Some fifty years and nearly twenty miles from the site of operation of the notorious Chicago gang the Almighty Black P Stone Nation, nearly sixty people gathered recently to discuss the book of same title that examines the rise and fall of that gang and its leader. The setting was the main library in Oak Park, a leafy suburb just off the West Side of Chicago, a good distance from the Woodlawn community where the Black P Stone Nation ran community programs for a while before they branched into selling drugs and wreaking mayhem.
The audience was fairly mixed racially but mostly middle aged with a few gray flecked afros. A number of audience members had vivid memories of the Black P Stone Nation: sponsoring picnics for children, making Woodlawn treacherous territory to navigate, and provoking the wrath of the original Mayor Richard Daley who was apparently as concerned about the gang’s ability to organize as its ability to commit crime.
The authors of The Almighty Black P Stone Nation are Natalie Moore, a reporter with the local public radio station, and Lance Williams, an activist and academic. Moore said she felt compelled to write the book on the invitation of Williams and because “it was a book I wanted to read and it hadn’t been done.” It was also “part of my own education as a reporter.”
She is too young to remember much about the Black P Stone Nation, but Williams was in the thick of it. His father was a member of another gang but he had been warned away from gang influence by his father and others. Williams was an adolescent before he even realized the Nation was a gang. His father “made it clear that there was a lot to learn and a lot of humanity on the streets.”
Apparently, it was the humanity of the streets that brought a few audience members to adamantly defend the Nation.
Moore called the book “a social history” about the context and social factors that created the gang – the wars on poverty, drugs, and later on terrorism for their connections to Libya. She said she wanted to explore the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of the Nation and its leader Jeff Fort. Judging from the responses of the audience, she was right on target.