The Grape Street gang was formed near the Jordan Downs Projects in South Central Los Angeles in the 1950s. The area is in the jurisdiction patrolled by LAPD's Southeast Division.

Grape Street originated, along with its original Watts rivals-Hickory Street and Elm Street-as a traditional Hispanic street gang. Born in "La Colonia" (the Colony) Watts and named after the street that ran nearby, Grape was known then as "Watts Varrio Grape Street" (WVG). It morphed from a "Chicano" gang to a mixed or "hybrid gang" and later into the traditional Crip gang still active today.

I attended Ralph J. Bunche Junior High School in the early 1960s, just a few blocks from the Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, and the Jordan Downs projects. Both Latinos and African Americans, who would become members of the Watts Varrio Grape, were classmates of mine. But the racial tension in the neighborhood was already evident. Several large gang and racial riots occurred when this tension boiled over at Ralph J. Bunche. In 1965 the huge Watts Riots sparked into flame on 103rd Street near the Grape Street headquarters.

The African Americans from Grape Street would eventually split from the Latino "Southside Watts Grape" because the Latinos proclaimed their allegiance to the Mexican Mafia as "Sureños." The African Americans adopted the name "Eastside Grape Street Watts Crips." As Crips, their new rivals became the Bounty Hunter Bloods who controlled the nearby "Nickerson Gardens projects. Grape Street forged Crip alliances with the infamous Eight Trey Gangsters and most other neighboring Compton Crip sets.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Day family grew in prominence among the other Grape Street gang members. This was especially true of Wayne "Honcho" Day.

The slang name "Honcho" is of course a shortened slang term for "head honcho," meaning the boss. Under the Day family's leadership and through its lucrative drug business, Grape Street prospered. But the Drug business is a dangerous business and the Crips were often victims of other Crip gang competitors and especially their archrivals, the Bounty Hunter Bloods.

In the mid-1980s these crack and PCP drug wars exploded into unprecedented violence and open gang wars on the streets of Los Angeles and Compton. The evolution of fortified crack houses with iron sally port entrances and video surveillance and the appearance of gang members wearing body armor who engaged in firefights using military-style weapons and multiple shooters, forced the police to play catch-up tactically. And the cost in human lives was staggering.

The Bloods were united and rarely attacked other Blood gangs, but the Crips had almost 200 sets in L.A. They attacked each other and "jacked" (robbed) other Crip crack houses. Several attempts were made to unite the Crips. One attempted alliance was called the "Blue Notes" and one of the most infamous was called the Consolidated Crip Organization (CCO).

It was under the CCO that Honcho Day of the Grape Street Crips called hundreds of separate warring Crip sets together at the Compton High School Stadium in 1987. The Crips themselves videotaped this huge meeting, where Honcho Day appealed for Crip unity and gave examples of how they could divert police to one area of the city in order to attack rival gangs in another part. The CCO failed, and even Honcho was unable to prevent his own brother, Kenny Day, from becoming a victim of rival gang gunfire.

Kenny Day's funeral was a huge affair and the Grape Street color "purple" could be seen everywhere in South Central Los Angeles. The funeral rivaled that of a head of state.

As the De Facto leader of Grape Street, Honcho was often called the "Godfather of Watts." By the mid-1980s, Honcho's Grape Street Gang had become a nationwide drug distribution organization with direct connections to the Mexican drug cartels. Grape Street distributed crack in cities as far away as Minneapolis, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Jackson, Miss. and Memphis.

In 1991, a racially charged incident occurred when changing demographics caused by legal and illegal immigration brought Hispanics back into the Jordan Downs Projects. A Mexican family repeatedly complained about the Grape Street gang and the constant drug dealing going on in the Jordan Down projects. Five members of this Mexican family were killed when their apartment was set on fire by black gang members. A good neighbor, who happened to be African-American, ran to the family's aid. The elderly Mexican grandfather mistakenly thought he was one of the arsonists and shot him.

Following the Rodney King Riots in 1992, the Nation of Islam and the Fruit of Islam attempted to broker a "Crip-Blood Truce." Advertised in the media as a "coming together for peace", it was actually financed by Crip and Blood drug dealers in the Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts, and Jordan Downs projects. The motivation was not philanthropy but filthy lucre; the constant inter-gang warfare and suppressive police presence was not conducive to a good narcotic business. However, hate continued to be preached against Hispanic Sureño gangs, the Mexican Mafia, and especially the police.

In 1996 the FBI arrested Wayne "Honcho" Day in Minneapolis. Honcho was convicted in Federal Court in 1997 for drug dealing and sentenced to almost 20 years in prison. But the Day family continued in the family business. Sister Bridgette Day remained at large for several years but eventually was arrested in Florida, and is now serving 10 years in federal prison. Parolee brother Phillip Day was sentenced to four years for PCP sales in 2007. In June of that year, Wayne "Honcho" Day was released from prison. Soon after in 2008 he became a suspect in a drug debt murder-for-hire case.

Fittingly several scenes in the movie "Menace II Society" were filmed in the Jordan Downs projects and on other Grape Street's Watts turf. In April 2006 the Gangsta DVD "Concrete Hell," featuring the Grape Street Gang and Peda Roll clique was released. The DVD glorifies the gangsters from Grape Street and other gangs. Many display real guns in the DVD, including "gang intervention" workers "employed" by the city.

So what's up with the Grape Street Crips and the remaining Day family today? Honcho Day is a 51-year-old OG (original gangster). The "Godmother of Watts," Betty Day, Honcho's mother, is president of the Watts Gang Task Force Council. Supported by L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn and Mayor Anthony Villaregosa, she had the ear of former LAPD Chief Bratton. Using gangsters like P.J. Crip gang member "P.J. Steve" Myrick and Grape Street members Brandon "B.L." Bullard, Marlo "Bow Wow" Jones, and Demarco "D.C." Chaffold as gang intervention workers, she now claims to be spending taxpayer dollars bringing peace to the area.

I say, shame on any Los Angeles politician for supporting any of the Day family and the Grape Street Watts gang.

Author

Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Sergeant (Ret.)

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio
0 Comments