This post is part of the A to Z Challenge, in which each day of April a post is made inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Each post will be related to the research done on upcoming trends for the near-future techothriller series Shadow Decade.
Chicago is a city that’s always been known for its gangs, from Al Capone’s Outfit and Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang to the modern People and Folk Nations. Why are gangs so popular in Chicago? Why is the world’s impression of the city colored by tommyguns and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
Truth be told, Chicago has always been a cosmopolitan city, a home for wave after wave of immigrants, and the crossroads of the nation. Part of it is the permissive attitudes of early 20th century city ward bosses allowing organized crime to thrive under prohibition, part of it is communities of outsiders needing to protect themselves when the city fails to give them a safe place to dwell.
That latter is a focus in the Shadow Decade books. Once again, Chicago sees waves of immigrants coming to the city, though this time they’re refugees from places that have been flooded by rising sea levels, or otherwise rendered inhospitable And, as we’re currently seeing with Syrian refugees, some resent having to accommodate them..
As the European Jews were, as the Irish did, as the Russians and Latinos and everyone else has done, these newcomers are segregated upon arrival, placed by the city or by necessity into the neighborhoods they can afford, an island of “home” in a sea of otherness. Eventually the city will find its equilibrium and assimilate them and adapt, but until then, they have to protect themselves against tides of hostility and apathy from the civic authorities.
Of course, eventually gangs become less about protecting their communities and more about profit and exploitation. In 21st century Chicago, there are two main gang families, or nations – the Folk and the People.
The Folk Nation formed in 1978, when incarcerated gang members decided to form an alliance between various Black, White, and Latino gangs. The formation of the People Nation occurred shortly after, as a reaction, with the alliance of the El Rukns, Vice Lords and Latin Kings.
Over the years, more and more gangs have joined both sides, and the Nations have spread well beyond Chicago. But once again, it’s the midwestern city that gave genesis to one of gangland’s more transformative states.