If you are interested in learning more about violence prevention, the history of gang culture and successful peace processes we suggest you read the following books…




Street Wars — Gangs and the Future of Violence.  By Tom Hayden

Though never officially acknowledged, as many as 25,000 young people have died in America’s gang wars since 1980.  In cities across America, members of the Crips, Bloods, Mara Salvatrucha, 18th Street, Latin Kings, Blackstone Rangers, and Gangster Disciples are like traumatized veterans with no way home.  Yet some of these survivors have left gang-banging for peacemaking, and they have an important message to deliver: gang violence is preventable.

Weaving together cutting analysis with numerous firsthand stories from gang leaders, Hayden shows how the prison industrial complex reinforces gang identity through humiliation and punishment, and reveals how globalization has created a force of unemployable men and women around the world who are defined as incorrigible, outside law and community.

Finally, Street Wars advocates a peace process to address the devastation of America’s urban youth, to be led by inner-city peacemakers whose own experiences taught them the futility and waste of gang culture, and who, like other war veterans, need their own counseling and treatment programs.  But, Tom Hayden argues, these peacemakers cannot solve the violence crisis on their own.  They need public advocates, for such a process cannot succeed without reinforcement-in the form of inner-city education, gang intervention programs, housing, parks, job training in juvenile halls and prisons, and a living wage for the working poor.


Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic.  By James Gilligan, M.D.

Drawing on first hand experience as a prison psychiatrist, his own family history, and literature, Gilligan unveils the motives of men who commit horrifying crimes, men who will not only kill others but destroy themselves rather than suffer a loss of self-respect. With devastating clarity, Gilligan traces the role that shame plays in the etiology of murder and explains why our present penal system only exacerbates it. Brilliantly argued, harrowing in its portraits of the walking dead, Violence should be read by anyone concerned with this national epidemic and its widespread consequences.

“Extraordinary. Gilligan’s recommendations concerning what does work to prevent violence…are extremely convincing…A wise and careful, enormously instructive book.”–Owen Renik, M.D., editor, Psychoanalytic Quarterly

Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez

By age twelve, Luis Rodríguez was a veteran of East L.A. gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests, then watched with increasing fear as drugs, murder, suicide, and senseless acts of street crime claimed friends and family members. Before long Rodríguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words, and sucessfully broke free from years of violence and desperation. Achieving success as an award-winning Chicano poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more–until his young son joined a gang. Rodríguez fought for his child by telling his own story in Always Running, a vivid memoir that explores the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants. At times heartbreakingly sad and brutal, Always Running is ultimately an uplifting true story, filled with hope, insight and a hard-earned lesson for the next generation.

The son of Mexican immigrants, Luis J. Rodríguez grew up in Watts and East Los Angeles. He began writing in his early teens, and eventually won national recognition as a poet, journalist, and critic. He is currently working as a peacemaker among inner-city gangs and runs Tia Chucha Press, which publishes emerging, socially concious poets.

City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. By Mike Davis

In this excellent book on Los Angeles, Davis reconstructs the city’s “shadow” history, analyzes its economy, and brilliantly reveals the power relationships that exist behind the scenes. From the offshore Japanese capital to the local gangs, from the L.A. Police Department to the homeless people on the streets, the author introduces most of the players in the life of the city, both the powerless and those who run the show. City of Quartz is a masterful account of how real and paranoid fear plays a role in the deconstruction of the city’s public sphere to secure its “chosen people.” Davis argues that authoritarian control of the public space, the fragmentation of the landscape caused by the physical “protection” and isolation of specific areas, and the growing use of surveillance cameras are leading to a militarization of the landscape. Davis, as a native son, affectionately criticizes the city where the past has been erased, dreams have failed, and the image rarely maps into reality–the city that so many Americans love to hate.

Blue Rage, Black Redemption By Stanley Tookie Williams

Read California Death Row inmate memoir on his days as a Crip in Los Angeles during its inception. Through 38 chapters, he takes you from his birth in New Orleans, to the days when he was the leader of the West Side Crips. He debunks many of the stories and theories that have been well publicized about the history of the Crips. He rejects the premise that the original Crips were an off shoot of the Panthers, he states that it is fiction that the early Crips operated under any C.R.I.P acronym, and sets the record on Raymond Washington, the founder of the Crips.

He talks about his drug use at the age of 12 (p. 59) his days at Washington High School, early Black gangs such as the Businessmen and Slausons (p. 72) and the first time meeting Raymond Washington (p. 77). He also confirms that the original name of Raymond’s click was “Cribs” not “Crips” (p. 82) a concept that I expanded on in my 1999 publication Territoriality Among African American Street Gangs and cover in the documentary “Gangsta King” originally produced in 2000. The pronounciation mutated to Crips as recruits just simply mispronounced the name.

If you are seeking a thorough history of Los Angeles gang history from one of the early founders, this is a must read.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation By Jeff Chang

Many good books have been written about the history of hip-hop music and the generation that nurtured it. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop ranks among the best. Jeff Chang covers the music–from its Jamaican roots in the late 1960s to its birth in the Bronx; its eventual explosion from underground to the American mainstream–with style, including DJs, MCs, b-boys, graffiti art, Black Nationalism, groundbreaking singles and albums, and the street parties that gave rise to a genuine movement. But the book is about more than beats and rhymes. What distinguishes his book from the pack is Chang’s examination of how hip-hop has shaped not only pop music, but American history and culture over the past 30 years. He shows how events such as urban flight, race riots, neighborhood reclamation projects, gang warfare in the Bronx and Los Angeles, and grassroots movements that influenced political agendas are as integral a part of the hip-hop story as the music itself. He also charts the concurrent rise of hip-hop activism and the commodification of the music and the ideological clashes that developed as a result. Based on hundreds of interviews and over a decade of work as a respected music journalist, Chang offers colorful profiles of the lives and influences of “the trinity of hip-hop music”–Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and DJ Kool Herc–along with many other artists, label executives, DJs, writers, filmmakers, and promoters. Impressive in its scope, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is a lively and sharply written exploration of the power of hip-hop to unite people across generational, racial, and economic lines.

— Shawn Carkonen