The image that comes to mind whenever you hear of the Mau Mau is that of Kenya’s dreadlocked freedom fighters. Not a gang of Puerto Rican thugs or even a Hollywood band, right?
In 1954, a brutal gang appeared in Fort Green, Brooklyn. The Puerto Rican gang called itself The Mau Maus, of course after the Kenyans. This was at the height of the State of Emergency and Britain was filled with headlines about a bloodthirsty savage group of ingrates who were roaming the forest and defying the perks of being subjugated by a foreign power.
The Mau Maus effectively died out in 1962 with the conversion of one of its main leaders, Nicky Cruz, and the arrests of others. Others moved to rival gangs, but the history of the Mau Maus as an exceptionally brutal gang remained set. Cruz had joined the gang at the age of 16; he rose through the ranks through violence and uncanny leadership, becoming Warlord of the gang only six months later. He later converted to Christianity and renounced the thug life [I had to say that, it was just opportune].
The Mau Maus was formed by breakaway members of the Apaches. They first sought permission from the established Chaplains, another gang, to set up a Puerto Rican gang in Brooklyn. The gang took the name the Mau Mau Chaplains, more commonly known as the Mau Maus. Their insignia was the crimson MM for the Mau Maus right on the breast of special sweaters made for members.
Although gangs had roamed New York before the Fifties, the Mau Maus represented a new wave of teenage gangsters who were less unbridled about brutality than their older counterparts. The gang has been termed as the most feared gang in New York between 1955 and 1958.
There is another group, a music band, called the Mau Maus. The band was started in 1977 (or 1979) by Rich Wilder after the breakup of the Berlin Brats. It featured Wilder in the lead, Rich Sherman on drums, Roderick Donahue on bass and Greg Salva on guitar. The punk rock band was based in Hollywood, California. They appeared in the movies Rock n Roll High School albeit briefly, and Cocaine and Blue Eyes.
The band only has one album Scorched Earth Policies…then and now but is said to be working on the second one.
The band members changed often, but they all had a notorious reputation as trouble makers starting riots and shooting heroin. The group was, however, virtually unknown outside the LA punk rock scene because of Wilders aversion to major record labels. It fizzled out in the 1980s, although its members still play to date.
Last modified: October 16, 2017