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July 04, 2005

For the Banger

Lee continues with her emails and we have some hella deep discussions. She has informed me that she has referred some of her old clients toward the blog, and so I feel obligated to recognize. This one is for the ex-gangbanger.

I am the oldest of five kids, four of us boys. I grew up in a knuckle-up neighborhood in the 70s. No knives, no guns, but on any particular day you might find yourself on the bad end of a flurry of fists. I wrote about two of my notable encounters with bangers, but it doesn't really end there. I also knew a kid named Dana, who was as far as I knew, the founder of the Gangsta Crips. Dana was scared to death, and he never wanted to be scared again.

The reasons for banging are always as simple as anything a 7th grader can understand. Necessity. Tradition. Respect. Protection. It's the choice between being a man or a mark when the man's way is the gang. I think it is practically impossible to choose another way when you are a boy, because there is nothing a boy wants more than to be a man. Boys always follow men.

Back about 8 years ago, I had a brief correspondance with Monster Kody Scott, LA's most famous gangbanger and late resident of Pelican Bay. He was just getting out and had been putting together his prison writing - he sent me a package for review. Reading what I did of his work and knowing what I did of his life story, I realized that he understood deeper than just about anyone the Code of the Warrior. Except he wasn't anyone's warrior but his own - the leader of an outcast tribe. But Kody's most important lesson for me was that of the affinity of boys to manly deeds and the absolute need they have for each other.

If it was my job to tell how to keep an ex-banger straight, I would offer the same advice Kody did, in reverse. Understand the effect you have on a young man and be his leader.

Nothing keeps a man on a path as knowing that his example is being closely followed by others who want to be just like him. Nothing dogs a man like knowing that he's being scrutinized by others who hate his guts. For us men, this is what makes us or breaks us. Our reputation, our word, what people know us for. That's what we're all about. This is a harsh and cruel world, and all you've got are your few skills and strengths, and you need a space where those count for something, where people give you a break because they understand what you're all about.

No man wants to start from scratch, ever. It means clawing your way up, like a boy, all over again. Why? Necessity. Tradition. Respect. Protection. But if your reputation is broken and you know it, there is no other way. If and when you know you have got to change, then you have to start at the bottom of something new and work your way up. There is no such thing as conversion. You make yourself into something by doing the work. Than you become this larger being that contains the old thing but feeds itself only by the new thing. And in that you become wiser than you thought you could be.

Anyone who gets much past the 7th grade mentality and sees more than just one 'hood, knows that the gang is the way of the mark, and not the way of the man. There are only three gangs that survive in America. The cops, the military and the CIA. They rule. Nuff said.

And do check out Solomon.

Posted by mbowen at July 4, 2005 08:43 AM

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When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dying day
When you're a Jet let them do what they can
You've got brothers around
You're a family man
You're never alone
You're never disconnected
You're home with your own
When company's expected
You're well-protected
Then you are set with a Capital J
Which you'll never forget 'till they cart you away
When you're a Jet you stay a Jet!

Posted by: Laura at July 5, 2005 05:23 PM

I feel you.

Posted by: Temple3 [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 6, 2005 07:53 AM