Gang Initiation

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.


The other day I looked at some of my files for a homicide in Harlem in the summer of 1956 involving a gang called the Politicians.  A few years ago I had marked the case as being gang-related, but I couldn’t find the reference in the files.  Sometimes that happens where I forget something that I haven’t looked at recently.  That’s understandable though because I have over 18,000 files, some of which are hundreds of pages long.  There are probably about 25,000 pages of information in the 18,000+ files.  So you can see how I forget some information which is why I go over what I have periodically to keep it fresh in my mind.

folder view

folder view












So I laboriously pored through my files on this case and finally after looking at the second last file in my folder, found the reference to the Politicians.  The case itself involved Willie Parker, Adolphus Reid (aka “Dutch”) Clarence Lowman (aka “L.C.”) , Eugene Williams (aka “Ace”), Edward Miles (aka “Sonny”), William Bingham (aka “Roosevelt”) who stabbed and killed a man outside of a bar on Lexington Avenue between 127th and 128th Streets in Harlem called the “Mona Lisa.”

The attack started when the victim Alfred McMullen, who was drunk, made a pass at one of the girlfriends of the Politicians who were hanging out in the area.  An argument broke out, words were spoken, a brick was thrown and bottle tossed.  McMullen slipped on the slick street (it was raining) or he was knocked down.  While on the ground, he was viciously stomped as well as stabbed by  Ace and L.C.  McMullen, who was 30 years old, died on the way to Harlem Hospital.  He was stabbed on the right and left side of the chest, the right arm and on the right eye brow.

All the boys except for Willie Parker were members of the Politicians.  L.C. was the war counselor, while the others were regular “rank and file” members, although Dutch was supposedly a member of the Sportsmen, a brother club with the Politicians.  When Willie Parker was questioned by police, the following questions and answers took place:

Q:  After they stabbed him what did you do?

A:  I didn’t do nothing after that but I stayed there and looked.

Q:  You watched them stab him?

A:  Yes.

Q:  You didn’t try to stop them?

A:  There was nothing to do.  He wanted me to join the club.  They’d do me in.

Q:  What club is that?

A:  The Politicians.

Q:  Who was trying to get you to join the club?

A:  Larry, the war counselor.

Q:  You mean L.C.?

A:  Yes.

Some gangs in New York City had an initiation process for members that wanted to join.  This was a way for them to weed out boys who didn’t have the courage or guts to fight for the gang.  After all, if they went into a fight and someone “chickened out,” it could mean injury or death.  There were different initiation processes for different gangs.  For example, the Crowns’ gang from the Bronx never had an initiation.  They all grew up together and knew each other well enough to know what each individual was capable of.  However, they engaged in sham battles with each other to stay sharp.  Usually the sham battles were in a school yard and didn’t involve weapons.  The battles were short, but some got bruised or even knocked out.

Other gangs would require prospective members to run a gauntlet to join the gang, or to fight one of the toughest members in a one-on-one fight to see if they could fight well.  A gang not too far from the Politicians called the Harlem Lords had an initiation process of their own.  Click here to read details on how the Harlem Lords did initiation.

So after reading the question and answer with Willie Parker above it appeared that they wanted him in the gang and even though the fight and killing was spontaneous, it was basically an initiation into the Politicians.  Parker confessed he joined in the fight by kicking McMullen, but didn’t stab him.  No doubt he proved himself as being worthy of being a Politician for doing his part in the killing.