Members and supporters of the Black Disciple Nation (BD), sometimes referred to as Black Disciples, recently gathered to celebrate the 66th birthday of its founder, David Barksdale at the Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation located in Bronzeville on Chicago's South Side. Barksdale, affectionately known as “King Dave,” is a controvocial figure who many identify as an influential leader associated with developing some of the most vicious Black street gangs in Chicago, while his original followers view him as a visionary who taught them about life, self preservation, and community development.
Many persons may be surprised to know that many of the BD members feel that if Barksdale (who died at age 27 in 1974), were still alive today, the extreme violence which has plagued Chicago's streets since the 1980s would not have existed. Today, original BD members, headed by co-founder Dirk Acklin (Don Dirk), are increasing their efforts to make an aspect of King Dave's vision that may not be apparent to the public, become a reality: more peaceful neighborhoods across Chicago.
According to Don Dirk, co-founder of the Black Disciple Nation, the organization emerged from David Barksdale's efforts to unite Black people across Chicago to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in their community through security, encouraging education, good parenting, protection of children and the elderly, feeding needy families, and having a better quality of life. “Other such groups were formed and referred to themselves as organizations while we were commonly referred to by the police, media, and others, as street gangs,” said Dirk.
However, starting as early as the 1970s, members of those various street organizations that included Black Gangsters (BGs); Gangster Disciples (GDs); Black Disciples (BDs), Vice Lords, Black Stone Rangers and several others, fought wars against each other over various types of street business activities and personal conflicts. Several members of those organizations served lengthy prison sentences as a result of those conflicts and activities. “Many were killed from various organizations, and many were imprisoned for the retaliation of those murders,” Don Dirk confirms.
In 1994, the BDs received worldwide attention for the high profile killing of 11-year-old Robert Sandifer, better known as "Yummy." Yummy was said to be executed by fellow BDs as a form of a sacrifice to avoid an all out war against the group in retaliation after he shot and killed 14-year-old Shavon Dean, who was the close relative of a high ranking rival gang leader.
Today, members of the Black Diciples are also said to be involved as both victims and perpetrators of murders in Chicago, mainly as ongoing retaliations, ”Such as the Lil Jo Jo murder that BDs are being investigated for,” said Don Dirk.
In spite of this violent history, Don Dirk is determined to return the Black Disciple Nation to what he considers the main core of Disciple teachings before it got intermingled with illicit activities and violence for many decades.
“I am the main person who has stepped up to assume the task of keeping King Dave's vision alive," he says.
“Our platform is still to stop the violence in the communities of Chicago and elsewhere in America. We want to uplift those who have fallen and can't get back up. We want to help those who fell out of school to get back in school and promote their communities. We want to help those who are hungry and homeless to have food and a place to live. The things [King Dave] would fight against in his time we are still fighting for it. We are using the knowledge he gave to us to improve our society.”
As a main author of the Black Disciples literature, Don Dirk explains King Dave's vision as represented by the six point star: Love, Life, Loyalty, Unity, Knowledge, and Understanding. Referring to the extent of violence on Chicago's Streets, Don Dirk asserted, “I don't think that if [King Dave] was alive today it would have gotten to this degree, because there was always understanding with other organizations, that is why the LSD's [Lords, Stones, and Disciples] were formed back in the 60s to bring about change, togetherness, harmony amongst the gangs, or organizations, whatever you choose to call us.”
Arthur "Bo" Stringer, a cousin of Don Dirk, has been a Black Disciple for several decades. He believe that revamping King David's vision will make a huge impact on reducing Chicago's violence:
“The solution is the problem itself. The only way to change the problem in the community is that we have to take charge of it and change it ourselves. We cannot look outside of ourself and expect outsiders to deal with it. We have to begin by engaging the youth. People are scared to