Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gang Graffiti--Links and Notes

Just some annotated bibliography, mostly visual examples. Not really a post. Updated November 30, 2009.
And here everybody thought that undergraduate art degree wouldn't add to political stuff in grad school.
Everything with ** asterisks is particularly good.

Many kinds of graffiti are about identity. All "communicate spatial conquest." (Alonso)

As per streetgangs. com, "Aggressive graffiti is defined as graffiti written by gang members that crosses out the pre-existing graffiti of a rival. Sometimes it can include disrespectful taunts and threats against a rival gang and/or its members, but as it is defined here, it must always cross out the other graffiti." More at the site, including gang maps of Los Angeles. The theory is that aggressive graffiti shows up at the borders of disputed territory.

**Video by niftic with a good primer on gangs as well as languages. Chicago-based. From a video "A Heart Broken in Half" (58 minutes), which can be purchased at CollectiveEye. org.
People v. Folk Nation. Shows Latin Kings and other gangs. Other snips from this video show that graffiti is used to honor the dead and keep them "still alive and watching over us."

--One video from Toronto, posted by LegalGraffitiArt. Law enforcement officer and Operations Director of the Ontario Gang Investigator's Association Scott Mills discusses two elementary examples of graffiti but has a very good point: "You'd have to ask the person who painted it what he really meant. That's the bottom line." At another point, he says, looking at Crip sign, "We don't know if this is painted as a kid acting out a fantasy or as evidence of true gang activity."  Two minutes, but that's the important part. Example unexceptional.

From News:

**2006, May 1--American Renaissance. com--"Gangs claim their turf in Iraq." Ganster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords. Originally in the Chicago Tribune. (Picture above.) This article is interesting because it exemplifies the organized, trans-border trade through gang affiliation. And a cultural vanguard, within the military and eventually, perhaps, already, in Iraq.

**2008, January 30--"Knock it off, taggers told." at Rapids. It looks like dissing-Latin King graffiti (upside-down crown) was in turn disrespected ("aggressive" graffiti), then new Latin King iconography put on. Almost next to the walkers in the photo, you see MX-13. The thirteenth letter of the alphabet is M, so this means MeXican Mafia. It is also crossed out. This wall also looks like its been cleaned more than once.

What is interesting about this article is the comments from local businessmen and residents. "Can't spell"--The mis-spelling could be partly illiteracy but more it is part of the gang languge, the jargon or secret codes of the group. "Get them a coloring book" ignores the informational utility of this media, the technical struggle with handling the media, and the haste with which these announcements are put up. Also mentioned: "I bet they don't tag their own places," which is also inaccurate from the gang's point of view. They are claiming a kind of ownership. They tag as they believe necessary to show ownership or challenge others, properly-owned or not. That would include, if necessary, their own residences. The point of graffiti abatement is to reclaim your property and ownership.

--Credit: (top) NYDaily News--Muralist Gano Grills painted a memorial to Blood gang member Jermaine (Big Den) Dickerson, killed on Staten Island November 7, 2009. A nice mix of tagging and gang-signage all at once.

--From, (kenstein?)
This shows the pitchfork, six-pointed star, and "Folk Life". The wall is red (a People/Bloods color), and the Folk have now dominated the wall.  Supposedly this is from the Midwest, either Chicago or Detroit, Utica Avenue, about one block from a police station.
The IGD is Insane Gangster Disciples, according to one commenter, a gang no longer in existence.

Web Sites:
**City of Clarksville, Tennessee has a great site on the difference between types of graffiti, as part of a city awareness "SECURE" program. The page uses material from a DOJ policing text linked at the bottom of the page, a "Graffiti Guide."  In this example: "Money, MAC, Murder" (at right). the pitchforks, five-pointed star, denote People Nation, which goes along with the CK. The use of dollar signs for an S reputedly signifies that this site is where you can buy illegal drugs. Sometimes I wonder if it can really be that easy.

--City of St. Paul, MN, has a good public-oriented page which differentiates between "art" graffiti and "gang graffiti". An understated no-hysteria approach to getting or giving an informed complaint. Rolling '80's Crips identifier. Six-pointed star, B.K. for Blood Killer. (Below).

--Graffiti from the Grove Dictionary of Art at

**Urban Graffiti on the City Landscape. A presented paper by Alex Alonso of Street gangs. com.
Academic quality. History of grafitti. Includes pictorial examples.

--Wikipedia has an entry "Graffiti" that includes "tagging" and "gang" graffiti, but also the history and multicultural examples of the art/phenomenon. A page on "Graffiti Terminology" that relates mostly to tagging. Also a short page on "Graffiti Abatement" that outlines city programs. This article links to some mainly-commercial avenues for graffiti remover.
--Also Wikipedia: a short generic introduction to "Gang Signs" which includes a few paragraphs on Graffiti.


Anonymous said...

Nice work you have going here. I may be forwarding a link to our gang detective.

Ann T. said...

Dear tgace,
I'll be glad to have visitors to the site!
Thank you.
Ann T.