Oh man! That’s crazy man, that’s crazy [laughs]. Wow, that’s amazing man...
Man, I can't even remember last me I saw myself with no ta oos. I got my first tattoo when I was like 14, 15. I got it on my stomach, I got the neighborhood. I was in tenth grade I think and back then, because I had tattoos, I felt bad-ass. Throughout the years I started to get more and more. I got my gang written all over my face when I really got into my gangbanging and I wanted everyone to know what gang
I am from.
Growing up there was constantly gang warfare, banging for territory, banging for pride—false pride—even banging against each other for dope houses or for girls and whatnot. Everyone that I grew up with that is still around is probably like five of us out of about 60.
For me, my gang is family orientated. My grandpa’s house was a hangout spot for my gang, all my uncles are from the gang. Me and my brother and cousins, we were intrigued, thought
it was cool, so we tried to get noticed by them, tried to get acknowledged by them. They would give us money and we would see their girls. We thought it was cool so we grew up knowing that we wanted to be a part of this.
It would be our life. So I get in when I was 14. It was just how it was, no one was going to stop us. That’s what they showed us, so naturally, we followed and it just went from there. Then I saw a couple of cousins die, and one cousin was crippled, so I felt obligated, that I had to participate now because my cousins are dying. I felt that I had to give retaliation, I felt obligated to my family and to myself as a man. Although I was a kid I had to be a part of it too. There was real gang warfare going on, people were dying all the time. They would cross over, kill one of us, we would go over kill one of them, back and forth nonstop just killing each other. I was shot five times I was in a car and one of us got shot right in front of me. I did not get hit but he was hit three times and killed. I was lying on the floor. They used an AK-47 and I did not get hit. There were a lot of things. Now that I look back I am scared for that kid that did not know what he was doing, but at the time I was all for it, I was down, I thought that was cool and that was just part of life. I wouldn’t do it again, I don’t know how I survived it.
I feel scared for that kid back then, but that kid became a man and 18 months ago I decided to change my life. The hardest thing has been coming to terms with the person who I was. I was a monster. Being comfortable in my own skin, to talk about it, to talk about my life story, the person I used to be. I don’t glorify what I did being a gang member. I don’t glorify what I had to do to survive in prison. I chose my gang and the street life over my kids and that is the person I used to be, but now that I have changed my life I have my kids back in my life, I talk about the way I used to be so people can see that if I can change then anyone can change. I have a 21-year-old and a 19-year-old, and like I said, I did not raise them, I was hardly ever there for them. 18 months ago I had another son and I have seen him born and I was looking at him thinking unlike my other kids that grew up somewhere else he is going to grow up in my neighborhood, right there, and is probably going to end up joining a gang too because in my neighborhood there is only one gang. It’s all families and he is going to make the same decision. I was looking at him and I was thinking, “Where did I go wrong in my life that I chose my gang over my kids?” That is when I decided I had to make a change in my life. I was arrested a week later.
I have had 20 parole violations and three prison terms. When I was arrested a week later my son was born I knew I wanted to change my life, but I did not know how to go about doing it. My whole circle was nothing but gang members, drug addicts, and drug dealers. These were the only people I knew and associated with my whole life.
So my parole officer had to be a part of it. I called him from my jail cell and told him that I wanted to change my life and I didn’t know how to do it. He gave me a release pass out of jail, he picked me up and took me to a program, and that is when I started to make my change.
So I was in that program making my change, I was in college, got ahold of my kids, started being part of their lives. It is funny how that works, you know? The earliest memories of my life were my dad beating my mom. My dad was a heroin addict. He would take us to stores and have us steal for him, For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.