My name is Hong Fhan. They call me Chino. That came from the projects. My gang has called me Chino [because I am Asian] since I was nine years old. My gang was a Mexican gang.
I was ten when I got into the gangs. Not my whole family, just my brother and me. My brother followed me.
Shows him the photographs.
Damn this is nice! Right here this is how I look with no tattoos, eh? This is crazy! How did you do it? My first tattoo was on my arm. I was like 12 or 13 years old. It says “Chino” and “C.F.,” my gang. This is a trip for me!
My childhood, I went insane! I did not think about nothing. I was into gangs, that’s it. It was just the surroundings; I wanted to be like them. I wanted to make money fast, [have] females, and cars. That’s what I wanted. I seen it growing up and I wanted to be that. It was for a long time, ten years now. I am 31; it’s been a long time. Damn this is a trip. This is a whole different story. It’s amazing how you guys do this, really amazing. I never thought you could do that. I appreciate you doing this. It means a lot to look at this with no tattoos.
That’s my neighborhood. Some of them [tattoos] have stories: in prison, using drugs, females, and there is death, too.
A lot of different stuff. My cousin passed away. There is a lot of things man.
These pictures are crazy. Looking at it right now, it’s like, "Thank God I am still alive!" If I had no tattoos I would look like this and maybe be somebody in life and stop being a gangster. And this one [looking at the picture with tattoos] I can say, yeah, I have been through a lot. This one I could say, if I had not joined a gang, just imagine what I would have been. This photo without tattoos, I really don’t know. I was not thinking about anything growing up besides being a gangsta. Growing up saying, “You know what, I want to be a gangsta.” That is what it was, that was my goal. Give me that respect. I want to make money, this and that, drugs. You know what I mean?
At first, my parents did not say anything, but then it was too late. It was too late because the money was coming in. She [my mother] knew where I got it from, selling drugs. But we needed the money, so we did not care where it was coming from. I was supporting my family. They are from Vietnam.
When I was getting older, when I was like 25, it was getting out of control. Using drugs, shootings, gangs and all that. I was getting deeper and deeper, but the feeling was the rush, the feeling, it was my high. I wanted that. I felt good when I go gangbang, sell drugs, and make money. I would get high, that was my rush. My goal was to be a straight gangsta, to be a rider.
I thought my homeboys were going to be there for me, but they were not. I learned the hard way.
The only thing that I regret is that I lost respect from my family because of using drugs. That is where I lost a lot of respect and I regret that.
Now I have got myself sober, up to 4 years already, and I feel happy. I feel good about myself. It is a good feeling. I get up in the morning not stressed out and thank God for another day.
Just looking at my mom getting stressed out, getting sick because of me. To give her the happiness that she deserves because she had been through a lot. She deserved a break, and happiness, less stress.
So I gave my life to God and God gave me a second life. Not a second chance, but a second life. Gave me a new path, new friends, and now I am here at Homeboy Industries. To see my mom happy For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.