The Role of Gangs
in the Construction of UIC

Chicago's LSD gang coalition at the end of the 1960s
by Angeliki Panagopoulos
.

         

When Richard J. Daley decided to place the University of Illinois at the Harrison-Halsted location, many community members of the Near West Side made it very clear that they did not want the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to be placed in their neighborhood.  Florence Scala, a Near West Side community member, led a group of Italian housewives in a protest against UIC's placement (Rosen, 1980).  This protest lasted from the time Mayor Daley publicly announced his decision on where UIC was  to be placed (1961) to the time the college was actually built (1964) (Rosen, 1980).

 At the sametime, the community members of Garfield Park were outraged
as well.  When Daley was deciding where to place UIC, the community members of Garfield Park made it very clear that they wanted UIC to be placed in their neighborhood (Rosen, 1980).  Why did Daley place UIC in the Near West Side, especially since it was not even one of the choices for placement?  Why did he not place it in a community area where the community members wanted it?  In order to answer these questions we need to gain an understanding of what was going on at the time Daley made is decision for UIC's placement and the events that took place during and after its construction. 

.One way to gain an understanding of what was going on at this time is by continuing the research on the roles that the community members of the Near West Side, and members from areas near the Near West Side, played during UIC's placement.  This paperis part of a larger research project that is focusing

UIC and Garfield Park

on how the location of the University of Illinois at Chicago has influenced the lower-income area (the "ghetto") that once surrounded it.  Today, gentrification has relocated the community members that once lived in these low-income areas.  This larger research project questions whether UIC has acted as either a bridge or wall for the African American community members that were found to live within these ghetto areas.  UIC's placement took place during the Civil Rights era.  During this era, many African American organizations, including those labeled as gangs, had a large part in the fight for equality and human rights.  Therefore, for this paper, I will be focusing on the relationship between African American gangs and UIC's placement within the Near West Side.  The definition of gangs and the debate over whether certain groups should be considered organizations or gangs has been an issue that continues to be unresolved today

 

Brief History of the LSD Members

 

Conservative Vice Lords

 

The Vice Lords, before the 1960's, were known only for their gangbanging incidents.  In Chicago, the Vice Lords were located in Lawndale, the West side community area (Dawley, 1992).  Between 1964 to 1967, during a time where obtaining civil rights was the focus of many African Americans, a major change had occurred within the Vice Lords organization.  The older members of the Vice Lords did not want the younger lords coming up to follow in their footsteps of fighting, killing, and imprisonment (Dawley, 1992).  In 1964, the Vice Lords vowed to help their community move out of this phase of "hopelessness" by changing the conditions that brought them there.  Within these three years, the Vice lords stopped gang wars and developed a Vice Lord Nation, calling themselves the Conservative Vice Lords (CVL).  The Lords realized that there enemies were not other African Americans, it was the white man (Dawley, 1992). 

By 1969, the CVL had formed several community programs and several businesses.  For example, the CVL opened the House of Lords, neighborhood hang-outs for youth who had no where to go but the streets.  The African Lion store was created by the CVL to encourage residents on the West side to take pride in their African heritage.  Also, a street academy was also formed, through the efforts of the CVL, which allowed youth to obtain an education without having to leave their community (Dawley, 1992). 

Black P. Stone Nation

The Black P. Stone Nation, also known as the Blackstone Rangers, was before the 1960's, also known only for their gangbanging incidents (Fry, 1973).  In Chicago, the Blackstone Rangers were located in the Woodlawn community area.  By 1966, the Blackstone Rangers also began taking part in community-oriented programs (Fry, 1973).  For instance, in February of 1966, the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago hired the Blackstone Rangers to run a job program for troubled youth.  In other words, the job program was used to help youths who were in gangs.  The program was not just to provide jobs, but also a means to curtail violence in Woodlawn.  Even though the program was put to a halt when the Blackstone Rangers were alleged to be running scams, this is still evidence that the Blackstone Rangers did take part in trying to better their community (Fry, 1973).   Also, in 1967-68, another attempt to form a job program was instigated by the Woodlawn Organization (T.W.O.).  This time the effort for an economic program for gangs involved both the Blackstone Rangers and the Disciples (Fry, 1973).

Black Gangster Disciples

Interestingly, the Black Gangster Disciples have also been solely known for their gangbanging incidents up until the 1960's.  In Chicago, th BGD were located in the Englewood community area.  As for the CVL's and the Blackstone Rangers, the 1960's  were also a time where the BGDs began taking part in community-oriented programs.  A stated above, the BGDs made an attempt to be part of a program that would have provided job training and jobs for their gang members.  Also, in December of 1969, the Black Gangster Disciples held a benefit raffle for the purpose of building a needed community center in Englewood and to sponsor a Christmas program for needy persons.  The benefit raffled led to a collection of $1400 for these community purposes (Chicago Defender, Dec. 4, 1969).

 

It should not be surprising that the three organizations discussed above eventually united to form the LSD's.  It seems as though it was a  norm for some youth organizations to, especially at this time, to unite together for a variety of different reasons. All three gangs had e a history of continuously merging with other gangs to become larger (Hagedorn's lecture, CRJ 102, Fall 2002). 

 

Coalition for United Community Action and the LSD's (1960-1970)

The Coalition of United Community Action was formed on March 1969 and was composed of many organizations with different issues, coming together to actively fight oppression found within their communities (CUCA,1983).  The CUCA was made up of about 61 citywide organizations (Chicago Defender, July 29, 1969).  By July 1969, the LSD's became actively part of the Coalition (Chicago Defender, July 29, 1969).   

 

In June 1969, the Conservative Vice Lords, the Black P. Stone Nation, and the Black Disciples merged to form the LSD's.  LSD stood for Lords (Conservative Vice Lords), Stones (Black P. Stone Nation), and Disciples (Black Gangster Disciples).  The LSD's had a membership of 50,000 members (Chicago Defender, Oct. 9, 1969).  The LSD's were led by the leaders of three groups; there was no one single leader that took precedence.  They formed on the bases of understanding the importance of how the system deals with youths (Chicago Defender, Oct. 9, 1969).   The exact reason for the formation of the LSD's is questionable.  The Chicago Dailey Defender implies that the LSD's formed because of the CUCA (Chicago Defender, Oct. 9, 1969).   Since the LSD's were part of the CUCA, it should be note that when the CUCA is discussed, one should assume that the LSD's are being discussed as well.   

 

The CUCA decided to begin their fight against racial discrimination within building trades by taking direct action.  On July 22, 1969,  the CUCA led a protest demonstration of about 200 people at a construction site (the First National Bank, a Loop construction site) located at Clark and Madison.  The Coalition demanded that "the trade unions to immediately provide 10,000 union-on-the job trainee positions for minority groups; elevate blacks and other minorities with four years experience to foremen and supervisory positions; eliminate testing for on-the-job training programs in favor of an 'open door' policy; provide an automatic deduction system for trainees' initial union dues and abolish the union hall referral system" (Chicago Defender, July 23, 1969, Faith C. Christmas).  The coalition claimed that they had a rightful share of the $100-billion in U.S. construction volume.  If their demands were to be met that would mean that $11 billion would be put into black communities, alleviating the problems of hunger and unemployment.  They further argued that the union hall referral system excluded minorities, which was in opposition to the Affirmative Action Program and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Chicago Defender, July 23, 1969).    

 

At this point, the CUCA had not contacted any union officials about their demands.  The group expected to be contacted from the union officials after that demonstration.  A spokesman of the CUCA declared that if their demands were not met, they would close down every construction site found within the black community (Chicago Defender, July 23, 1969).  Later that same day, seventeen members of the Black P. Stone Nation seized the officesof the Building Trades Unions Council, demonstrating a sit-in for two hours, refusing to speak with union officials.   The police arrived and arrested all seventeen members, who were later charged for city trespassing (Chicago Defender, July 23, 1969)

 

The Building Trades Union Council were surprised by the protest and denied the charges of racial discrimination within the trade unions.  The union council claimed that they had been doing their best to comply with the Civil Rights law of opening up opportunities for minorities.  They claimed that there was a 14 percent black apprentice enrollment in the unions training program and that 16 percent of the existing labor jobs are filled by blacks.  They further claimed that the CUCA must have not been aware of their efforts (Chicago Defender, July 23, 1969).

 

After this first demonstration of direct action, the CUCA held their threat of the closing down of construction sites in black communities almost daily. The group planned of taking legal action against the unions for failure to comply to the Affirmative Action Program, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the President's Executive Order Number 11246 (Chicago Defender, July 24, 1969).  The Coalition claimed that closing down the sites was the only way the union officials could understand the point they were trying to make (Chicago Defender, July 29, 1969).  Rev. C.T.Vivian explains that the group is not just trying to obtain job training, jobs, and higher positions within the contracting field.  The group wants to change the social conditions of the ghetto, to re-build the ghetto (Chicago Defender, July 29, 1969).  Vivian also stated that if any site workers refused to cooperate with them, they would not force them.  Yet he further stated that it is, therefore, their responsibility if any angry reactions that may come from the black community (Chicago Defender, July 31, 1969).  Fortunately, by July 30, 1969 (Chicago Defender), the group continued to act in an orderly manner, with no major violent attacks breaking out. 

 

The following incidents provide one with the idea of how persistent the Coalition was and how they truly held on to there threat of closing down constructions sites:

 

  • On July 23, the day after the Coalition protest, the CUCA halted the construction of three sites on the Westside.  Construction stopped after Coalition members met with the construction foremen and informed them of their protest against racial discrimination.  Signs were placed on at least one of the construction sites stating that the job was closed by the community (Chicago Defender, July 24, 1969).
  • On July 28, 1969, more than 200 members of the coalition closed down 4 Southside construction sites after speaking to the foreman about their demands.  Copies of the Coalition's demands were also passed to the workers.  The four sites were the Woodlawn YWCA, Woodlawn Gardens, Madden Park Homes, and the new Dr. Martin Luther King High School.  Most of the workers, many of whom were Black, expressed their support for the groups' demands and were willing to take a few days of no pay for the fight.  Some Black construction workers were confused about the demonstration, but understood why the Coalition was protesting.  Some contractors felt that it was unfair for those who were already employed.  Most of the white workers expressed dissatisfaction towards the protesters and had left the site in anger (Chicago Defender, July 29, 1969).
  • On July 29, 1969, the CUCA halted work on 6 construction sites located on the Westside.  As they picketed through the construction sites, they continued to pass out leaflets containing a list of the Coalitions demands to the unions.  Four of the sites were reported to be construction sites for Chicago Housing Authority Projects (Chicago Defender, July 30, 1969)
  • On July 30, 1969, the CUCA halted work at a construction site at the 63rd, 47th and 33rd st., sites for the Chicago Transit Authority's median strip on the Dan Ryan expressway, and at the Lawless Gardens middle-income housing development (Chicago Defender, July 31, 1969).

 

After constant demonstrations of shutting down construction sites, by the end of July 1969, the Coalition was finally contacted by union officials about setting up a meeting to have a discussion of their demands.  Rev. C.T.Vivian declared that the Coalition would only meet with union officials if the meeting was for negotiating, not exploring their demands.  Those who were expected to attend the meeting, besides the CUCA, were the Council's Conference Committee, Building Construction Employers, Builders Association, and the Urban League (Chicago Defender, July 31, 1969).Unfortunately, the data for August 1969 (as mentioned in the introduction above) from the Chicago Defender was not researched for this paper due to time constraints. 

 

Yet, by September 2, 1969, a meeting was reported to have been held with coalition leaders, officials of the Chicago Building Trade Council, and the Builders Association.  The meeting was held to prepare for the negotiations (that were to take place on September 4,1969) of the Coalition's 13-point proposal.  The union officials needed more time to meet with individual contractors and representatives from the other crafts involved.  The President of the Builders Association, H. M. Stanton, stated that he felt the proposal was strong and indicated that there will be difficulties in the negotiations (Chicago Defender, September 3, 1969).  Since the union officials cancelled a meeting that was to have taken place August 28, 1969, the Coalition leaders accused the union officials for acting insincere and announced that they were calling off a halt on the picketing of construction sites.  This provides some evidence that the Coalition continued, through August 1969, to be persistent and that they stayed true to their word of picketing construction sites up until the time union officials agreed to negotiate.  The guidelines of the proposal could be found in the Chicago Defender article dated Sept. 3, 1969.  The proposal also included a one to three ratio of black trainees (Chicago Defender, Sept. 4, 1969). 

 

Unfortunately, hope for a successfully negotiation came to a short and sudden end.  Once the Coalition felt like the union officials were being insincere through their actions, they quickly went back and continued to picket as they threatened they would.  This persistence can be seen in the following incidents:    

 

  • On September 4, 1969, Coalition leaders rejected an offer made by the unions and contractors that included a 4,000 job offer and 1,000 opportunities.  The Coalition argued that that the offer did not include 2,000 trainee positions and it did not give the Coalition control major control of the training program.  Rev. C.T. Vivian stated that the Coalition wanted to make it clear that they want 4,000 trainee opportunities across the crafts, they were willing to come down from their original 10,000 job demands to 4,000  (Chicago Defender, Sept. 8, 1969).
  •  On September 7, 1969,  the Coalition members speculated that the negotiations were cut to an end when union officials and contractors walked out of the meeting, refusing to even negotiate their own proposal of 4,000 opportunities.  Also, speculation from an anonymous source states that local labor groups have been instructed by national labor groups to not settle the dispute within the negotiations for fear that blacks will take control over building training programs (Chicago Defender, Sept. 9, 1969). 
  • On September 8, 1969, 800 members of the Coalition, along with  Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, formed a mass picketing at the Circle Campus of the University of Illinois (at the Science and Engineering Building-Roosevelt Rd. and Halsted St.).  Four leaders were arrested and vowed to stay in jail until their job demands were met.  The leaders were taken into custody after refusing to leave the construction grounds after speaking with building superintendents, defying a court injunction on mass picketing at construction sites.  The Four leaders were Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the national head of SCLC's Operation Breadbasket; Leonard B. Sengali, head of the Black P. Stone Nation; Frank Weathers, head of the Black Disciples; and Lawrence Patterson, head of the Conservative Vice Lords (Chicago Defender, Sept.9, 1969).    
  • On September 11, 1969, 300 black women marched, around construction sites, on behalf of the CUCA for job demands at the Circle Campus at the University of Illinois (Chicago Defender, October 16, 1969).  Through demands from Black Council Members, 20 ministers affiliated with SCLC's Operation Breadbasket, and the CUCA, Mayor Richard J. Daley agrees to take part as mediator in the job demand dispute as long as both sides agreed to limit their negotiation teams to a maximum of three members.  Daley refuses to impose a moratorium on all construction sites in the city until a settlement is reached (Chicago Defender, Sept. 16, 1969).  Unfortunately, negotiations remain at a standstill and, unsurprisingly, the picketing continues.
  • On September 22, 1969, more than 4,000 people gather at a Black Monday rally at the Civic Center for job standstill and about the seven leaders being tried for the court injunction of mass picketing.  Picketers peacefully marched to the offices of the Chicago Trades Council.  The picketers included students, teachers, lawyers, ministers, priests, construction workers, and youth groups.  Interestingly, none of the members of the LSD's are included in the speeches, a constant pattern found within many speeches given by the Coalition (Chicago Defender, September 23, 1969). 
  • On September 24, 1969, hearings (at the U.S. Customs building) about the reported racial bias with building trades was postponed after 2,000 white construction workers disrupt the open hearings.  The white construction leaders crowded outside of the Customs building , not allowing witnesses like Rev. C.T. Vivian from entering the building, shouting "No Coalition" and "No gangs".  Fights break out and the police do not come until later.  Speculations are made about how this disruption was planned and how only black people were stopped by the police during the fights.  Also, 200 other white construction workers picketed and marched in front of a hotel at Lasalle St. and Madison St (Chicago Defender, Sept. 29, 1969).

By the very end of September 1969 through January of 1970, Coalition leaders continued to meet with Mayor Daley, unable to negotiate a settlement, and without the attendance from any member of the LSD's.  At the end of September, Mayor Daley stated that he hoped to form a Chicago Plan, better than the Philadelphia Plan (where minority groups are employed in government sponsored projects (Chicago Defender, Sept. 30, 1969).  Coalition continued their demonstrations by trying to close down construction work at constructions sites located in black communities. 

 

On October 8, 1969, the Black P. Stone Nation held a rally at the Circle Campus of the University of Illinois.  Leonard B. Sengali, of the Black P. Stone Nation, addressed students to fight in the halt of construction work on three university buildings.  240 faculty members and 150 students voted on a resolution to halt construction work on the university's buildings.  A resolution was adopted by the Board, but proof of violating the law governing racial discrimination needed to be provided.  At this point, no violation of law had been proven (Chicago Defender, Oct. 9, 1969). 

 

It took three months for the union officials and the CUCA to come to an agreement as to what to include in the Chicago Plan.  At first, Daley stated that an eight hour meeting was held to discuss the proposal of an auxiliary training program that would accelerate blacks and other minorities into journeymen status.  Members of the Coalition stated that they favored a program where competent black master tradesman and administrators be in charge of training, testing, and motivation of Black people.  The groups want shared control of the training (Chicago Defender, October 13, 1969).  Unions did not hold any rejection to the proposed separate training program (Chicago Defender, October 16, 1969).  Unfortunately, because of the Coalitions problems with the vagueness of the proposals for the plan, it took two months after a second proposal was formed until the Coalition for the United Community Action finally signed the Chicago Plan on January 9, 1970, which was labeled as "The Chicago Plan: An agreement to implement the employment of minorities in Chicago's construction industry" (Chicago Building Trades Council, 1970).  The final agreement lists 3,000 jobs or training positions in four categories.  But a Coalition spokesman claimed that the actual final agreement called for 1,000 jobs in each category (Chicago Defender, January 13, 1970).  

 

The following organizations signed the Chicago Plan of 1970: Black Liberation Alliance, Conservative Vice Lords, Black Disciples, Kenwood-Oakland community Conference, Lawndale Peoples Planning and Action Conference, National Welfare Rights Organization, Black P. Stone Nation, Valley Community Organization, West Side Builders, C.T Vivian (Coordinator), Allies for a Better Community, Chicago and Cook County Building Trades Council, and Building Construction Employers Association of Chicago, Inc (Chicago Building Trades Council, 1970).   

What happened to the LSD's?      

            By October 1973, the LSD's were not part of the Coalition of United Community Action anymore.  Unfortunately, also at this time, the Chicago Defender mentions how the Chicago Plan was assessing its failures, showing the continued unsuccessfulness of the negotiations.  What happened to the LSD's?  Why are there no youth organizations, such as the Conservative Vice Lords, fighting to help their communities anymore?  Based on the failure of the Chicago Plan, on the incidents that continued to occur to organizations such as the CVL's, the Black P. Stone Nation, the Black Disciples, and Daley's War against gangs warrants some discussion even though most of the information is based solely on speculation. 

The Chicago Plan had promised the black community 4,000 jobs, 1,000 of which were supposed to go to the LSD's.  Yet these jobs were only for those with high school diplomats, this did not include the LSD's who marched for the struggle (Dawley, 1992).  Following through the Chicago Defender day by day between September of 1969 and January of 1970, it is evident that the as the  LSD's and Black Panthers became more involved in the fight for equality, the more times the leaders of these organizations would be arrested and charged with something.  Near the beginning of the year in 1969, Mayor Daley and States Attorney Edward Hanrahan issued a report that changed public policy towards gangs.  Gangs were changed from being looked at as misguided youth to organized criminals.  This policy filled the prison population with gangs, where gangs ended up becoming stabilized and strengthened (Hagedorn's lecture, CRJ 102, Fall 2002). 

Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1969

 

  Attention from the law on gangs increased so much thathe gangs themselves began to become outraged.  A young member of the Black P. Stone Nation had stated that Daley's War on Gangs is proof of how dealing with black community issues is the farthest thing from Daley's mind. Daley claimed that youth are important to him, yet he forms a Gang Intelligence Units which perpetuates violence towards groups (Chicago Defender, June 9, 1969).  By December of 1969, the leaders of the CVL called a meeting of 250 youth organization leaders from all over the U.S. to found out whether there was a conspiracy against them.  The conference was possibly formed based on the incidents that were taking place at the time.  At that time, Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered and their were charges of murder placed against Bobby Gore of the CVL.  The CVL even thought about forming a hotline where people could call and tell them about their experiences with the police.  The information from the hotline would help in justifying whether there is some pattern of evidence that would prove a federal conspiracy against them (Chicago Defender, December, 16, 1969).   Mayor Daley's War on Gangs led to the imprisonment and death of many gang leaders.  It would not be surprising if that was one of the factors that led to the demise of the LSD's (Hagedorn's CRJ 192 lecture-Nov. 2002).

Speculations 

There was a small pattern of speculations mentioned from both the Coalition and union officials about how steps were taken to try to force the Coalition to fail in its struggle for equality that should be noted.  Granted, they are speculations from a newspaper specifically written for AfricanAmericans, but the fact that were some provides one with at least the idea of how much tension there was between the Coalition Building Trade officials.

 

For instance, from the beginning of the struggle in July, C.T. Vivian claimed that the unions' refusal to negotiate the day after the protest just showed how unwilling the unions were to conducting policy changes (Chicago Defender, July 24, 1969).  Building Trade Unions Council denied any contact by the Coalition and explained that the union council does not have the authority to act on any of their demands.   They claim that they are an organization that just passes information.  They did say that they would notify about 167 union delegates representing 19 organizations about negotiating with the Coalition (Chicago Defender, July 29, 1969).  In September, negotiations began to appear clouded with reports that the national labor officials warned Chicago's labor group to not meet the Coalition's job demands.  The warning was based on the fear that blacks will take control over the building trades (Chicago Defender, September 8, 1969).  Also, in September, the electrical workers union circulated a letter calling for a federal investigation on Coalition leaders, claiming that they are not the true representatives of the black community (Chicago Defender, September 18, 1969).  In October, there were speculations that the union officials were trying to discredit the Coalition by implying that when Leonard B. Sengali (head of the Black P. Stone Nation at the time) was jailed, States Attorney  Edward V. Hanranhan told him he would be indicted for murder he claimed that those who made up the Coalition were communists (Chicago Defender, December 29, 1969).

 

LSD's role

 

As mentioned above, from July 1969, the organizations that made up the LSD's were actively involved in quite a few community programs, separate from the Coalition.  Not only were they involved, but they also formed a few programs of there own.  Yet whenever a speech was made at a protest and whenever a meeting with Daley took place, the LSD's were never discussed.  Why?  Mayor Daley's policy of the War on Gangs makes it very clear that Daley was not very fond of gangs.  Why would he want them in the meetings?  Since the LSD's were known more for their picketing demonstrations, rather than there vocal demonstrations, implies that they were mainly the muscle behind the group.  Yet the LSD's saw there grass root efforts becoming a conscious force that would drive black people towards advancement (Chicago Defender, October 10, 1969).  

 

Conclusion

 

 During University of Illinois construction days, many university sites were the homes of protest action.  For some African American gangs, UIC was a site to fight for advancement within their communities.  Unfortunately, their fight for advancement was obviously unsuccessful, since "ghettoes" maintained their poor composure up to this day.  The results from this research do not provide a direct explanation of how UIC affected gangs in the area, it actually shows how gangs affected UIC.  Yet researching what went on during this important time in history, one could at least gain an understanding of issues that the community members of the Near West Side and those members of communities near the Near west Side dealt with during UIC's placement

 

References

Chicago Building Trades Council (1970). The Chicago Plan: An agreement to Implement

 the Employment of Minorities in Chicago's Construction Industry.

Chicago Defender (Daily issues). Articles from June 9, 1969 through January 13,

 1970(August 1969 excluded) and an article from October 22, 1973.

Coalition of United Community Action (1983). Thirteenth annual unity testimonial

 awards banquet.

Dawley, David (1992). A Nation of Lords: The autobiography of the Vice Lords. Prospect

 Heights: Waveland Press, Inc.

Fry, John R. (1973). Locked-Out Americans. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Hagedorn, John (2002).  Fall semester lecture notes for CRJ 102.

 Rosen, George (1980). Decision-Making Chicago-Style. Chicago: University of

Illinois Press.