resolve.  Needless to say he could be very forgiving and looked at the bigger picture with everything.  Beyond trying to build an empire and make lots of money he was more interesting in an activism stance.  He wanted the best for the Black Gangster Disciples to build themselves up into better men and make a life for themselves and their families legitimately.  The goal was always complete legitimacy while still trying to survive.  The barriers up around young black males was tough to penetrate through and this was a constant struggle for himself and the Disciples to get past.  Redlining, discrimination, lack of opportunity, being placed in disadvantaged communities was all very tough obstacles to overcome that led many young black males down a dark path. Larry Hoover was looking for ways to steer his Disciples away from that dark path while still making money at the same time.

Larry Hoover was an ambassador of relations with rival organizations.  He was well respected even by many high ranking Black P Stones, Vice Lords and Mickey Cobras and could sort out many issues.  Larry was so respected it was even said that he ran Statesville back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Even though the Black Gangster Disciples were heavily built upon not trusting the white man, Larry was still able to connect with many white gang leaders especially with the Simon City Royals.  Larry could reach out across many racial barriers that plagued the streets and prison system back in the 1970s and he could talk to just about anyone that was receptive and this is what led up to his inevitable master plan he put together in 1978.

Not only were the conditions in Illinois prisons terrible, the gang wars raged violently in a state of chaos that became very costly for all organizations.  Many guys were going into the Illinois prisons in the 70s and not coming back out accept in body bags.  This chaotic issue combined with brutal Corrections officers and rotten food led Larry to step up and become the voice of Statesville.

In April 1978, Larry Hoover put together a revolt against Statesville staff.  He needed utmost cooperation from all the major gangs in Statesville to make this a successful protest.  If there were any organizations that didn’t want to take part this would destroy the whole plan, therefore, everyone needed to be in on it or the plan was as good as dead.  I’m not sure if there were any difficulties in Larry summoning all the leadership of all the major gangs or not but he eventually made it happen.  The guys in prison were fed up and struggling with the same issues.  Many were being mistreated and fed spoiled food which is an act of disrespect.  Everyone felt the same pain and were enraged over the same issues, much the same as back on the streets where all the gangs were frustrated by how the city put them at a disadvantage that made them turn to being in gangs in the first place.  All gang leaders came together directed by Larry Hoover and made a stand in Statesville which led to all the inmates taking part in a prison-wide work stoppage.  This revolt was not in the news that I know of and from what I understand this was bloodless and a non-violent revolt. I also don’t think it lasted very long because, again, I found no news articles about it but everyone in Statesville in April 1978 can attest that this work stoppage protest did happen.

In the midst of this protest the gang leaders got together to create a temporary coalition to show that their cause was all the same.  This brought the creation of the “Folks” and the “Peoples” to Statesville.  As I stated the definition of Folk and People is the same thing and that was the purpose of creating these coalitions…or should I just say, coalition as singular instead of in the plural sense.  In a way this is one coalition of Folks and Peoples coming together, however, there needed to be a distinguishing between each side.  This is getting a little tricky to understand but bear with me as I explain it further.

The Black Gangster Disciples and Black Disciples were almost one in the same back in 1969 until the mid-1970s.  Larry Hoover and the Supreme Gangsters created the “Gangster” coalition in 1966 to unify all gangs with the same problems with the same gangs.  David Barksdale and the Devil’s Disciples had a coalition called the “Black Disciples” that unified all gangs in 1966 that had similar problems with the same rivals.  In 1969, both Black Disciples and Gangsters came together to create a close alliance called the “Black Gangster Disciples” which bounded both coalitions into a unity on the streets while each coalition ruled separate by their own “Kings,” King Larry Hoover of the Gangsters and King David Barksdale of the Black Disciples.  For the entire coalition of the “Black Gangster Disciple Nation,” Larry Hoover was the Chairman of the overall coalition while Barksdale had the most leadership of the whole coalition.  Basically this was a coalition on top of two coalitions.  When David Barksdale died in 1974 there was a group within the Black Disciple coalition that didn’t want to honor the Black Gangster Disciple coalition, they would only honor the Black Disciple coalition, however, most of the Black Disciple coalition wanted to honor the Black Gangster Disciple coalition and this led to a split in the mid-1970s until Dirk Acklin organized the rebels in prison and made them into their own gang known as the “Black Disciples.”  This meant the rest of those that were part of the Black Disciple coalition went over to become known as “Black Gangster Disciples” which now meant the “Black Gangster Disciple” coalition was defunct in prison and now the name was used to signify Larry Hoover’s supporters which consisted of most of the former “Black Disciple” alliance and all of the “Gangster” alliance.  Even though this fracturing happened everyone, whether Black Disciple or Black Gangster Disciple was cut from the same cloth, the same cloth that David Barksdale had created.  Both Black Disciples and Black Gangster Disciples honor King David Barksdale, however, they each have their own interpretation of David’s concepts.  Regardless of interpretation it can be agreed upon that David preached of unity and preferred peace on the streets if possible.  Many times in the Englewood area David called peace with the Black P Stones and even the Gangsters when there was war in 1968.  Larry was a strong follower of David’s concepts and bestowed those concepts on the Black Gangster Disciples that soon became admirable to other organizations especially after Larry was able to use those concepts as a backbone to write a Constitution of bylaws that organized the Black Gangster Disciples.  When Larry called for unity during these difficult times in April of 1978 all the nations came together as one force to put an end to the abuse all prisoners suffered.

Because of Black Gangster Disciple and Black Disciple former relations they were able to come together directly for this protest.  Since the Disciples had previously connected with Ambrose, Simon City Royals and Ashland Vikings in 1973 the connection expanded to those organizations as well. After this was established, the alliance could be expanded further to include allies to be part of this allegiance.  The Black Disciples helped create the Latin Disciples back in 1966 so that roped Maniac Latin Disciples into this and brought their closest allies the Spanish Cobras, Latin Eagles and Imperial Gangsters into the fold.  Simon City Royals were able to sponsor the Insane Popes.    Ambrose had deep family ties with Satan Disciples and Two Six and their wars were simmering back then so they were able to be brought into this.  All these organizations become the “Folks” for this protest.

Black P Stones (known as El Rukns at the time) and Vice Lords had family ties to Disciples and everyone knew each other very well from years of war and from years of on and off peace treaties.  Vice Lords, Stones and Disciples had marched together during the LSD coalition days when they protested unfair hiring practices and wage earnings.  They knew how to band together when the time was needed and this was the time to come together with the Disciples again.  Because of their differences and rivalries the Vice Lords and El Rukns settled on being under a different name for this protest, a name that is the same meaning as Folks but appears different.  This was symbolic of the struggles of both sides, they fight for the same things and endure the same hardships but go by different names, colors etc… that is the whole symbolism of Folk and People.  The El Rukns and Vice Lords would be part of the “People” coalition.  I’m not positive if El Rukns and Vice Lords came up with the “People” name or if Larry Hoover himself gave them that name to use but that became the official name of the coalition of the rivals of the gangs that joined the Folk alliance.  It was almost like an agreement to disagree and I’m sure discussions ensued at this time to sort out common enemies and allies so that everyone chose the correct side to be on.  The Latin Kings were pivotal as well is the People alliance start up as they represented the Hispanic and white part of the People coalition.  They were the largest non-black organization on the streets and had violent wars going on with all organizations that were now going to be Folks so Vice Lords and El Rukns were going to work with the Latin Kings to determine the People nation allies.  First Vice Lords and Latin Kings needed to squash their personal differences.  El Rukns brought the Mickey Cobras into the People alliance because they used to be close allies and Cobras used to be part of the Stones.  Vice Lords brought in the Four Corner Hustlers because the founders of the 4s used to be Vice Lords.  Latin Kings brought in allies from the United Neighborhoods alliance, allies like Insane Unknowns and Spanish Lords.  Latin Counts were very valuable to the People coalition and had decent relations with El Rukns so they were brought in alongside the Bishops which dulled down both organization’s war with the Latin Kings.  Puerto Rican Stones were an easy take in since they at one time were part of the Black P Stones in prison back in the 60s.

There you have it, the People and Folk coalitions were set in April of 1978 just in time for the work stoppage protest and since they were all working in unison, they effectively got the whole prison on lock down.  No prisoners or other gangs dared oppose or they would be destroyed.  The biggest men in prison now controlled this entire revolt and it likely scared prison staff right away and I can imagine this revolt was short lived because nothing made the news about it.  The two coalitions came together as one and showed their power.  At first they appeared as one coalition and symbolically they were one group.

When the protest was over both coalitions stuck around as it was agreed that it was a perfect way for gang wars in prison to be organized and to stop some of those wars especially the one between Black Gangster Disciples and Black Disciples.  Because of these coalitions not only could Folks govern within themselves and People could govern within themselves but also the two coalitions could reach out to each other for negotiations.  We have seen this same behavior with Italian organized crime mafia families.  When differences arise wars and peace are organized.  The heads of the coalitions decide how long the wars last, how bloody and the method the wars are carried out.  For example, both sides can agree there will be a cease fire in school zones.

The Folk and People coalitions were a work of genius and were sorely needed.  Countless lives have been saved since their inception despite what law enforcement agencies want you to believe.  Controlled wars are always preferred.  Some may argue with me that these are not controlled. I can agree to an extent that yes these coalitions are not perfect but something is better than nothing.  There were good intentions put in place here and many good things arose from the creation of these groups.  The idea was the brainchild of a man that indeed has a criminal past and was a gangster but on the other side of the coin he was a man that also wanted a better life for himself and the people all around him.  When these coalitions began he extended that belief in creating a better life to his allies of brown and white skin color.  The concept of Folks has a deep meaning because of Larry Hoover and it gave all the nations under this coalition a chance to have a piece of the pie of the teachings of Larry that was passed down to him from David.  In 1981, these teachings of Folk and People were passed down to the streets and all organizations old and young, small or large were invited to be part of these coalitions.  The governance also passed onto these wicked streets of Chicago and effectively stopped or slowed down so many gang wars and saved many lives.  Yes, there is a dark side that the two coalitions govern the drug trade as well but they can also help organize these cartels to assure smoother operations that don’t result in as much death and disorder.  When the crack epidemic first began in the mid-80s it was at the height of Folk and People unity and made for a much smoother transition of gangs getting their hands in on this business without utter chaos and bloodshed on the streets.  Of course, in the long run, greed took over and ultimately destroyed these coalitions on the streets.  In the long run Folk and People didn’t work at the street level and that’s because Folk and People is not as greedy by nature in a certain aspect.  In other aspects like allowing prison guys to a cut of the earnings from guys on the streets it can become greedier, but when you look at the other way in controlling wars and stopping gangs or sections of gangs from stepping on each other’s toes for that money, some of the greed disappears.

Law enforcement has done everything they can to silence Larry Hoover and the ways of Folk and People but perhaps that is a mistake in this modern day greedy environment on the streets where organization is needed more than ever to curtail much of the violence and show young men how to conduct themselves in ways to fit better into society.