My name Is Calvin, I’m from California, West Coast, ya know? LA. I’m from the gang Playboys from the South Side. There are three different sides. It’s a nice picture. Wish I was a little skinnier, you know what I mean? [Laughs.]

That’s crazy! I just want to know how he did that? That’s nice... I appreciate his work. He does good work.I have not seen myself like that in a long me since I was younger. My first tattoo was when I was like 12 years old, which was the one behind my head. Its kind of weird, but at the same time, it’s like, that’s how I would look. I look young.

The tattoos represent where I am from. You get  tired of people asking you, “Where are you from?” So you want to let them know instead of them asking you. It’s just a lifestyle we have, part of being where we are from. I understand that a lot of people have tattoos now just to get them. I got all my tattoos for a purpose, for a reason. I started tattooing in jail, with a homemade machine. I had actually been drawing for a very long me, since I was like 13, in camp, juvenile hall.

It just excelled from there. Started tattooing and just kept up with it, you know what I mean? Now I work out of home with my tattoo equipment. The tools are way different now [than in jail]. You don’t have access to needles, [in jail] so you get a guitar string and an eraser, put [the guitar string] in the middle, get some sandpaper and sand it down. That’s how you make a point to it. And then you put it to a tape recorder, the little circle that runs, and that’s how you make a homemade tattoo machine. It actually started because of being incarcerated... Sometimes you don’t have anyone sending you money or packages, things of that sort, so you start to hustle. You don’t want to be broke. I started tattooing and eventually, I started getting some [products and food] from the store, things like that. It’s one way to survive in there. You got to eat! Sometimes you get hungry, you get the munchies, you got to eat.

The tattoo on my upper lip is my clique, Playboys, and it’s like I said, it’s for a purpose and for a reason. Just wanted to get my clique on me. Homeboy [Industries] has really helped me out a lot, a lot of the opportunities they give as far as schooling, and employment. With me, it helped because my mom recently passed away. So when I got that job it really helped my mom out with things that she needed [before she passed]. As far as the schooling, it helps me out. The lifestyles we grow up in, we really have not had the chance to learn. Streetwise we already know, but as far as education and school. I would like to show my daughter or son if they come and ask me how to do a math problem, but I don’t know how! I wish I could help them. So going to school is one of my priorities because I want to be there for my kids.

My schooling kind of ended when I went to juvenile hall. They make you go to school, but the schooling is different. Out here you have to go to school. If you don’t go to school eventually you are going to get kicked out or suspended. In there they can’t kick you out. You are already incarcerated, what are they going to do? I actually met Father Greg in camp. He did my first communion. I was like 13,14 years old. I knew him from back then. With the passing of my mom I went there first [Homeboy Industries]. At first, they said they were not going to give me a chance to work there. I was like, “Man if I can’t get a job here, I’m not going to get a job nowhere!” You know what I mean? But they did end up giving me the opportunity. It’s a good opportunity.
To have a job and finally work instead of doing other things, it’s an earned income. It is always good when you have money coming in that you earn, like really earn. You go in there and put work to it.

I’m in a wheelchair; I got shot and ended up paralyzed. I was in the hospital for around nine months and that’s just because of the surgeries, then the physical therapy. But at the transition, it is just different because you cannot do a lot of the things that other people can do. I just took it as a part of the life we live, the life I live. It just...it happens. There is nothing I can do. I can’t turn back the hands of time, so I just have to deal with it. I have to move forward, I cannot let it get to me because if I let it get to me it is just going to prolong what I got to do, but it’s hard.
My relationship with my mother was close. But at the same time, I wasn’t there, I was incarcerated. But like any mother, she is going to be there for you. Those things matter a lot when you don’t have those things anymore.

You’re like, “Damn, I wish my mom was here!” She was a great person.

You know I don’t judge nobody, I don’t judge nobody.

I know people judge me. But at the same time, I really don’t care what they think. You know what I mean? Like even people that go over there [Homeboy Industries]. For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.