Oh shit! It has been a long time since I have seen myself like that. I’m shocked. I’m already working on them [getting my tattoos removed].
My tattoos represent my neighborhood, most of them. I am removing the ones on my face, anything that is gang related. A few months before my brother was getting out on parole I decided to do good. I just decided to do the right thing, because I knew he was coming home after seven years. So I  figured I could not tell him to stay out of trouble if I was still doing the same bullshit myself, so we decided to do it together.

He has always looked up to me; I feel I am to fault with a lot of things that have happened in our lives because I was the first one to gangbang out of all of us. After I started gangbanging my twin brother liked that and he started gangbanging, then my little cousin started gangbanging and my baby cousin. My little brother wanted to get into the neighborhood and I told him he could not get in. I made sure that all my homies knew if they jumped him in, we were going to have problems, I would drop somebody. They respected that. My brother did not respect that, so he ended up joining another gang. Two months after he joined this other gang he picked up his case and was fighting life [in jail] for about two years before he took a deal. My little cousin is in state prison doing eight years. My twin brother, he is just doing his thing, he never got into gangbanging the way we did.

My little cousin got killed when I was 11 from gang violence, that’s the one I have right here [points to a tattoo] and my brother has the same one. I don’t know, it’s not worth it no more.
I have been in and out of institutions all my life, you know? I never did as much me as my little brother, but I was always away. Here I look like a criminal, someone that does not give a fuck. I guess I look like a disrespectful individual. This one right here I look like a hardworking man. The other one I just look like a prison inmate. It was out of control the way I did it [getting tattoos]. A little bit after my first tattoo, when I was getting tattoos it was more about the attention I think, looking a certain way to make people fear me. I feel I get more respect like this [points to the tattooed picture] than I would like this. Like this, I look more like a square.

But now I came to realize that I just got respect out of fear. It is like nobody can tell me nothing because they fear what I might say, what I might do, how I might react, you know? I
want people to respect me for the person that I really am, not for the person I look like. Now that I am doing the right thing, setting my mind to being a different person, I would like other people to look at me and approach me and get to know me. But a lot of people won’t do it because of the way that I look. They fear that. They fear an individual like this [points to the tattooed picture].
I remember sitting in a jail cell, watching a soap opera, and being like, “Damn, why can’t I find something like that?” Settle down, that is what I want. I want to go home, come back from work and relax, I want to be able to enjoy that company, you know?

It took a while but I got there, and that is the reason why I am focusing on myself. I have a lot of plans, a lot of goals. Like going back to school, getting a trade. Right now I work seven days a week nonstop, maybe get three to four hours a day of sleep. I am just pushing myself. I have to, you know? I have to. It’s for a good cause and I like it, I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to work.
A lot of the tattoos I have are gang-related. My left arm is all evil, the guy with the gun, the whole gangbanging thing, not fearing death, playing with death every day, playing Russian roulette, not caring if I was going to kill myself or not because I did not really care. And this one, the prison tower, my cousin, and the females that I have on my arms, the females that
I have on my back, pretty much all my tattoos are about evil. That’s all I knew.

Just anger and pain inside of me. I would visualize my death, visualize being in a coffin. I still visualize it. I may be changing my life, but the next man, he might see me and be like, “I don’t believe that shit,” and be so quick to take my life away. I am doing the best I can, that way if that was to happen I would leave on a good note, you know? I started off at a young age; I started off with what we call taggers, graffiti art stuff. A lot of gang members used to take advantage of us. So I met this guy from my neighborhood, he said, “Kick it with the homies, you’re living in the neighborhood anyway.” I was like, “Yeah let’s do this.” For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.