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Black Dragons: The Black Punk Gang Who Fought Racism & Skinheads in 1980s France

BY   Aude Konan  |  PUB   OkayAfrica 


In a new short series, Okayafrica contributor Aude Konan will be highlighting little known black punk communities around the world, and how they work to gain more visibility within their local punk scenes.
Black punk communities seldom exist in France.

Many French black punks don’t gather in groups as they don’t feel the necessity to further ostracize themselves from a punk scene that’s already not so welcoming of non-white faces. Throughout the years, though, a few black indie punks groups have emerged such as Mau Maus in the 1980s or the still active Zenzille.

One of the closest things France had to a black punk community was the Black Dragons, a group united by a will to fight back against racist skinheads and a strong sense of belonging to the Parisian suburbs.

The Black Dragons were an anti-fascist group formed in the 1980s in the northwestern Parisian suburbs. They were initially founded in the U.S. during the late ‘70s, largely influenced by the Black Panther Party.

Before the French branch was created in Paris, two black groups dominated the scene: the Del Vikings and the Black Panthers (named after the American party). These groups have been portrayed in Gilles Ellie Cohen’s photography book Vikings &Panthers.



Mau Maus
STREET GANG, NEW YORK, US
Mau Maus was the name of a 1950s street gang in New York. The book and the adapted film The Cross and the Switchblade and biography Run Baby Run document the life of its most famous leader Nicky Cruz. Their name was derived from the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya.

Nicky Cruz wrote a book about his experiences called Run Baby Run. Israel Narvaez committed his life to God and wrote a book called Second Chance: The Israel Narvaez Story. David Wilkerson wrote a biography The Cross and the Switchblade and a film of the same name was released.

The Mau Maus were a Brooklyn Puerto Rican gang operating from at least late 1954 to around 1962. Some members of a street gang called the Apaches broke away and created the Mau Maus, according to Israel Narvaez, one of the gang’s founders. The Apaches had succumbed to heroin while Narvaez and others were more interested in fighting and maintaining territory. They also asked permission from a rival gang called the Chaplains to start a Puerto Rican gang in the area. Eventually the gang was called Mau Mau Chaplains.

Around January 1958 a Bishop member and a candy store owner were stabbed to death by some of the Mau Mau gang, supposedly in retaliation for the Bishops’ killing of Mannie Durango, a member of the Mau Maus. One of its best known members was Nicky Cruz, who was President, Vice President, and Warlord at different points during his tenure. Cruz said he stabbed 16 people while a member.

Cruz and his best friend Israel Narvaez became born-again Christians in July 1958, after hearing David Wilkerson preach. However, Narvaez became disillusioned with Christianity and eventually rejoined the Mau Maus. He became their leader again and on February 23, 1959, Narvaez, along with Carl Cintron, Carlos Reyes, and Melvin Torres, shot and killed Anthony Lavonchino, a member of the Sand Street Angels, one of the Mau Maus’ enemies. Lavonchino had apparently beaten Tico, a Mau Mau, for walking with his sister. Narvaez later returned to his Christian faith as chronicled in his autobiography, Second Chance.

Salvador Agrón, a member of the Mau Maus, later led another gang called the Vampires, who were responsible for a well-known New York tragedy when on the evening of August 29, 1959, they killed two innocent bystanders, mistaking them for rival gang members. The murders would become known as the Capeman Murders after the costume worn by Agrón and Paul Simon’s Broadway musical The Capeman was based upon the life of Agrón.

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