Marshall Patner feels that the peacekeeping role of the Rangers is a "funny" one. "I would guess that as a matter of defiance and as a show of power Rangers exert all the energy possible to see that police prophecies about them are not fulfilled. In contrast, they do this in areas where interests are common to their own. I believe that they keep a lot of ghetto kids out of trouble by giving them something with which they can identify."
The police are definitely out to get the Stones," Carl Banks, a Ranger teacher, tells me at the Black P. Stone Youth Center, "especially since Nixon got in. Every time a black gets arrested, if he's from this neighborhood he's treated like a Stone. His is bond is hiked up, he's harassed." Banks's voice changes to anger. "They don't want the Stones to have anything." He crushes a cigarette butt with his foot. "They want to keep us right down here on the ground."
"Why do you think they're out to get you?" I ask him.
Banks lights up another cigarette. "Some people in the area are still scared of us. This neighborhood used to be terrible, especially for strangers. Now all that's changed."
"How has it changed?"
"Stone run it," he says. "There's less fighting now. Stones are keeping dope and faggots out of the neighborhood. We even try to keep prostitutes out."
I follow Carl Banks over to the stage where the drums are assembled. It is time for his practice session. We want to represent to the kids that this is our neighborhood," he continues; "we love it, it's all we got. We want the kids to feel the same way. We try to instill some dignity and pride in them. That's what the P. stands for."
"Are the kids forced to join?" I ask.
Carl considers this. He beats out a roll on one of the drums before answering. "It might have been that way in the old days," he admits. "But there's no pressure now. That's why we're going slow now. The older brothers aren't as active as they should be, some of them are drifting away. Having the peewees with us is OK, but we really need the adults to get our program going good."
"How do you get the kids to join?" I ask.
"They just come in," Banks says. "This is the only place open at night for kids to attend. There's nothing else in the area that's open except the Y.M.C.A. on Seventy-first Street."
Black children, at least those from the Woodlawn area, do come to the Center. They wander in and out of the broken door from the time it is unlocked in the morning until after ten every night. Except for the percussion class, there are few organized activities available for them. For the most part, they stand around the office, expectantly, waiting for something to develop; or else they wander back into the main room and sit in the metal chairs against the walls, under the painted faces of Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Muhammad All, Martin Luther King, and Frederick Douglass. All of the walls in the main room are painted black. And the historical faces are on the right wall. On the left wall, also against a black background, there is a skillfully drawn mural of cosmic forces, the universe in motion, flaming comets, and the overall suggestion of pure energy.