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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.

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As soon as they show up, Aqeela says, people start running into their houses, yelling, "All the cats from Jordan Downs over here!" But then Bogard emerges, demanding they step into the gym for a conference. "He was talking about how, 'This can't happen just like this! It's going to take years! I just got shot up!'" Aqeela recalls. "But our Gs was over there, too. A lot of these cats is dead now, but they had a higher level of consciousness, and they was all just like, 'Fuck that shit, you know, we ain't never going to heal all that! That's in the past. We got to make this shit right for the little homies.' I was 25 at the time, so a lot of us young cats was like, 'Man, let these old niggas stand in the gym and talk. Niggas ain't going to shoot nobody, let's go outside.'" So they do. They walk right into a crowd of PJs. "The young cats from the Imperial Courts," Aqeela says, "they was like, 'Man, you all wit it? You all wit the peace?' And we was like, 'Yeah, we wit it!'"

Right then, in Aqeela's memory, "it was like, 'Fuck it, it's on!' People yelling it, house to house, it was unbelievable, you could see people coming outside, 'It's on! The peace treaty on!' Mobs of people driving up, girls seeing dudes they been wanting to see for years." By the next morning, which was also the day the Rodney King riots erupted, the cease-fire party had rolled back to Jordan Downs, the Circle City Pirus had shown up to make amends, and yes, even the Bounty Hunters, all those years later, came just to let bygones be bygones. "There were so many peace-treaty babies, it was ridiculous!" says Sherrills.

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