[Editor’s Note: The following text is reprinted from Volume 17, No. 30, May 26, 1998. On June 25, 1989, Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered a message titled “Black Youth Marked for Death,” to nearly 1,200 youth, many members and leaders of so-called gangs. This is the second part of that lecture.]

Brothers, how did you become a “gang?”

The Holy Qur’an teaches us that we are social beings. So there comes a time in your development, at age 8, 9, 10, when you leave the home and go out into the street to meet your friends in the neighborhood, and you form a natural alliance.

There is a time in our lives that we identify with, get our feeling of worth from, and seek recognition by, a group of boys and girls who have similar interests, aspirations, or needs, and usually they come from the same neighborhood in which we are growing up.


Our reason for being together is defined by streets or neighborhoods and, therefore, we feel we have a need to protect or defend what we call our “turf.” As a result, out of the need to identify and belong to and be recognized by a group of peers to feel safe and secure, groups are formed and natural leaders emerge to whom the members of the neighborhood group or gang give their allegiance.

Each one of you that have a neighborhood group that is called a gang, you have given your allegiance to one of your own. You call him your “Leader.”

What qualities does the leader have? He usually possesses extraordinary gifts; courage, bravery, the strength to dominate, the Will to win, the Will to survive. Oftentimes, the leader is the greatest fighter among you. Sometimes, the leader whips you, so that when he beats you physically, you submit to him, you become his “boys,” his group.

In White neighborhoods, they harness this courage, bravery, and will to win, this aggressive tendency in young people. It’s not a fault. It’s a natural tendency in young men to be aggressive, to show strength. It is our rite of passage to maturity. We are growing up now.

Inmates file into prison. Photo: MGN Online

I am as strong as you, so I test my muscle against your muscle, my strength against your strength. I’ll put my hands up and shoot out a few jabs to see if you know how to defend yourself. This is a part of growing up.

We don’t have a YMCA in most inner-city neighborhoods, so we have no way to direct the energy that is in us; but among White people they see the same energy and they form a Little League—a baseball team, a football team, a basketball team, a boxing team.

And all of the hostility and aggression is worked out in team sports. The will to win makes you a winner in baseball, in basketball. The courage is seen in how you work with the team, your bravery, your desire to be a winner.

In White communities and the more affluent Black communities, they do this to guide the “macho” spirit in young men. But suppose you don’t have any money? There is no Police Athletic League that cares about you.

There is no Little League team for you. Then what happens to this aggressive tendency in the young man? It degenerates. Consequently, our leadership gained through courage, bravery, and strength, is gained not in games, but in conflict.

“You came on my turf, man.” I hit you in the mouth for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this is the way I prove to myself I have it; this is the way I keep my “boys” in line.

So, since you get leadership by that means, the only way leadership is maintained is by constantly proving yourself by constant involvement in conflict. Therefore, our recognition can only be maintained and sustained by exploits that cause us to be recognized:

how many members of a rival gang have we beaten, maimed, killed? And the more we beat, maim and kill one another, the more we have to beat, maim and kill. So, it becomes an ever-spiraling cycle.

There are White people at the top who know that this is a natural evolution in human beings. It’s not just germane to poor people; this is natural to all human beings, particularly males. But they sit in boardrooms and say, “How can we manipulate this?”

Now look at our communities today. What is the result of this “gang” conflict? It is the destruction of our own people simply because they do not live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school or wear the same colors.

They don’t wear the same symbols; they don’t wear their hat in the same way. If I wear it one way, I am this; if I turn it around another way, I am that. We start killing ourselves over something silly, over the marks that we have in our hair.

Everybody in this gang has three marks on the side; everybody in that gang has four marks in the back. And we knock each other down because our hair is cut differently.

You don’t see the big picture. You don’t realize that we all come up out of the same earth and are fellow sufferers in an unjust society that has put us in that sick role. We are the same people, with the same experience, originating from the same source. We come from the Lord of the Worlds, Almighty God, Allah, yet, we see each other as strangers.

Have you ever thought that perhaps somebody wants this to happen?