Straight Outta Boston
Why is the "Boston Miracle" -- the only tactic proven to reduce gang violence -- being dissed by the L.A.P.D., the FBI, and Congress?
AMONG THE COMPETING STORIES about how to stop gangbangers from slaughtering each other, here's the leading contender from the street: Sometime in '77 or '78, at a South Central L.A. junior high, a Grape Street Crip named Loaf, from the Jordan Downs housing project, sticks a knife into a Bounty Hunter Blood named Night Owl, from Nickerson Gardens, killing him on the spot. One bloody reprisal leads to a hundred bloody more, feuds spread through the two other big Watts projects—Imperial Courts, home of the PJ Crips, and Hacienda Village, home of the Circle City Pirus. With all of them warring against each other—Crip against Crip, Crip against Blood—and the crack wars raging, and L.A. gunslingers wasting 800 people in 1992 alone, Watts becomes the national epicenter of the shadow fantasy that lives in the heart of every American, that Boyz N the Hood dystopia in which lunatic teenagers troll the streets with AK-47s, gunning down suckers without remorse. To be hopeful is to be a fool—it's all going to hell, steer clear—but, to hear Aqeela Sherrills tell it, the answer comes from the black community itself. First, Louis Farrakhan introduces a handful of rival gangbangers to Jim Brown, the retired NFL Hall of Fame running back. Brown directs a self-empowerment nonprofit called Amer-I-Can, and he starts inviting the four gangs up to his posh Hollywood home, feeding them pizza around the pool and pushing them to lay down arms. It's not all love and kisses: One of the PJ Crip OGs, a guy named Tony Bogard, had just shot and killed a Grape, and the Grapes riddle Bogard in return, though not fatally. But Daude Sherrills, Aqeela's older brother and a Grape OG, finally writes a cease-fire treaty based on the text of the Israel-Egypt truce of 1949. The only thing left is to make it real, to walk each other's streets without fear, and it's Aqeela who actually talks a handful of his fellow Grapes into the unthinkable: driving down to Imperial Courts and stepping into the broad daylight of the PJs' turf.