The South Bronx Puerto Rican street gang/ community peacekeepers and musicians ‘The ghetto brothers’ were solely responsible for inciting the peace meeting of all the neighborhood gangs of New York such as The Savage Skulls, Savage Nomads and ‘The Black Spades’ of which the Godfather of hip hop Afrika Bambaataa held the title of ‘Warlord’ and later went on to rename it to The Zulu Nation. If it wasn’t for that particular peace meeting, then hip hop would unquestionably have never existed.Before the truce, the gangs would throw block parties in their neighborhoods and rivals always saw this a prime opportunity to ‘bum rush’ their enemies and boycott their music.The truce eventually resolved these such problems and hip hop was free to come to fruition in the parks and basketball courts of New York City.

Photograph Afrika bambaataa by Andre Devaugn on 500px

When the streets of the Bronx, New York were plagued by 14 year-old warlords, drugs and prostitution, one unlikely group of teenagers created a unique sound that captured the revolutionary spirit of the era and inspired change amidst their dissolute surroundings. Forty years after it was recorded, the “lost” record, Power Fuerza, is finally being discovered by the music world.

Three brothers, Benjy, Victor and Robert Melendez were among the founding members of the Ghetto Brothers, a gang that started out like many others of the South Bronx; fighting over territory lines for control of various illegal trades. But the Melendez brothers had something special about them, whether it was simply having higher hopes for themselves or a gift for creating music that could touch people.The Ghetto Brothers, especially in their early years, had a reputation as one of the more politically minded and less vengeful of New York-area gangs. After Cornell “Black Benjy” Benjamin was killed in 1971 trying to prevent a fight between two rival gangs, the Ghetto Brothers did not seek the expected revenge on those responsible for his death, Instead, under Melendez’s leadership (and that of Carlos Antonio Suarez, also known as Carlos Melendez), they were instrumental in achieving a moderately successful truce among South Bronx and other New York-area gangs at the Hoe Avenue peace meeting which occurred December 7, 1971.

Photograph South Bronx gangs peace meeting 1971 by Andre Devaugn on 500px

Documentary’s such as the Gary Weis’s ’80 blocks from Tiffany’s (1979) and ‘Flying cut sleeves’ in particular shed light on the  South Bronx street gang culture, the film  was part completed, but not released until 1993 with extra footage.The film was directed by Henry Chalfant who also directed the cult graffiti documentary ‘Style Wars’,  and Rita Fecher, who taught in the South Bronx during the late sixties and early seventies.These documentaries also inspired the 1979 American cult thriller ‘The Warriors’ directed by Walter Hill, although the reality was far more raw than rollerskating baseball players with face paint on, it’s still a classic movie.


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