Philly was a very different city in the ’60s and ’70s, and one key difference was the proliferation of street gangs: tightly organized and disciplined on the inside, as former members recall it, but fiercely protective of territories, over which battles and bloodshed were often liable to erupt.
Some of their names still spark memories and respect for those who remember them: 12th and Oxford. The Creek. Woodland Avenue. Moroccos. The Moon. Zulu Nation. Brickyard. The Clan. Dogtown. And the list goes on.
Decades later, surviving members — or “oldheads” — of some 40 Philly gangs have joined forces to form “1 Click Philly,” an organization dedicated to bringing peace and benefits to the community, and urging young people caught up in the streets to put the guns down.
“We are just former gang members trying to help the community,” said Larry Brown, 67, a member of 12th and Oxford. “It’s not a gang anymore. It’s former gang members and oldheads. … We helped tear it up back then, we trying to bring it together now.”
Brown and other members of 1 Click Philly will hold their second “Reunion of Reunions” on Saturday, a picnic and festival at 42nd and Parkside outside the Please Touch Museum children’s activities, food, and guest speakers. Efforts by 1 Click have included fundraising for donations to shelters, sending teams to schools where beefs are being stirred up, to soothe the tension, and trying to assist ex-offenders released from prison readjust to society.
Most of all, they want to influence today’s youth who are caught up in a different type of gang, one in which they feel fistfights have been replaced with bullets.
“A lot of the gangs in 1 Click try to get some of the guys out of the drug game, where they’re just killing each other,” Brown said. “When we were young, we were just beefing with different neighborhoods. … You can’t tell a guy selling drugs and making $2,000 to $3,000 a week to stop and work at McDonalds, he’s gonna smash you in the face. It’s hard, but a lot of the guys will listen to an oldhead.”
If the old gangs of Philly can settle their differences, they hope, maybe the young people can too.
To learn more, visit 1clickphiladelphia.org. 1 Click’s Reunion of Reunions will held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m at 42nd and Parkside in Fairmount Park.