Los Angeles has a long and notorious history of gang culture, which became prevalent starting in the late 80s as a result of crack cocaine and continues during the present time. While society may see gangs as a detriment to their communities, others see them as a way to protect those same communities from outsiders.
As time went on, gang violence rose and in 1992 the civil unrest reached a peak as the LA riots began and protesters and looters alike crowded streets and destroyed businesses in response to the Rodney King verdicts.
During the civil unrest, however, several gang crews decided to call a truce to stop the killing and rivalry and lead their communities to better days.
It’s been 30 years since the riots, and many South Angelenos who remember or played a role in the truce recently gathered at South Park. This past Saturday, Pastor Shep Crawford and Councilmember Curren Price Jr. held a community festival to remember the peace treaty.
“Today is a reminder that Black gangs decided to stop shooting each other, so we want to celebrate it and study what went wrong,” Crawford said. “We want to empower it, make it sustainable, and instead of it becoming a moment, we can make it into a movement, where red and blue can come together and empower Black.”
The pastor became a community figure when he moved his church, Experience Christian Ministries, to South LA and began to build a relationship with the Avalon tribe. This led to Crawford playing a peacemaker role for various tribes in the area.
“Once I established a relationship with them, I found out there was already a peace movement going on, and the media just never highlighted it,” Crawford said. “But in every neighborhood, there are people, young and old, pushing for peace, they don’t have the support behind them to make it work. So I have been supporting these peacemakers by offering my church as a place of gathering, offering them spiritual support, and a mediator for them.”
Crawford’s peacekeeper role led to him being shown love and respect by other crews when he was selected to do the eulogies of community figures Nipsey Hussle, Drakeo Tha Ruler, and Indian Red Boy.
“I was surprised I received the call to do Nipsey Hussle’s funeral, as I had no previous relationship with him or his family,” Crawford recalled. “Black Sam, Nipsey’s brother, called me at night and asked if I would eulogize Nipsey, and I was honored. Black Sam told me that I would be a good bridge for both worlds as my ministry is for Christians and people outside of the word.”
Crawford also has projects and empowerment programs for the community specifically for the youth.
“I am the chairman of a group called United We Stand Up,” he said. “We are putting together a hero project, and the purpose of this project is to get the young kids and appoint them heroes of the community. I am also bringing resources to the community because we can’t ask the youth to put down guns and not give them something else to pick up.
“I am collaborating with other pastors in other neighborhoods in hopes of them connecting to their respective peacemakers so we can bring resources to them too,” Crawford added.
Visit UnitedWeStandUp.org for more information and to learn how to get involved.