Author’s childhood experience forms tales about gangs

Dawn Turner Trice (Los Angeles Times) | February 28, 2011
When Lance Williams talks to elementary and high school students about the Black P Stone Nation, a street gang later known as El Rukns, he conveys a history lesson and a personal story that often has youths listening with rapt attention.

“You can hear a pin drop because most of them have family members affiliated with different gangs,” said Williams, 48, an associate professor in Northeastern Illinois University’s Center for Inner City Studies.

Williams is the co-author of the new book “The Almighty Black P Stone Nation: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of an American Gang,” which he wrote with WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore. He said that because street gangs are often glorified or demonized, his goal in writing the book was to offer a more nuanced perspective.

It’s also a unique one.

Williams’ father was a former gang member who in the 1960s was hired to counsel gang members to get them to resolve conflicts in less violent ways. And when Williams’ father worked, he brought his 8-year-old son along.

“He worked with the Del Vikings, a smaller but tenacious organization that used to be in Stateway Gardens (housing complex) and the Stones, which were in Woodlawn,” said Williams, who grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood and later in suburban Harvey.

“Most of the large organizations are confederacies of smaller ones that come together, and my father knew that. I would listen as he encouraged them to back down (from violence), but allowed them to save face. They respected him.”

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