Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Bastard Question

“How did we go from calling each other brother to saying, ‘Kill that nigga’?” asks Cle “Bone” Sloan, gang member turned filmmaker, in his documentary Bastards of the Party. Illuminating, frequently infuriating and often depressing, Bastards is an exhaustively researched look at the history and legacies of the Bloods and the Crips. Bone, a 38-year-old former Blood, made the film after years of banging and bloodshed finally led him to ask the simple question: Where does this culture of death come from?

Bastards starts in the present, then leaps back to the great African-American migration from the South to the West in the mid 20th century. It chronicles the racism black folk encountered upon their arrival, and how they slowly carved neighborhoods and communities of their own. News to many will be the fact (also detailed in a comprehensive 2006 report on the history of the Bloods and the Crips by Sheriff’s Department gang expert Detective Wayne Coffey) that white gangs — with names like the Spook Hunters — planted the seeds of modern gang strife in L.A. when black school kids banded together to protect themselves from attacks. By the time white flight solved the problem of white gangs, black gangs like the Slausons, the Farmers and the Gladiators began to turn on one another.

The axis of the film, however, is the new life it breathes into the not-altogether-novel argument that the federal government, and the FBI in particular, pitted the Black Panther Party, and its L.A. leader, Bunchy Carter, against Ron Karenga and his US (United Slaves) movement, leaving both movements in ruins and creating a devastating political and cultural — not to mention spiritual — void in the local African-American community. Bastards is filled with fantastic gangsta-on-the-street interviews, archival photos and news footage, and interviews with Geronimo Pratt, other black activists and L.A. historian Mike Davis. As it unfolds, it presents an ever-deepening perspective not just on gang lore but on the black experience in Los Angeles, with its ripple effects on the national stage.

In the midst of a frenzy of promotional activity to hype the film’s February 6 HBO premiere (you can catch it all month on HBO’s various channels), while at the same time taking care of his young son, Bone sat down to answer questions about the film, the current state of black life in Los Angeles and his take on black and brown tensions in the city.

For the rest of the interview, click here

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