Before you get to the article…
On February 23, 2018, my book on the Mau Maus and Sand Street Angels, who were two Brooklyn youth gangs from the 1950s, has been completed. It took 15 years of research and writing to complete Brooklyn Rumble: Mau Maus, Sand Street Angels, and the End of an Era. This book is roughly 6″x9″ and has 370 pages and includes a look at the characters in the Mau Maus and the details of a gang killing that happened in February 1959 in front of the iconic Brooklyn Paramount Theater (now Long Island University). If you want to buy a copy, click here and this link will take you to an online ordering page.
Years ago I read a book about a gang member who was arrested by the police and subsequently a judge assigned a social worker/psychologist to him to analyze his behavior. The psychologist took him to a zoo to monitor there and ask questions. The following exchange took place:
“Do you like zoos, Nicky?” he asked.
“I hate ’em,” I answered, turning away from the cages and walking back down the path.
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“I hate them stinking animals. Always pacing. Always wanting out.”
The psychologist then pulled out some pads of paper and asked Nicky to draw some pictures of horses, cows and houses. He drew a house with a big door in the front.
“Why did you put such a big door on the house?” he asked…
“…So I can get out in a hurry in case someone’s chasing me.”
“Most people draw doors to get in.”
“Not me, I’m trying to get out.”
“Now draw me a picture of a tree,” he said.
Nicky drew a tree with a bird on the top.
Looking at the picture the psychologist said, “Do you like birds, Nicky?”
“I hate ’em.”
“It seems to me you hate everything.”
“Yeah. Maybe I do. But I hate birds most of all.”
“Why?” he asked, “because they’re free?”
Nicky was uncomfortable with the penetrating questions and bored a hole through the picture of the bird. “So forget about the bird. I just killed him.”
“You think you can get rid of everything you’re afraid of by killing them, don’t you?”
The psychologist wasn’t successful in getting through to Nicky, and I’m not sure how effective he was with other youth he worked with, but it was still an interesting perspective of the person being interviewed.
In my research on a member the Fort Greene Chaplains, who was arrested for 1st Degree Robbery and 2nd Degree assault in November 1959, I came across an interesting set of drawings he was asked to draw. The instructions were as follows:
Instructions: We would like you to draw four simple pictures. This is not a test of your artistic ability so don’t worry about your skill. Just do the best you can. You may make any changes or erasures you wish.
On Page 1. Make a drawing of a HOUSE. Any house is OK.
On Page 2. Make a drawing of a TREE.
On Page 3. Make a drawing of a PERSON. Please be sure it is a full-length drawing.
On Page 4. On the last page draw a PERSON of the opposite sex from the PERSON you drew on page 3.
On Back of Page 4. On the back of the last page write a story about the persons you drew on page 3 and 4. Give the persons name if you wish, indicate what they are doing, how they happened to get into this situation, and how the story will turn out. Try to make your story like a movie – as lively and dramatic as you can. Use the backs of pages 3, 2, and 1 if necessary.
Here are the pictures he drew:
It was particularly interesting to me because I wasn’t expecting to come across another source – much less the drawings – of a situation that appears to be very similar to what Nicky described in the exchange at the top of the page. I’m not an expert on such matters, and the pictures look fairly normal to me, but I can’t help but wonder if they helped reveal any insight into the person drawing them.