CRIPS: The original story


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 CRIPS is a story that grew out of an urgent societal need for Black fathers' guidance and love. It is the seminal work (originally published in 1987) about the largest street gang in Los Angeles, and indeed, the United States, that grew, malignantly, for over 3 decades, and is responsible for more murder and mayhem than any street gang in American history. The novel has spawned a genre of books and movies.

This is the story of a young man, O. G. Jimmie Black, Sr. (O.G. Bobby Johnson in the, subsequent, movie SOUTH CENTRAL) who is living in Watts, California at the time of the searing Watts Rebellion of 1965 and who, consequently, becomes a member of the original Crip gang in Los Angeles which was born and ruled in the spirit of Bunche Carter and the L.A. Black Panther Party. O.G. Jimmie Black and Raymond (aka Ray Ray, Fass Black) Johnson are composites of Raymond Washington and Tookie Williams, the first two leaders of the gang. But, the characters, also, represent the rebellious spirits of Bunche Carter, Geronimo Jijaga (Pratt), Ice T, Easy E, Ice Cube, Tu Pac, et al. 

Jimmie Black, Sr. considers himself having outgrown Crippin' (gangbanging) after the birth of his son, Jimmie Jr., but Crippin' keeps growing, too, until it, eventually, enlists his son and devastates his family in its cruel social tradition that festered and grew like an epidemic of kid cancer in Los Angeles, then, spread to Fresno, Portland, San Diego, Tulsa, Kansas City, Seattle, and every major and many small cities in America. But, CRIPS, the novel, like its film adaptation, SOUTH CENTRAL, is filled with the spirit of souls that although sorely tried, go undefeated.

This PG-13, historical novel grew out of a need for hope and an ostensible way out of the internecine war of 50,000 Crips and Bloods that was spreading in the heart of Los Angeles and threatened to consume the California prison system. It was written to combat the shameful tradition of functional illiteracy that predominated among Crips and many other gangs for decades prior to the new millennium. What would traditionally be termed illiteracy is more accurately, "antiliteracy" that resonates with disdain for the archaic and often racist canon of literature (Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, etc.), the required reading that is the irrefutable criterion for learning to read in public schools. But, it is, also, very important that a student has a strong will (desire) to read if a teacher wants him/her to attain the skill. CRIPS, however, is so compelling that even the antiliterate kids often steal it from the libraries and classrooms.

And, CRIPS, like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, celebrates the power of reading to quicken even dead spirits. Furthermore, it is the first novel in American literature that chronicles the Islamic religion's miraculous impact in the American prison system.

The protagonist, O.G. Jimmie Black, like Malcolm X, represents tens if not hundreds of thousands of inmates who reformed after becoming Muslims in prison. The span of time in the story corresponds with the era when Islam became recognized and accepted as a legitimate religion for the first time by American society. CRIPS, Inshallah (God Willing), articulates some of the struggles that Muslims have confronted and won.

Two critical chapters in the middle of the book are integral to L'il Jimmie, Jr.'s quest to be O.G. (a gang hero). They feature him, now, a runaway in downtown L.A. and Li'l Flaco, his newfound, Mexican friend from "Big White Fence", the local gang. Their adventures become historic when they encounter the "Skid Row Slasher" in an alley. But, more importantly, presciently, these 2 little boys form a historic friendship with uncommon courage and respect for their blended Black and Mexican cultures.