Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I want to join "a real gang"

*Warning: This post contains graphic images.*

Pictured: Hispanic gang member killed in an attempted drive-by shooting.

“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”
-Oscar Wilde

Recently I received an email from a young person inquiring about joining a gang through the Gangstyle website. (Gangstyle is an outreach program for youth involved in or at risk for gang activity.)

In his words, "I want to join a real gang." What follows is my response, which I think may be applicable for many inquisitive young people.

If you decide to join a "real gang" there are some things that you will need to understand.

First you will be joining a long list of young people that have written to us here at Gangstyle pretty much on a daily basis, asking us how to get out of a gang. Not new kids, but OGs and long timers. Too scared to leave the ones who supposedly love them. Love doesn't threaten to kill you if you change your mind.

I mean kids and young adults who are trapped in something that turned out to be something they never expected.

Like the girl who joined one of the nation's largest gangs as a teenager. She was shot at the age of 16, watched her cousin die in the street and is now no longer able to have children. That was the price she paid for joining a "real gang."

Or another who joined another supergang and spent two weeks in ICU after being jumped in. She now is living day to day hiding from those who claimed to have love for her out of fear of being executed for not sticking with them. Drowning her despair in drugs and alcohol. Slowly dying.

Then there is the kid I worked with several years ago. A talented and kind young man with a great deal of potential. A smart kid who could have made something out of life besides ducking the law and ducking bullets.

He couldn't duck the bullets that well though and is now decaying in a grave somewhere. Never to return or get a second chance.

There are others too, existing as a living corpse on continuous life support because of a bullet. And more trying to avoid being stabbed, beaten to death or raped on a daily basis in prison for the remainder of their lives.

You have the freedom to do what you want. You can join a "real gang" but know what you are giving up.

If you have a family you will be giving them up. Maybe to a drive by and most certainly to any freedom of them being able to walk somewhere without the fear of being killed because of YOUR membership in a gang.

You should know too that the streets you will be fighting for, your "territory" will NEVER be yours. You may bleed and die in them but that concrete and asphalt will never really belong to you. That's an illusion.

So if you want to give your life up to modern day slavery for a few bucks or some so called brotherhood that will kill you if you don't do what they say, then go ahead.

I just believe that people should be well informed of what they are getting into.

Do you want to join to make money? Be sure that you at least get about 10,000 dollars and set it aside in a savings for funeral expenses too. Plus you'll probably need some bail money from time to time before you hit the grave or hospital.

You were not created to be a slave to some adult's set of rules regarding what you can wear, what you can eat, say or do. Know that the adults who run the gangs will not pay for your funeral, they will not provide money to take care of your family after you are gone, and they won't waste their time visiting you in jail. They'll gas your head up and get you to commit "for life". Then blow your head off if you think for one minute that you can leave without consequences.

When you are gone they'll just find another person to make them some money and make them famous while being able to avoid jail because they can blame gang activity on you.

That's gang life. Which is no life at all. Whatever your situation joining a gang won't solve anything. And it can and will take everything you have, including your soul.

We hope you will reconsider.

God can keep you safe. But not if you choose to ignore the gift of life He has given you. Not if you choose to take your life and put it in the hands of someone else who will then promptly take what life you have and throw it in the trash heap of discarded young people.