How This Notorious Gang Is Tied To Black Liberation

grafitti on a dumpster
Graciella Ye’Tsunami
May 31, 2024

Born in 1953, Raymond Washington was a legendary streetfighter. To survive on the streets of LA, he had to be. When he was only 12, Washington lived through the Watts riots of 1965, a war between Black residents and police. The riots changed him forever. Tired of police brutality and inspired by the Black Panther Movement, Washington and his friend Stanley “Tookie” Williams formed the Crips in 1969.

Known for their blue bandanas and their feud with the Bloods, the Crips’ origins as a group for Black liberation have been all but forgotten.

Many assume “Crip” is short for “crippled,” an homage to the OG members who carried canes. It could also combine “Cribs” and “RIP” to honor membership from cradle to grave. It’s also possible that “Crip” is an acronym for “Community Revolution in Progress.”

Police demonize the Crips because they don’t want us to remember that this influential gang began as a Black liberation movement. This isn’t to say that gangs like the Crips aren’t violent, but we’ve been taught to blame gangs instead of to question the system that produced them.

There’s an estimated 33,000 gangs in the US, with roughly 35% being Black members. What would the world look like if there were 33,000 gangs fighting for Black liberation? We have the power to build communities centering Black liberation. What if we reimagined gangs centering community instead of violence?