I remember watching MTV and seeing two black rappers for the first time. This was 1986 and I’m nine years old. At that time gangbanging was being born in my neighborhood. The guys used to wear the colors. They used to wear rags and they’d paint their pinky nail on their left hand red. As a kid I’m looking these guys like ”these are the tough guys”, and right with them was my idol: my older brother. In my mind this is what I want to be.
Maybe a year or two later me and my friends, we would run around with the colors, ”oh yeah, we’re bloods, we’re bloods”. And some other guys from another turf didn’t take that lightly. And they didn’t care about us being little boys. And the whoopin they put on us that night was so bad that when we made it home my brother was like, ”Now you know what you gotta do. You got to be a soldier. You was wounded in war.” And at that point it was on. I was a gangbanger.
I looked to the streets for a family and that’s what these guys were. I come into prison at 18. I got gang tattoos on me so there’s no denying that. These guys were ready to go at my neck and I wasn’t taught to retreat. This guy named Thomas came out of nowhere and was like, ”Well if ya’ll gonna do him like that, Ya’ll gonna fight him one on one.” I didn’t have no problem with that. Yeah we can do that. But I don’t know this guy. What makes you want to help me?
So when we sat down and we talked he got to telling me a little bit about him. He was probably like 43. And he said, ”You got yourself in a whole heap of mess now, but its not about what you win its about what you do to get out of it.” So then he asked me one day, he said, ”So why do you still gangbang though?” He said, ”Do you got any friends in it?” I said, ”My best friend got killed.” He said, ”What did you learn from that?” I was like, ”Stay out of the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time.” He said, ”No listen, If that guy is in that grave and you don’t learn nothing from it, he died in vain.” And it didn’t even set in right then. I got out of prison and went back twice after that.
By the time I was 25 I had three prison numbers. This third one, you know, that’s what changed me. All this time I did in prison, didn’t never a person from my gang ever write me one letter or send me one penny. and right then it just dawned on me. That’s not family. Those aren’t friends. and when I come home, what, they want me hold the pistol, and they want me to punch this guy for running his mouth. I’m a grown man, and me coming to Atlanta from Toledo is like running from my life. That’s exactly what it was.