'Bastards of the Party' a Personal Look at L.A. Gangs
TONY COX, host:
Crips, Bloods, no matter what city you live in, in this country there is a better than even chance that you know or someone close to you knows that these are the names of two of the most notorious gangs in America. Less are known are the Slausons, the Gladiators or the Businessmen. That's because these were the fathers of the children who eventually became Bloods and Crips.
The connection between these two generations of gangs in Los Angeles is part of a fascinating HBO documentary called "Bastards of the Party," which looks at gang life here since the 1940s. Their history is told through the eyes of someone who knows firsthand what he is talking about. Cle "Bone" Sloan was a member of the Athens Park Bloods until an opportunity to work in films changed his life forever.
Now behind the camera Sloan went back to Athens Park to document the life he once knew so well. And he joins us here in studio at NPR West. Welcome, bro.
Mr. Cleve Sloan (Director, "Bastards at the Party"): Man, thanks for having me.
Mr. SLOAN: I appreciate it.
COX: It really was. You know, this was an intriguing, well-researched history of gang life in the city. And it brought out events, you know, relevant events that people probably aren't aware of, even people who live here in the city. So what was your purpose?
Mr. SLOAN: Our purpose, I believe, was, you know, once I started trying to flesh out the story, orally, from my (unintelligible) and they can only take me back so far. And it was never really - just clarity - it was always kind of vague. So once I started researching and started uncovering some of, you know, and I want to give a new reference point to, you know, our information, you know, what we call a gangbanger.
COX: You certainly did that. I mean, going back from the gangs who started in the '40s and you connect a lot of things, I mean, the COINTELPRO, the Panthers, Us(ph), Crack Cocaine, Iran-Contra, the demise of the manufacturing complex in the city - all led to building of the gangs.
But one thing, Bone, you said that I want you to talk about, the breakdown after black unity - after the black unity movement of the '60s and that by the time we got into the '70s that was sort of the seminal opening of the door.
Mr. SLOAN: Yeah, I call it the changing of the guard where I went from community success to individual success. Where guys coming home from the penitentiary or guys who were actively involved in, you know, the black liberation movement. They were kind of like overrun with this whole new slick who - I'm going to get mine, but I won't mess with me. And about us no more, it's about just me.
COX: Let's talk about you a little bit because - and your own involvement in gang life…
Mr. SLOAN: Yes.
COX: …and how, even today that there are ties that bind you to them. You talked about that…
Mr. SLOAN: Yeah.
COX: …in the documentary despite the killing that continues - in which you have spoken out against. It seems to me, Bone, that you still struggle with that.
Mr. SLOAN: Yeah. I definitely still struggle with it because I call myself a non-active member. You know, I want to keep all my credibility. I want to keep my social ties. And that's the strength on influence there. I just don't break the law when it comes down to that situation.
COX: Well, how then are you able to maintain that credibility. First of all, you're getting older.
Mr. SLOAN: Yeah.
COX: All right. So that's an issue. Secondly, if you're not out putting in work…
Mr. SLOAN: Right.
COX: …as they say, then how are you going to be with…
Mr. SLOAN: But, unfortunately, I've put in a lot of work. I mean, unfortunately my hands got a lot of blood on them, you know, what I mean? And so people still look at me, you know, with that persona. So you see me on the block, you see me having some, you know, some success and it stimulates, you know, a dialogue between me and the homies - knowing that, you know, I'm a filmmaker and I am a Blood. And that's why I'm able to come in, you know, with (unintelligible) cameras and get inside - like this film was told from the inside out.
COX: Yes, it was.
Mr. SLOAN: And that's part of the reason, because I'm still Bone. You know, around with a camera six or seven years ago, but now, they understand what I was doing and now they're seeing the final product. And now, they too, are running around with cameras and want to be boom operators and want to be into film.
COX: In the documentary, you talked about how hard it was when your friend's son, the twin, was killed.
Mr. SLOAN: Yeah. Right.
COX: And that if you ran across the person that killed him, you weren't sure at first, what you might do. You later on said I won't kill him.
(Soundbite of documentary, "Bastards of the Party")
Unidentified Man: Am I standing alone when I say I'm ran into Twin's killer, I wouldn't do nothing? Doing, you know, you might have guys from my neighborhood at my age would disagree because that was my homeboy's son.
I mean I'd be truly lying if I say, well, he knows all about peace and, you know, that's my partner, though, no (unintelligible). I mean, I watched them grow from kids, man, there's so much more than just be gang, that's involved, I mean, yeah, we're a gang but we're - you know, what I'm saying? We love each other, too. It's personal.
COX: Have you went across them and have you been put to that test?
Mr. SLOAN: I've been put to that test.
COX: What happened?
Mr. SLOAN: I'm in the same room with a person that I know who did it -something to one of my homeboys, killed one of my homeboys, and I just pretty much ignored them. You know what I mean? I didn't make the phone call. You know, for the troops to come in. I just pretty much ignored him. I'm not going to go and embrace you. You know, I mean, I sit down and smoke a cigarette with you - but the most important thing is, I'm not going to get it popping with you.
I make sure that the homies know this. My whole thing is to change the energy. Okay, I want to break up gang. I'm going to change the energy back to some of the original concepts because we come out of the black liberation movement.
Mr. SLOAN: The black liberation movement was put - you know, the whole role, as you know, your a generation of rug was pulled from under you. And what the film does is it tracks all the way back to our beginning. And we find is, out of the actions of the Black Panther Party came Crip. They wanted to continue the revolution and keep it progress.
COX: I remember that they were trying to even go through the system at one point…
Mr. SLOAN: Exactly.
COX: …where it first began. I remember all of that.
Mr. SLOAN: Okay.
COX: But it took a turn.
Mr. SLOAN: It took a turn.
COX: Right. Can it turn back?
Mr. SLOAN: I believe so. I believe so and from what I know is - I'm on the streets 24/7 and I know what the language is out there. I think the winds have changed, right here. I'm hearing every homey, every different neighborhood saying man, we've got to stop this. You know, we're losing the battle. The police are on us. And the other elements are all over us. You know what I mean? And this is our last stand here in Los Angeles. If we don't come together here in Los Angeles, at least, then it's a wrap for us. And I'm hearing the language. I've seen neighborhoods who have never sat down before, sitting down and trying to map out some of their differences.
COX: Bone, thank you very much, man, for coming in.
Mr. SLOAN: Thank you for having me.
COX: Cle "Bone" Sloan directed the HBO documentary "Bastards of the Party," which airs beginning tonight.
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