Wow! That’s amazing.
When I got all this, I was younger. I have so much work on my body and my legs. I do want to do tattoo removal, but I don’t know if I am going to be able. I have a lot of work, a lot of work, you know? I could find a better job. It is really hard for me out there. I don’t see that in here (Homeboy Industries). They respect me, they know who I am, and a lot of people out there they don’t know me so…a lot of people will be staring at me. I am a good person; I have a good heart. I have met so many people here. I have traveled to Washington with Father Greg Boyle. I have met some amazing people who know me and they know I have a good heart. But a lot of people who don’t know me, they probably think, “He is smoking drugs, he has a gun,” or that I am violent, but I am not like that no more. I left that all behind, I was growing up. My dad, he was in jail, and he did a lot of time. He left me and my older brother and my sister. So it was a real struggle for me growing up. My mom, she did not have no money. Growing up, I just saw a lot of drugs, alcohol.
My brother started gangbanging. He is older than me. He was like a role model to me. I liked the way he used to iron his pants, his shirt, get ready for Friday night. He would not come back till Monday or Tuesday, sometimes he would not even come back. He would be like in jail and I would be like, “That’s cool,” you know? I am now 34, and he is four years older than me. He and my cousin are from the neighborhood. Some of my cousins are not here no more. They got murdered; some of them are do- ing life in prison. My brother, he got lucky I think. He stopped before all that happened to him. He has a family now.
Him and my cousins were role models, I started doing the same thing. I was doing good when I was going to school, but then I started hanging around with the wrong people, the wrong crowd, I started messing up. When I hit the sixth grade, school was not for me no more. I started going to ditching parties. Females, alcohol—I started drinking a lot— that was my thing. I had tried drugs before, like weed, but that was not my thing. My thing was alcohol. I started drinking a lot, drinking to where I would black out. My cousins would pick me up and we would go to their neighborhood. They would have friends doing tattoos on them, and I was like, “Oh, wow.” I started with a little cross— it’s not here no more, I took it off when I went to juvenile hall—I was 13. Ever since I have been hooked on it. I liked the art so much. And even when I was feeling sad or depressed, I was like, “I am going to get a tattoo,” and I would feel better. Then I started going to juvenile halls. It didn’t help me out. We just started gangbanging there, getting into fights. I was in and out of the system through all my juvenile life. I was in jail until I was 25 years old. I graduated from juvenile hall. I went through all the juvenile halls in LA County: Los Padrinos, Eastlake, and the one in the Valley. I went to so many camp programs I got used to it, you know?
When I was in there one of the times, I think in 1993, I met Father Greg Boyle, and that was the first time that I heard about Homeboy Industries. He gave me a little card. I kept it but I was not ready.
I got out and I committed a robbery and that got me sent for a long time. They gave me what is called “juvenile life.” I got sent to Cali Youth Authority and they gave me seven years. It was real tough there. It was not the same as juvenile hall no more. I had to go to county jail for the first time, and I started seeing older people. I ended up doing three and a half years.
[When I got out] I could not go to my house because they said that the neighborhood was too gang affiliated. I had to go to a halfway house. I went to the halfway house and I was there for about two weeks, and then I left and I was on the run for about a month. My brother was on the run also. We were in Ingelwood. The cops would come; they broke the door down so many times looking for me.
Then I was in a car accident. We did not hit no other cars. I was in the back and this guy was drunk and he hit the wall of the freeway, so I got real hurt. My face was bleeding and I could not walk, and he was like, “Come on, let’s go!” I was like, “Leave me,” so he did and two females. One of the females was kind of hurt and they were telling me, “Leave, leave.” So I started walking down the freeway. Some guys, some gang member guys, pulled up and they were like, “Get in.” I did not even know these guys and I was so drunk that I just went in and they took me to the hospital. For the rest of the interview to be found in the book.