Questions About Trying to Change

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My name is Maria. I am in rehab. You see I am only 15 but I been through a lot. I lost my brother he was only 14. He got shot while he was asleep on our living room couch. After the day he died my life went down hill. My mom was never around and I donít know my dad. I fear that I to will eventually end up like my brother. My question is how do I get out da street life if that is all I know. How do I look for happiness if I am always high and fucked up please give me some answers.

Hi Maria,

You ask how do you get out of the street life if thatís all you know, and how do you find happiness if youíre always high. Maria, you already started helping yourself by being in rehab. ďTake it seriousĒ and ask for help if you have questions. Youíre 15 years old and you have a whole life ahead of you. Think of all the good things you have done, and try to forget about the rest. You need to learn how to love yourself by respecting yourself and trying to make better decisions. I know itís hard. I lived the streets myself. And I lost my brother a few days after he turned 16 years old to the street life. Youíre going to be alright Maria. Just keep telling yourself that youíre not going to end up in the streets, and make a change for yourself to prove to everybody that they were wrong, and that you can come out ahead no matter what.

Tu amigo - Jesse G.

Dear Maria,

You are in my prayers. I send my condolence to you. Your question, or rather the way you asked it, touched my heart. It seems that you were very close with your brother. A part of my response is to say that you ďcanítĒ look for happiness at all if youíre always high and messed up.

Maria, if the street life is all you know and you are sincere about wanting to better yourself and better your life, then you have to make a real commitment to change and to learning something different. You have to wholeheartedly want to better your life and commit to that. Once it truly becomes your heartís desire and you actively feed it your energy through honest effort, all of the universe will conspire to help you achieve it. You can start by committing to gaining an education. Make it your goal to at least get yourself a G.E.D. If higher education isnít feasible for you at this time, there are plenty of trade schools available to you. You can acquire a trade so that you can take care of yourself, and then go back to school later if you want.

Getting high is a first class ticket to nowhere. Thatís not for you Maria. Youíre way better than that! Even though your parents arenít there to support you in dealing with life, and itís true that you deserve to have two loving nurturing and supportive parents to help guide you through the traumas of life, I sense that you are an extremely smart, tenacious, and capable young woman. I believe itís just about you wanting better and then getting in touch with that part of your character that doesnít want to give up - that part of you thatís strong wise and loving, that part of you that loves your brother so much. I believe that as creations of God, we never have more put upon us than we can handle. The reason we have all these tragic events in our lives is to compel us to dig deep within ourselves so as to embrace that part of us that is capable of pushing us to become the best that you can be, who you are intended to be, someone the spirit of your little brother will be proud of. You have a special gift that you bring to this world Maria, but you have to cultivate that ultimate aspect of yourself in order to bring that gift forward. The more tragic circumstances from which you must overcome the more special and profound your gift is. I felt you when I first read your question. I knew this young woman has ďAngelicĒ qualities. Sheís just not conscious of herself, your true self.

The death of your little brother was truly tragic, and your witnessing it really must have made you feel helpless. ďAfter that day he died my life went down hill,Ē you said. So when he died, you stopped loving yourself and decided to self-destruct to prove how much you hurt and how much you love him, right? Maria, I believe that the spirit of us never dies, only the body does. If in fact that is true, how do you think it makes the spirit of your little brother feel to know that the passing of his body is the reason you are throwing your own life away? Would his spirit feel better if the passing of his body caused you to change and make a better life for yourself? Wouldnít that honor your love for your little brother in a way that his body could rest in peace?

Maria, please stay in touch with us. You may need to mourn your brotherís passing and if so, Iíd like to share something about that.

Sincerely - Blue Cloud

Well Maria,

Let me first say that I'm sorry to hear about your brother. May he Rest In Peace. Being in rehab is a good thing but I know it's not easy. Once you get out, that's when you become a winner or a loser. You need to keep yourself strong so that you can become that winner. There's going to be a lot of temptations, but you need to stand firm and I know you could. Getting out from the streets is hard especially when that's all you know but it can be done. You first have to get your mind straight by thinking positive. You have to start thinking about what you want to be doing or have 5 years from now. You have to realize that being in the streets is holding you back, and that it will only make you worse. See, I was told this many times when I was young but I never listened. Now I'm in prison serving a long sentence. I blew my chance to make things right for myself but you still have time. You're young and you have a whole life ahead of you.

You said where can you look for happiness. Well, the only one that can answer that is yourself. Getting high and fucked up is not happiness, it's just a waste of time. I know deep down you can find happiness besides doing negative things. You just have to look within yourself and I know you'll find something great. Just think before you act Maria. Don't do things that you're going to regret in the future because that's what I'm doing.

Take care of yourself Maria.- Edwin
New Jersey


My name is Greg and I am a member of the streets. As of now, I am currently in prison, been here for 8 years with a couple of years still to go. It was here in prison where I began to change my life from negative to positive. If I can do it, believe me anybody can. Like yourself, my brother was shot and killed. He was a rapper. His name was ďMac 11.Ē He was one of the rappers on the Crip side of the Bloods and Crips CD. So, I send my condolence to you and your family. You asked 2 questions. Number one: How do you get out of the street life? And two: How do you look for happiness?

Maria, in life everything is a process. We cannot get to the end from starting at the middle. We canít get to the beginning from starting at the end. What I mean by this is, in order for you to get out of the street life, step one would be to first ďwant to.Ē Once this is what you really want, step 2 would be to slowly start to change the way you think. If you always think about how bad things are in your life, you will never see the good things you have going for you. You will be surprised at how our thoughts have power, just as words have power. I noticed you said you are in a rehab. Maria, honest truth, you have already started the process. Stay the course and remain encouraged. You have a power that you may not be aware of. Itís called ďfree will.Ē All you have to do is use it. Happiness starts within. You must love who you are for who you are first. Once you love yourself, people around you will automatically begin to love you, which will start up a positive and motivating environment within your every day space. This is what we call support. Happiness is what life is truly about. So Maria, the answers to your questions are all within yourself. Just take a moment to listen to the voice within.

Education is the key to happiness. Perhaps after rehab, you might wanna go to Job Corps. That is how you beat the streets. Take care and remember - positive thoughts attract positive people and positive outcomes.

Respectfully - Greg

To Maria in Rehab,

Sounds like youíve already had a ruff start in life. Losing your brother or any family member isnít easy for anybody, but you canít let your brotherís death be the reason you destroy your own life! In this life, our heart will be broken into a million pieces more than once, and youíll feel like you canít continue anymore, but you canít stop believing in yourself, and you canít give up on life.

Okay, your first question is, ďHow do you get out of this street-lifeĒ? The answers are really simple. Get an education and make smarter choices, and donít let anyone else pressure you into doing anything you really donít want to do! You see, no one is stuck in the street-life. People who are part of the street-life are there because theyíve made bad choices that put them there, and they continue making bad choices that keep them there! Some people make these bad choices because theyíre influenced by others or they think this street-life is cool or something, but this life is not cool. Youíll figure that out when you get older and those people who try to influence you to be part of it are not looking out for your best interest.

As for the happiness you seek, you wonít find it in drugs! You may think you have when youíre high, but once you come down, your problems will still be there and theyíll get 100 times worse if you get addicted to any drugs. And please donít say it canít happen to you, because every single drug addict in this world said the same thing at one time or another. I know life is hard, but you canít escape it by using drugs. Drugs will only make things worse. I know this because I started using drugs when I was 15, and Iím 47 now and Iíve spent most of my life since 15 in jail or prison! The choices I made in regards to drugs ruined my life! I hope youíre smart enough not to make the same choices.

Sincerely - Sergio


Hi I would like to know something I been in a gang since I was 9 year old. I been banging. Iím now 20 year old. Every one I love is dead but a few and everyone that tried to get out was killed so I have something to ask, if I feel that getting out of gang will kill me and staying in will also killing me what do I DO can anyone help?

Hopefully so. With all the emphasis on gangs and youth involvement in them, there are many programs that help people who want to get out of gangs. Counselors, teachers, parents and clergy can probably point you in a direction where there are specialized people who know about the experiences and difficulties of getting out of gangs. Even youth and recreational programs and the people who run them can probably help. Donít feel shut out from programs that have maximum age limits like 16 or 18. Even though that may exist, the people who run them can probably put you in contact with people more specialized in dealing with someone older.

Of course, I am unaware if it is possible, but moving might help. The larger the city or the more densely populated the area you live in, the lesser distance you would have to move to achieve being around different people in a different environment. In an extremely large city, just moving to a different neighborhood where no one knows you might help. Changing people, places and things can be a big help where you do not have to associate with the same mentality.

Also, feel good because you already took the first step in asking a question about getting out. You seem to have decided yourself that there has to be a better way. Do not feel discouraged at first. It may seem like you are fighting a losing battle, but remember that any accomplishment in life that you achieved came about only because of a serious effort.

I have seen many people involved with gangs. Not all wound up dead. Many are in prison, which is almost just as bad. The positive side of that is that I have seen people get out of gangs successfully even in prison. Even here, despite the pressure, some come to an awakening and decide to put that behind them. They associate with different people, and get into programs. Others keep to themselves but state that they are more at peace and do not have to be placed in the position of fighting othersí battles, following orders that they do not understand, and doing things they donít believe in or understand just to satisfy other people.

Keep the right attitude and realize that positive change comes about through hard decisions and staying determined. Best of luck.

Sincerely -Al R.
New Jersey


I am a 17 year girl living a crazy life. My dad passed away when I was 12 and ever since I have messed up my life. I try to change my life but it is so hard to do.


What you have to understand is that not accepting and dealing with a loved oneís death makes your journey in life more difficult. I donít know how your father passed however I can relate to losing a loved one at an early age in life and it is emotionally hard. But you need to look at how that person would react to your acting out and doing things not healthy for yourself such as drinking and taking drugs and running the streets. Now follow that thought. Then look at how they would feel if you started to accept the fact that weíre born to die, and do everything in your power to keep yourself together.

Strive to be the best at achieving your goals and not let anyone or anything stand in your way. The strongest organ we have our brain. It allows us to make decisions intelligently and rationalize our ability and understand our fears. There isnít no road where youíre going, only a destructive lifestyle that will destroy all your opportunity of becoming who you really are. You have your whole life ahead if you. Remember trying to escape reality by running only makes the run longer. I want you to do this: take a strong look at yourself. I mean clear-minded. After you do that write down what you donít like about yourself and what you do. List you goals, all of them, and make an effort of achieving one at a time.

New Jersey


I have been in a gang since I was nine years old and I have been in and out and I want to leave and I can't because of the rules and I'm scared to leave. Since I have been in my life has been going down hill bad and I have so much in life that I want to do one day. I just did not want to be in any more and there is no way out. I'm tired of so many things and I'm only 15 and Iím just tired of doing bad things and seeing my friends go in and out of jail. I have never gone to jail yet and I don't want to go there. I just don't know what to do I want my life to be different and spend time with my family that I never get to do very much.

Hello, Iím Jesse and I hope that I can be of some help to you. I understand that you want out of your gang. Itís not easy but one thing you can do is find a job. That will take up some or most of your time. Youíre still young so I wouldnít suggest you settle down but working is one of the ways you can start to back out of your gang. Or if you have family in another state or a few counties away, maybe you can go there for awhile and start over. Donít look for the same crowds that got you in this stuff. You say that you have much to do in life. I know that being scared ainít one of them. You donít need to be scared. Stop hanging around people little by little. If they say something, just say that youíve been doing things with your family. Youíll see that with time you can step away and hopefully for good one day. Feel free to give me a reply if you need to and take care of yourself.

Your friend - Jesse

You are 15 years old and you have been a gang member since you were nine! If you look in the dictionary, you will find the meaning of the word gang member is ďcriminal.Ē Criminals will end up in prison or dead Ö itís that simple! The little story you wrote is similar to my own personal life and to other thousands I have heard through the years. If you cannot understand the true meaning of the word Ö this government will have a cell waiting for you. The Department of Corrections loves to make money off us. Itís big business. Tax payers pay.

Good luck - Juan


Hi I am in a violent gang. All I wanted is to have fun not get in trouble by the police and do drugs. If I don't I will be hurt. It happened to my friends and now they have to be in the gang. I want out but they won't let me. But i am koo cuz I am in a gang everyone likes me. What should I do? I want to stay koo and have lots of friends still just not do drugs and steal stuff and just be bad.

Dear Mandy,

I'm writing you this letter to encourage you to never give up on thinking that you cannot get out of a gang or its violent life style. You can say that I know that from experience. I know how it feels to be surrounded by people who so called love you and are so called Koo, (no offense), but people with real self-respect for themselves and others are Koo!! Why, because they know when enough is enough and that they understand what their limits are.

Yeah I know that it may feel good to be surrounded by a lot of people who are koo as you say, but think and say to yourself, "Is this me and do I belong here"? Sure you may feel good hanging out with them, but the real question is where do you see yourself years from now? I mean do you see yourself going to college? Finishing School? Or even living out a life that God wants you to live? I know you want live out a life full of fun and happinesss, but that can't be possible unless you make some changes. You want out of a gang? Well like you said it ain't easy, but not impossible. I mean if you truely want to get out of that life style, can you and will you make that sacrifice? When I say sacrifice, I mean are you willing to give up on what may have now and start over?

Here are some choices that you may decide upon:

  1. Find some new friends if possible.
  2. Talk to your parents and ask them what should you do (explain to them the possible consequences that may happen).
  3. Move if you can, but think of its effects on your family - work n stuff.

I can't really tell you what to do, but this is what I did. I like you was in a situation like that before. What I did was instead of trying to just try and walk out of the gang I left it. I moved to a relative's house and started over. Sure it wasnt easy but I had to do it, I mean to have a life then to have nothing at all. I had a new chance at life, and most of all I had a new hope for life. To make something of myself and show for it. Anyhow, all that I have wrote to you may be useless to you, but know this. Even though you may feel down at times never lose hope or faith!! Always pray and have faith in yourself and God! Know that He loves you and that He will always be there for you no matter what!

Sincerely, - T.N.
Recently released


My mom & uncle were gangsterz. My uncle still is. He's doing time for about 1 and a half... Last time he was in for 4 years only lasted 7 months out here. He has lil kids ... And Iím starting to get in da gangs n stuff how do I stop before it's too late?

It is simple. If you continue to mess around, youíll be in prison just like your uncle. Thatís a fact! I donít think thereís a manual or book in this world which takes you step by step or shows you how to handle a situation like this one or any other regarding your future or life. Everything is based on your own choice. If you choose to be a gang member, well youíll be one! Just like anything else in life, if you choose to become a lawyer, doctor or whatever, youíll be just that. You see, in this world, or especially in this country, not your parents, government, laws or rules will force you into something you donít wantÖ Everything that you do or become is done by you on your own will. You are free to choose.

Good luck - Juan

First of all, you should look at your mom and uncle as examples, and ask yourself, ďDo I really want that stuff in my life?Ē Would you like to spend 1,460 days in prison like your uncle or possibly more than 4 years. Imagine spending 10,960 days of your life in prison. Thatís 30 years without being constantly around your parents and kids. Not being able to go out doors to get fresh air whenever you want, not being able to go to the store anytime you want, not being able to take a shower whenever you wish to, not being able to take a walk when you want, and who the heck in their right mind wants to spend 30 years surrounded by the same sex for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Trust me; this is not a good feeling.

There are about 2000 - 2500 convicts in this prison. These are many different personalities you must learn to adjust to and most importantly accept whatever flaws they have. This is not easy. Because this is a volatile environment, anyone can snap at any given time. Itís bad enough you have to be on guard. Imagine having to watch your back 24/7, especially when you are a gang member. Thatís what happens when you come to prison. There are old rivals and new enemies, even the victimís family and friends. The unknown enemies are the worst. They will sneak up behind you and stab you with a shank (jailhouse knife). As a result of this, your life can come to an abrupt end. Trust me, itís not worth it. No one should give their life away this way - 30 years=10,950 days you canít give back, and you will regret every day what you have done.

While your friends might be around now, when the situation gets rough they wonít be there. There are only a handful of people like that in this world and they are not caught up in this nonsense. As the years go by, you are forgotten and nobody remembers who you are. You become invisible. The only thing they remember is the last thing youíve done and has brought you to your present situation of incarceration. You may think you have real friends now but real friends are tested by time. This means that the only way you can know whether someone is a true friend is by the amount of years that this person remains your friend and whether they have passed the test of tribulations with you. Iím sure you heard that true friends donít get you involved in negative behavior. This is true because they really care for you and wouldnít want to see you in a bad situation. My true friend is my mom. She has always been there through the good times and bad. She is the only person doing this bid (time) with me, 30 years. Ask yourself, ďShould I put my mother through thisĒ? Why does she need to suffer? She has done nothing wrong. All she has done is given me love and showed her loyalty towards her son. She tried to prevent me from getting involved in gang activity.

When and if you have children, you will want to protect them from negative behavior. You will have to instill in them that this is wrong. If you donít, then you will be sending them the wrong message and Trust me, you will suffer later. Your uncle is sending the wrong message to the youth around him; however, you can turn this into a positive for you by trying to understand what life this entails and staying away from it. Hopefully, one day you will convince him to be of courage and leave this life behind. I know itís not easy. When you make a mistake, try to fix it; you donít remain still and accept it.

You could serve as a counselor to prevent kids from making the same mistake you almost made. This will make you feel good about yourself and probably will be the most satisfying thing you will have done in your life. Itís one of the greatest feelings you can have. It wonít cost you a thing and your reward is so much more, about ten times more. Trust me; this will be the best thing you can do. At first it might not be easy, but if you give it some time, you will see the benefits. I know this for a fact. It is just a little too late for me, but I will always remain hopeful and believe. I believe in you and I hope you believe in yourself.

New Jersey


I used to be in a gang and I have had my share with getting in trouble. My whole family was rapped up, my cousins all in jail. But I got out before it was to late and I know it's not an easy task. But for those of you who never made it out in time, if you could give advice that you think would help another gang member or homie out what would it be????

I lost a lot of homeboys whom I consider good and close friends. I attended their funerals and witnessed their parents' pain, saying goodbye to their precious child taken away from them too soon. I did not yet understand or could not even dare imagine what those loving parents must have been going through at that time, that is until God blessed me with a baby boy. All of a sudden, life seemed to start making sense. The love from a parent to a child cannot be compared. I love my son more than life. He is my whole world. I don't even want to think what I would do if anything was to happen to him, God forbid!

How sorry I now am for everything that I made my mother go through, the worries and sleepless nights. It tears my heart to hear her blame herself and wonder where she had gone wrong. I'm into my 14th year of incarceration and not one homeboy has ever written to check and see if I needed anything, but mom writes and visits regularly. She tells me that as long as God permits her, I will never feel alone.

Don't think that you can gangbang and not get busted. Most of us are here because homeboys testified against us in court, or worse leave your parents to grieve the loss of their precious gift for the rest of their remaining years, ruining holidays and every other happy occasion because it will remind them of the child that's missing.

My whole family was from the neighborhood too, but because of their criminal records and lack of education, they are forced to take back-breaking work and some even hold more than one job just to make ends meet. I can go on and on about why you shouldn't join a gang or why you should get out. There is no better reason than to think of your parents because they are always the ones to get the worst end of a situation. There is nothing here, just wasting our lives away. This is no way to live, and as long as they keep building prisons, there's a less chance for any of us lifers to ever reunite with our loved ones. It's too late for me, but not for you! So think smart and make yours proud.



All my life I have been around gangs and my familia are from gangs. My tio is from a gang and I just have a question for who ever will listen cause see my mom and dad donít know what it is like to grow up in this time, and they donít understand. I want to ask what do I do if I feel that I get more love from the homeboys and homegirls than I do from my own blood? I know it seems wrong but that is the way I feel.

Con todo respecto,

Dear Melissa,

If you feel that you get more love from the homeboys and homegirls than your own blood, then talk to your family. Iím sorry that youíre going through this but talk to them and let them know how you feel. I hope this answered your question.

Edwin T.
New Jersey

I understand your dilemma Melissa. Sometimes parents just donít seem to understand or sympathize with their children who find themselves alone, fighting the tide of conflicting emotions. Iím sure you love your parents and they undoubtedly love you. The problem seems to be that there is no real communication between you and your parents. Tell me, if you were to ask your homeboys and homegirls to help you raise some money to help rebuild the poor folkís house that recently burned to the ground, what would they say? If you asked them to help finance your college education so that you could come back and help the people in the hood raise their awareness and living standards, what do you think would be their response? Try it! Then go ask your parents and see what theyíll say. Love is not something you find cast about in the gutters of society. No! Love is the noble expression of your own being coming forth, touching and affecting all those who come in your sphere of influence. The members of your gang are responding to one another simply because of their own need to feel appreciated. If you learn how to appreciate the beauty of your inner being, the power and attraction of gangs will soon become a faded memory. Bring forth your true genius and then youíll truly begin to feel loved.

James C.
New Jersey

Dear Melissa,

Thereís nothing wrong with thinking that your friends are showing you more love and attention than your own parents. But remember and never forget that those two people whom you call ma and pa are the only two people in this world who love you unconditionally. Your homeboys and homegirls have conditional love, meaning as long as you have money or whatever is necessary, you have friends. As soon as the money and fame are gone, so are the best friends and so called ones who loved you.

Jean M.
New Jersey

Dear Melissa,

Gangs are the problem today and we are trying to find a way to make our people aware of this problem because nobody cares about our young kids today.

Now this is what my mother used to tell me when she didnít want me around hanging out: She used to come around me and stay there with me and I would tell her, ďMom, I donít want you here because something may happen and I donít want you to get hurt.Ē Now she would tell me, ďIf you come with me then I will leave,Ē and thatís when my boys would tell me to leave and go with your mother because they didnít want me to be there with my mother.

Hector S.
New Jersey


Itís true that maybe your parents donít know what it is to grow up in this day and age. But what you have to ask your self is this. Will your parents ever tell you something that will destroy your life? Will your parents give their life for you without even thinking about it? Sometimes it may seem like we get more love from the homies. I belonged to a gang. I thought that I got more love from my peeps than I did my family. Iím serving a fifty year sentence for my peeps. But the only ones that are doing this time with me are my parents. THE ONLY ONES!!! I knew most of my peeps from my area since the first grade and I canít even get a letter from them. Everything that my parents told me I thought was all nonsense, till I came here and realized everything they told me was the truth. Melissa, take the advice of someone who knows. Blood is thicker than water. Friends may become your enemies, but your parents will always be your parents.

Otto S.
New Jersey

Dear Melissa,

I know a lot of friends who feel the way you do. Itís wrong that you feel that way but as long as you feel that youíre loved itís ďgood.Ē But have you talked with your family about the way you feel? I would talk to them and try to spend time with each other, even if itís just kickiní it listening to music with them. Iím sure your family loves you a lot more than your friends.

Jesse G.

Dear Melissa,

It took me coming to prison in order to learn just how important family is, your family, your flesh and blood. As a kid, I too grew up thinking that my family just did not understand me or the things I was going through. And I was right; they did not know. My parents were/are very old fashioned and they believe things must be a certain way. To this day, they are still the same way. But the thing is, there are no other two people who love me more than my parents. Trust me Melissa, you will never get more love from your homies than you would get from your own blood.

If you are like I was back then, you probably talk more, hang out more, and do more things with your homies than you do with your parents. If that is the case, then you will feel more love from them than your parents. But try to talk to your parents. I mean really talk to them. Try to give them a little bit more of an understanding of your world outside the home. Help them around the house without them saying anything to you about it. Whenever you go out, bring them a little gift, it does not matter how insignificant you think the gift is. I bet you will get a smile out of them.

You might get a certain kind of love from your homies, but will they die for you if their deaths will assure you a good future? I bet your parents will give their lives for you without thinking twice if their deaths will secure you a good future. Talk to them Melissa, teach them what it is like for you to live in this time.

Mucho cariño y buena suerte - Luis
New Jersey

Well first off, my name is Albert and I would like to say that sometimes people do feel the way you are feeling. I myself felt that way for many years, but as time passes you will realize that it is just not how you feel, itís what you want to feel. All that gang life is, is just another part of wanting to feel loved. All parents love their children even if they donít show it the way you think or want them to. It is sometimes hard, especially living in the hood. You get mad at your parents and you go to the homieís house and he or she tells you what you want to hear, and at that moment you feel that he or she understands what you are going through and that is where you feel like, ďMan I get more love from the homeboys and homegirls than I do from mom and dad.Ē In actuality your mom and dad love you with all their heart and soul and will do anything for you.

Here is a suggestion. Try to find a time when your mom and dad are not busy and sit down with them and express how and what you are feeling because I will tell you this, if you yourself could get the ball rolling, you will see just how much cariño your parents have for you. Also let them know that you love them as much as they love you. The simplest things could sometimes be the hardest. You wonít know until you try. Give them a chance and just maybe you will see that you were wrong.

I really hope you take this advice and try and work with your parents instead of against them. Well, I hope this message helps you out. The only thing I could say is, trust your parents and really try and understand what they went through and what they are going through now. Well, take good care and I hope it all works out for you, especially with those mixed emotions you are having. Also remember this, your mom and dad will always be there for you no mater how bad the situation is. Now could you say that about the homies? Give that some real thought. Will ďtheyĒ be there like mother and father? I hope this helps you out Melissa.

Respectfully - Albert

Dear Melissa,

First and foremost I thank you for asking a prisoner (pinto) your question. Now allow me this pleasure of answering you. Itís very unfortunate that you came from family being in gangs. I truly feel your pain. You see, I am also from the varrio vida. A familia knowing only varrio life keeps the varrio alive, but never their own familias - truly a sad situation.

The gang life from my time was not near as hard as you children have it. Today, gang life is much more violent and vicious. Even sex kills nowadays.

Melissa, the love you think you feel from the homeboys and homegirls isnít true love at all. True love never dies, which is Godís love towards us. Tu sabes the homies will back you in time of trouble, then tell on you. Once youíre in prison, they forget about you after awhile. Screw up once in prison and they will try to take you out. You see I have lost everything coming to prison the second time. Now I am doing a term of 15 years to life.

Since 1995 I have walked with Christ, away from the varrio life and drugs. Even though Iím still in prison, I am truly free spiritually. The very words that you used to end your question were these, ďGod is with you always.Ē Yes He is. I surrendered my life over to God on July 5, 1995 and I am very happy. Life has meaning. I now have a clear head and a warm heart. There truly is (vida) life anew at the end of the rainbow. Melissa, I have placed you on my prayer list, to pray on your behalf. The next time I read your response I will write more.

Manuel O.

My name is Aaron E. Well Melissa if you get more love from your homies and homegirls, think about it. If you die, will all your homies cry or will they all get high and talk about how you died? Cause your family will cry. Iím from a gang too and I ainít planning to stop, but neither am I trying to get people started to live the life I live. Just listen to your heart and if you decide that you want to live a new lifestyle, just remember tu familia primera y tu varrio segundo. Never put your family #2 cause itís always #1. Remember to be loyal to whatever you say or do cause once you hurt someone you could never take it back. Just look ahead.

Con much respect - Aaron E.

Melissa, you asked for an ese to take time to respond with advice on your situation. Iím white but have grown up in an environment where I went to war for the first time at 8 years of age. Ten more years of war on the streets and 20 years of war in here puts me where I am now - 38, finally figuring out I was rejecting the love of my family for the love of the streets, love of the homies. My whole life has been spent searching for love without betrayal. The gang life offered me much love, respect, loyalty. I thought life could not get any better. I invested so many years of my life before I realized how the little homies were loved and looked out for until their purpose was used up for the advancement of the bigger homies, which were only looked out for until their purpose was spent up for the biggest homies. Bottom line, Melissa, from experience I say - life in the concrete jungle is survival of the fittest, even in my own group. Now that I have finally reached retirement, I find my family have always loved me in whatever capacity they knew how to. (Like me, they too were trying to understand life with all its misleading rules of how life is to be lived.) However you feel Melissa, is OK for you to feel. You are (like me as well as everyone else who has ever taken a breath of air) a product of your environment, plain and simple - not good, not bad, just is. Itís OK to let people know whatís in your heart. Once I found out what was important to me, I started living my own truth. I found I attracted people who now do love me for me and not for what I can do for them. Knowing this kind of love, I now know in my heart the other love was manufactured to last until it was no longer needed.

Melissa, I hope you are able to find some of what youíre searching for in these words even if itís only a direction to go where youíre able to find more of what you seek in life. This is Brian signing off for now.

Brian H.


You mentioned that you have been around gangs throughout your life because of familia, friends, and homeboys. So there you have your answer. If you look into the big picture, youíll see that itís fun, crazy, and all the other good stuff you live out there. But those periods of time are too short to really enjoy them because you also know that we all get caught, and this government ainít playing games anymore. That 3 strikes law ainít nothing nice. These fools will lock you up for life! The majority of us donít have any money; those public defenders wonít do miracles to defend you. Weíll end up with a long sentence.

Now let me tell you a little personal story about the homie love you talk about. When I got arrested in August of 1995, for my birthday that year in October I received from 20 to 25 birthday cards from homeboys, homegirls and family. The year after, I received less and so on. Last year I only got three cards - from my mother, my niece, and my lawyer. If I get lucky next month, I might get three again but I ainít counting on it! This type of situation happens a lot to the vatos inside this holeÖ I guess blood is blood and water is water. My words and whatever else that someone might advise you to do or not to doÖ at the end youíll be the one to choose your one future, since we all are free to do so in this country, Que no? But, if you choose to become a criminal, well welcome to the no-freedom world.

Good luck! - Juan


I want to know how to tell the homies I ainít down to bang no more because my mother is tripping. My familia has no respecta for me. Iím doing bad in school. I smoke weed pero no other drugs. Iíve been in juvy about 5 times already. And I want to change my life around for my motherís sake. I know she loves me pero Iíve been in a lot of trouble and she canít take no more of my wrong doing. I just need some advice soon before I do anything else that Iím going to regret....Alratoz.

Sincerely - Maria C.


Hi, Iím Jesse and Iíve been where you are. You donít need to tell the homies nothing. Just do your own thing. Little by little, set yourself apart from them. If they ask, lets go here or there, just tell them you got homework and you want to get your mom off your back. I donít know how old you are, but if you could get a job that would take a lot of your time and your mom would be proud of you even more. Your mom is always going to love youÖ

Your friend - Jesse G.


Right now I know Iím up. Iím about to join a klicka with my homegirls and when I read your stories it made me think and that usually donít happen. My name iz Jazmine and I be 18 years old. Iíve been committed for crimez but the longest I was locked up for was for like about 1 week. I have caused by jefa un chingo de dolor. I promise her Iíma change but I just canít no matter how hard I try. No matter how many times my azz has been to county, I still donít learn. Iím down for my chavalaz and for my vatos locos but the thing that worries me iz one day takin an innocent life and I donít want that to happen. I need for you to write me back and please give me some advice to get through this hard head of mine...thanks ay alrato. Jazmine

Hey Jazmine,

I think youíre old enough to make your own choices. Youíre not a little girl to be told what to do. I think if you donít like coming back, then why do you do stupid things? Look, Iím from somewhere too and my homegirls arenít there for me. They donít write me or get my calls. What, are your homegirls there for you when you need them? But if you want to be down for your hood, then why are you asking for help? Youíre a big girl and you can do it. It all depends on you if you want to do it for your own good. Well, I wish you the best and youíre not a little girl. You can say no if you donít want to do it. I wish you the best in life. Do what you think is best for you.



You said you are messing up and about to join a gang. Look, Jazmine, every person is responsible for the way they want to live their life. But let me give you a little advice, and I hope you don't take it as disrespect. You are a young girl and you have a long life ahead, and joining a gang is not the way to live your life. You might think joining the barrio, kicking back with the homegirls is cool, but it's not like that! Yeah, it might feel good for a minute but it gets old. In my life I seen many young girls hooked up on drugs, end up in jail and even end up pregnant at a very young age. They just messed up their lives, why, because they want to be from the gangs! And you know what, the homeboys don't care. They might act like they do, but to tell you the truth all they want is to party and have sex. When you get busted the homies don't write you or visit you, the only ones is your family. That's not a life to live.

There's many wonderful things you can do with your life than to join a gang! Don't make a mistake that you'll regret later on in your life. Everyone has a dream in life. I am pretty sure you have one. Achieve your dreams and goals and you will realize everything is possible. Stay in school, get an education, be someone in life. Do something with your life so that later in your future you can feel good about yourself. The barrio lifestyle is not the way. I know it's hard out there, but you can do whatever you want if you put your heart and soul to it. No one can make you do anything but yourself! Stay in school, follow your dreams and make something good with your life. If you want to be a winner, you must get an education. Like Cesar Chavez once said. "If you are going to win, you must stay with one thing and just hammer away, hammer away, and it will happen." and to be a winner, you need to achieve your goals and get an education! Just remember, the key to survive is an education.

Respectfully and sincerely - Joey A.


Hey I have been a gang and so are my brothers. How can I do to get out or at least move on? Thank you.

Con respecto, G.

I first would like to commend you on your decision. The best thing you could do is to seek help somewhere around you. Let it be known that you need to move on and start another life. Please go and find a Pastor or someone who really loves you and just talk. I will be praying for youÖ. P.S. By the way, it is time for you to start respecting yourself.

Much love - A Prisoner
New Jersey

If you truly want to get out of a gang, stand by your convictions. Sometimes we become part of something because it sounds sweet. We are told that it is not what you heard. But when you join, it is exactly what you heard and worse. We realize that this isnít why I joined. Iím not about this. Or it could be any number of things such as a child being born, or not wanting to run the streets anymore. Should you be held to a life-long contract? If your brothers were really your brothers, then they would respect your wishers. But it is not like that. They would rather see you destroy your life and others than do what you want with your life. It will be a very difficult task, but if you are happy with your decision, that is what matters. If you are able to move away from your area, then do that. But always be strong, on your own two feet. It was your decision to join and it should be yours to get out.

Otto S.
New Jersey

It looks like you already made the first step. You are realizing that your life isn't going anywhere. It's what you call a Treadmill. Now, you have to find something constructive to do, like school, vocational trading, or a mentor. One reason why we fall victim to destruction is because of a lack of social skills and a lack of education. All of us believe we are thinkers. It really doesn't take a lot to become a gang member. Isn't it ironic that we always look for the negative influences? Becoming a part of something means putting something in and getting something out. That path can lead to a positive outcome. You should get yourself out of town or even that area because, believe me, I see the outcome and it's not pretty!

New Jersey

Orale, G.

Pues, just simply walk away. If you want out the gang, go and do something else with your free time. Play some sports or something you like. Stop wasting your time and do something productive for the gente.

Con respeto - Oscar

Be a man! Get your butt up and act like you want to be in control of yourself. How can you say youíre respected by all when you donít respect yourself? You want to get out but youíre scared. Stand up and face your fears. Think about it. Are you ready to leave? Then if you are, leave, plain and simple. Respect yourself first and always.

Jean M.
New Jersey

The solution is simple, just step. Be ghost! Let your brothers know that it ain't no need in all of you being in prison or in the graveyard. One of ya'll got to do something worthwhile with your life so that you can come back & help the others. This is not stepping away. This is stepping up! Like the song says, "just be a man about it."

James C.
New Jersey

The first thing I would do is change the way I feel about being loved by few, hated by most and respected by all. Truthful respect from others only comes about when we respect ourselves foremost. And to respect ourselves is to be careful with our surroundings. So, if you have decided to leave a gang which is involved in negativity and danger, I believe that is a positive decision. If it means to stay home and spend more time with your family and also meet new friends who are not involved with negativity and danger, do so. Everything you plan on doing, first decide whether it is for you own good or not and will it affect you or anyone else in a bad way. Then do what you know is right.

New Jersey

To get out of the gang or to move on you first have to change your mind about gangs, which means weíll need to arm our thoughts with the proper information. Gangs are reactionary from their conceptions. In the beginning they were formed to deal with threats or appeared threats, manufactured or otherwise, whether they were physical, social, economical, or territorial threats. Knowing this we also have to know that because of the reactionary existence gangs live under, anyone can provoke us into action. That means we lack control and the person provoking us is our puppet-master. Perceived enemies werenít our enemy before we entered the gang, so we enter they already have an enemy picked out for us - again no control.

The ideas taught by gang-ideology are control and power. In the gang, we have no real power just perceived power. We donít have power over our neighborhood resources. Our stores arenít owned by our people. The police donít work in our interest. We donít control our educational curriculum. These things lead to power. Gangs can't give us this. An improperly educated mind is the mind given to slaves by their masters. Iím not just writing about school education. A proper education about life and where we fit into it gives our lives purpose. Ask yourself, ďAre gangs purpose my lifeís purposeĒ? If they are not, from that moment walk away. When we are in power and decide to take control of our lives, we can say at any time, "Itís over." We can stop our current behavior by having the courage and strength already within us to say, ďThis ainít for me no more. I want better; I want and deserve more.Ē The world is much bigger than the territory we claim and defend with our lives while people who donít live among us own the places our gang calls home. When we realize it, as gangs presently stand, they disempower you and increase your odds of coming to the penitentiary. You decide which direction you want to life to go - a powerful life or a disempowered life.

Antonne H.
New Jersey


My mother died May 2000 and my dad is in and out of jail selling drugs things like that. What can I do to better my self from the gang because I am only 17 and I have been to boot camp 5 times and I am trying to avoid all that because I don't want to take matters in my own hands so please help me.

It's OK to grieve over your mother's death, but time will heal your pain. About your dad, he's a grown man and is gonna do what he wants regardless. I know it hurts, but you need to worry about yourself. You're already a part of the system. If you continue with the jacked-up lifestyle, then you'll have a jacked-up life. It's really up to you. Try to get involved in other things: school, sports, etc. The only thing you need to take into your own hands is your life. I've been locked up for over 6 years. I've learned so much and realized that if I'm busy worrying about others, I'm the one that goes down. I will pray for you.

Love - Lupita

Your situation is tough but there are many people out there who have done well undr these type of circumstances. I cannot give you specific advice because there is none. All I can say is that youíre on the right track. The minute you started asking questions, you knew exactly what you wanted. Remember you can get whatever you wish in life or become whoever you want to be because you know whatís right and wrong. Educate yourself. You donít want to be one of those cholas with no eyebrows driving an old beat-up van full with kids and no husband. If you study hard, youíll be surprised what your brain can do and how far you can get.

Good Luck - Juan

Coming on this web page and asking this question was your first step in to bettering yourself from your gang. You obviously know that if you continue in your present course in life, which has already led you to being in boot camp five (5) times, that it goes against your having a good future in your later years. The thing is, you will not be able to do it on your own. I am sorry to learn about your Momís death and your father being in and out of jail. You need to get with a caring family member or reach out personally to someone who would be able to help you. If you believe that at this time you do not have the one person or people whom you may be able to talk to, look around your neighborhood and get involved with any social service or human services community groups. There are people in such small groups who love what they do and they love to help people. They do not do the job for the money. Most of those individuals truly care about the people they serve in the community. Try to become a volunteer yourself. Get to know the people and reach out to them for help. From where I am, this is the best advice I can give you. If you do have family members who you can trust, talk to them. Your own family is the best gang of all. Do stick to your values. By the way you express yourself in your question, I can tell this whole lot of good in you and you want to give yourself a great future. That will be hard, but just know that everything worth having and living for is also worth struggling through.

Keep your head up - Luis D.
New Jersey

You know, a lot of us find ourselves in this spiraling cycle of insanity. Because it's insane, this life of drugs and crime. as a matter of fact, it's not a life at all, it's hardly an existence.

You have my condolences for the loss of your mother. Though my mother is still alive, I just know losing her would be devastating. Five years ago I would have allowed it to break me. However, now a few years of growing up and a lot of solitude from sitting in the SHU at Pelican Bay, I've realized that "I" have to make the decision to change.

Young lady, I am not much older than you, but I can tell you from experience, there is nothing in these places that can help you grow into a successful person.

So many people reached out when I was growing up. And I didn't listen. So far, I've paid with about 13 years of my life. You know, if I could go back and fix my past I would, but I can't, so I'm writing you.

Go to school. Try something you've yet to experience: art, drama, sports, something to occupy your time that's positive! Gangs and all that is only going to hurt you. There are also groups and stuff that have discussions on alternatives. Just search the web. Or call that Boy's Town hotline. It could change your life to something you can be proud of .

Sincerely - Pharoah


I am a member of a gang nothing big just a little street gang I joined for some kind of feeling of security and closure I guess but this whole time I have been bullshitting myself gangs are nothing to be fucked around with so I guess my question is how to I get out?

How do I get out? This question is constantly being asked, and I'll tell you, just get out! Walk away to other things. It's that easy, and that's coming from a gang leader. Yet, don't make the mistake of joining or associating with other gangs. Then you're asking for trouble. So, if you want out, walk away.

Respectfully - Oscar


Hey well I ainít a gang member but people think I am I've been asked to be in a gang many times and I've said No!!!! I know how it all goes down kickin back with the vatos and hynas. It's all good. My cuz is an ex-gang member but he still gang-bangs and I go along with him. I smoke weed. Gettin high is all good to me but Iím trying to stop for my jefita. What should I do?



It sounds like youíre already giving up on life by settling for someone elseís dream. What are your dreams? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to make those dreams come true?



Well, there is not much anyone can say to you. Youíre asking why, and you already have the answer (smile). You know what is best for you, so you keep on being your own person. Be positive and just maybe someone may wonder why youíre doing so well and would like to go down the path youíre going on. So continue being that light to individuality. That is what's happening!

New Jersey


Alright. Allow me to extend my warmest regards and respect to you. There are several things you said that caught my attention. However, I can say that I respect your decision not to join a gang, and I can only say congratulations for that.

On the other hand, bullets don't have an I.D. check on them. If you are with your cousin and someone decides to do something you can become a victim that fast. It's a contradiction to say "my cousin is an ex gang member, but he still gang bangs."

On the reals, he's just B.S.-ing. You honestly don't want any part of that situation. If he decides to completely stop banging, then resume hanging out.

About the marijuana usage, I used to say the same thing, "yesca is all good." But it ain't. I've been smoking pot since I was 11 years old. I've done 13 years behind the wall. I haven't spent more than 3 months on the street since 1990. Guess what, I'm only 25 years old and I've never messed up sober. Not once.

Yesca distorts your thought process. It makes it easier to do something stupid. And you seem like you want good things for yourself. Don't screw that up. You can't quit for your moms--you have to quit for yourself. It isn't easy, but it's possible if you try.

I hope you take some of this into consideration. If you want more advice, I'm Pharoah. Write the same place.

Sincerely - Pharoah



I would like to start off by saying my name is Amanda and Iím 15 years old and yesterday my homeboy got shot 7 times by the police and he's dead. Now I never thought for 1 second that would be someone I know and I hurt so much I just want to go do something stupid but Iím trying not to. My homies want me to do stuff. I tell them no but I feel so helpless and I DON'T want to disappoint my homeboy cause he watching over me right now and I just want to say gang banging is dumb. I now realize cuz look what happened. I never thought it would be one of us. Everybody needs to open their eyes and see itís not a game. Even though he went out like a soldier, that donít mean someone else has to do that.


Dear Amanda,

Losing the homeboy that way is not an easy thing, but instead of doing something which may cost the lives of some more of your homeboys and your own, maybe you should use that tragedy to your advantage by doing something constructive. I know exactly what this ďstupidĒ thing youíre talking about is. Trust me it will not turn out well for you or your homies. Think about what you will be going up against and what you will accomplish. The best way for you to honor the memory of your homeboy is not to follow in his steps. If he really was the soldier you say he was, then he truly is watching over you and he would want you to have a full life. You do not fight injustice by becoming a statistic; you become a voice for those who are not usually heard. Tell your homies was how you feel and make something of your life, for you and for them.

Luis D.
New Jersey

Dearest Amanda,

I was reading your message and I got a little emotional because I know how you feel. I've been through it myself. I know how it feels to lose a homeboy!! I lost two of my cousins and four of my homeboys I grew up with, and it's hard and painful. When something like that happens, yeah, it hurts and we want to do something about it. But mija, violence and retaliation is not the way, it's only going to bring more trouble, and maybe cause more people to get hurt.

Look at me; I've been through it all. I started gangbanging when I was 12 and look where I'm at now. You are still very young, mija, and have a long life ahead. Go to school and get an education, do something with your life. Amanda, no one can tell you what to do, so don't let your homeboys put pressure on you. Stick with school, it's better.

Well, Amanda, with respect, you have a friend.

Joey A.


I have 4 brothers and I am the baby. My mom is here but she always is drunk and my dad died when I was one. All my brothers are in a gang and in prison. Just last week my best homegirl got shot and died I donít wanna bang no more but my whole family will be mad. What should I do?



I admire you for sharing a little about your environment and having the willpower to ask for advice. This means you are reflecting about your problems. Please, for the sake of your life and future, continue to reflect even deeper. I wish I could have done much more of this.

Reflect hard about your peopleís mistakes. He/she who learns from othersí mistakes is successful. Reflect much about your homegirlís death. Like yíall canít share your secrets anymore. Canít protect each other anymore. Canít break bread together anymore, and on. Was her life and our lives just worth living a short period then being killed by gang banging?

Reflect on what true love is supposed to be. Does true love kill homegirls who should be the Queens of their self-made families, and so many other professions in life? Does true love get us to check into voluntary slavery (prison) by continuing to ďbangĒ? Donít look for anyone else to show you love until you love yourself by living a better life that you deserve. Then you can teach others how to love you if they already donít know.

If you have any family in other states then move secretly if it will cause problems. I doubt it since you have the backing of your four brothers. If you donít have a family who can look out for you, then go to religious leaders, school teachers and other positive people in or around your community. I know it donít sound gangsta, but really it is better than being gangsta, because itís harder to put your pride to the side to do what you gotta.

Think and dream big about a postive future, then work hard towards it. ďIt gotta be more to life than just gang banging!Ē Keep saying this within yourself. Love yourself. Set goals for yourself. Are you gangsta enough to leave and start a new life on your own? Donít worry about what your people think about you changing for the better. Peer pressure is for punks and followers, not for leaders. Be a leader over your life. Pressure either busts pipes or makes diamonds. Make the pressure of your motherís, brothersí and homiesí mistakes change you into a beautiful diamond by taking on a better life. You can do it. You gotta do it!

Jamal M.
New Jersey


Whatís up girl; how are you doing? Hopefully, when you receive these few lines they find you and your loved ones in the best of spiritual, mental and physical health. I read your question and would like to extend some help how ever small it may beÖ

I always say that family is the nucleus, the source where all good things should begin, that one who is in any kind of duress should reach out to their family for support to help break free from any coercion. This time itís the family whoís constraining you into something youíd rather not do. So this isnít the advice Iím going to extend to you.

I love my family with all their gifts and faults as well as you do. But my advice would be to go out to and find another nucleus; put together a core group of people who think the way you do, positive! Now they are not to take the place of your family; that would never happen. However, they can give you the support you need to make your own way. Counter all the negative staff that might come your way when you tell your peeps that youíre done banging.

Speak with a teacher. Even the meanest teachers initially got into teaching because they wanted to help kids and make a difference in their lives. I donít see too many, if any, who would turn you away.

Listen, you might have to be the first to break the chain in your family. Who knows, they might be feeling the same way as you about stopping banging and feel the same pressures you do or even greater so they havenít expressed anything as of yet to. In the event that they donít feel the same or are confused and express it an aggressive manner, explain that you just want what is best for yourself and them. If they come up with something like, ďWhat, you think youíre better than us nowĒ let them know that you donít, because they also can make that change and if you all stick together and support each other nothing will be too great for you all to take on.

If they still donít get it to say O.K. and seek help elsewhere; remember to have that core group of people who can support you at these hard times. It doesnít have to be more than two but have someplace where you could get good advice and energy to keep your walking on the positive and progressive road when your knees get weak. Eventually, youíll become so strong on your own two feet, that nothing or no one would be able to knock you off track. However, the journey to that kind of independence always starts with dependence on good progressive people for support. And I say ďgood, progressive peopleĒ because there are too many good people who arenít doing a thing, not to say that all others are bad.

Now itís not as easy as that either. Not that it has been so far. But now that you have stopped banging what are you going to do? What are you going to dedicate your life to - your studies, work, all the above? Iím not at all suggesting that you need the answers to these questions first before deciding to stop banging no! Stop banging! The answers may come later. But a plan, with increasing levels is always good to have. They donít have to be complicated for example:


GoalHow Much Time Shall It Take to AccomplishWho Can Help?How Will It Be Done
1)Stop banginíTwo months at the mostFamily, teachers,community youth group, counselor, etc.Speak with my family, teachers and friends. Look for support groups.
2)Get High School DiplomaHow many years you got left to finish schoolFriends, teacher, etc.Make this a priority. Dedicate study-time
3) Further Education, Learn Trade (Typing, Computer Programming)Within 8 yearsSame as above Ask around for info. Gather addresses & call each for info. Make sure I have studied what I need for this step. If I donít qualify find out what I need to do to qualify.

It can be as long as you want. Make sure you have the section ďHow It Will Be DoneĒ mapped out clearly. You have to see what steps you have to take before you take them. It may seem corny, but it is very helpful. Ideas, plans, ambitions are nothing until we take them out of our heads and put some muscle behind them, breathing life into them. Otherwise, we might as well stare at our belly-buttons, right? ;-)

Hopefully you find something I have mentioned useful. I feel for you as I feel for all who are in your place, Ďcause at one point or another I was also there. Well, thatís just one reason, the better reason is because you are another human being in need of help, period.

Take care Antoinette, Iím sincere in saying that I wish nothing but better days ahead. You will have to dig deep but donít ever let yourself feel that it is impossible. It all depends on how badly do you really want it, because it may not be that easy.

With love and respect - Luis B.
New Jersey

Hello Antoinette:

My name is Maurice and I am writing in response to your question of not wanting to ďbangĒ anymore.

The question itself gave you the answer youíve been seeking. You have four brothers who are in a gang and in prison. What are the chances that if you continue ďbanginíĒ youíll end up like them or worse? It seems as if, like a lot of us, you come from a troubled family. It is you who is in the position to end the cycle. All you have to do is get out of the gang. I donít know how difficult it would be for you to get out of your gang, however, imagine how difficult it would be to get out of jail or not end up dead.

My condolences to you for the loss of your best friend, but what about you? Are you any different than she? Your life is just as valuable as hers was and unfortunately, she had to lose her life. You donít want to go out like that. You donít need to go out like that. You have so many years ahead of you and so much to achieve. Youíre too young for death. Youíre too young for this - this, meaning jail or prison. Iíve been in prison since I was 15 years old; therefore I should know. All because I wanted to be down. Down for what? I donít even know who or what I was trying to be down for. Donít spend the rest of your life asking that same question. Iíll tell you this; thereís no honor in dying for nothing. What are you in a gang for? Is it the need to have a family and to feel safe and protected? Whoís going to protect you from being taken away in handcuffs or off in the coronerís van? Who protected your best friend from being taken away from you? Who protected your brothers from going to prison? Ask yourself those questions and youíll probably rethink this whole family thing.

So what theyíll be mad at you. No one has to live your life but you. Never allow someone to think for you and never allow oneís way of thinking deter you from moving in to something better and more positive.

Donít allow yourself to substitute your family for another family. Itís not good to go from bad to worse. Do yourself a favor and do whatís best for you. Better yourself and then work on your family. Let your mother know that you need her in your life and that you need her to love you the way a mother is supposed to. Write to your brothers and let them know that you are taking a big step and that you want them to walk with you. That is the family you should seek strength in. That is the family you should be down with.

Antoinette, donít let go to waste something so precious. Your life is the only life youíll ever have, therefore make the best of it. Continue your schooling because a good education is a key to so many doors. Youíll be surprised at what a good education could do for you.

What I think you should do is think about whatís best for you. Get out of the gang because that is definitely not for you. Grow into a beautiful woman and enjoy great success. Itís out there for the taking so go out there and get it.

I hope Iíve given you the answer youíve been seeking. I also hope to hear that you have gotten out of the gang and took that first step towards the rest of your life. Good luck in all that you do from this moment on.

A friend - Maurice R.
New Jersey


Your recognition of the need for change in your life is the first and most difficult step of all. I applaud you. With any hope your desire for change will encourage your Mom to do the same. She will not step out of the darkness unless there is something appealing to her in the light. That I pray will be you. The violence you have witnessed already in life is nearly as bad as it gets. Now the good is yours for the taking. Avail yourself of counseling and social services. There are many who jointly meet a multitude of needs. Give yourself some responsibility a.k.a. (an alibi) such as a job as a ďsitterí or even volunteer work. Volunteering is an excellent way to network yourself into good opportunities.

Good luck & prayers - Michael D.
New Jersey

Well Antoinette,

First of all, Iím sorry to hear about your loss and what your family is going through. Iím also sorry to hear about your homegirl, but what your family needs right now is you. You said that youíre the baby but right now you have to be an adult and help your family. You said you donít wanna bang anymore, so donít. Always follow your heart and do whatís right. Remember, help yourself first and then you will be able to help others. If your family is falling apart, then try to build them back up. You said your mom is always drunk; then help her to be sober. Let your brothers know that being in a gang or in prison is not the place to be in. I know life isnít easy and there will be trials and tribulations, but you have to be strong, not just for yourself but for your family as well. I hope I answered your question and gave you good advice.

Edwin T.
New Jersey


Explain to your family again how you feel about being in a gang and if they canít see your truth then you must find a safer environment because Iím sure you already witness the destruction; your best homegirl died from being in a gang. To be honest with you, Iím not really understanding the whole gang thing and how they are actually being run but from you express how things get (family being mad, etc. etc.) it doesnít sound too good. I know you donít want to leave your family but you must find something positive to do with your time, something with a better future. A safe environment, a positive mind-set, and the drive to want better should do you some justice. If your family canít accept how you feel thenÖitís really time to grow up and do what you must to find a safer place to live.

A Prisoner
New Jersey


After reviewing your brief notation, I found myself picturing your situation and wondering why your family would want for you to be a direct part of a lifestyle which as already taken your brothers from the family as well as caused the death of your homegirl. I canít begin to imagine why a mother or father would want to neglect the well being of their child and simply cast them into a lifestyle that has but a few options for those who participate in it. You are a young woman who should be trying to acquire a viable education, not trying to fit into a group or gang that is already destined to fail from its outset.

Antoinette, if you believe that following a family tradition which has caused your family to tear apart by the actions of those older than yourself is what you need to do simply because itís tradition to do, then you need to break from tradition because that type of tradition loyalty will prove to be detrimental to you in the end. Antoinette, you have the options at your disposal to change the vicious cycle that has caused you to see your brothers go to prison and your homegirl to get killed. I also realize that you may be young in age at this juncture, but you need to seek help from someone who is willing to help you break that vicious cycle because if you continue to allow your family members to decide for you a path, it will put you in the path of the same elements that have taken your brothers from you, as well as your homegirl.

Antoinette, in prisons you are made to follow rules that are designed to control your behavior, and in gangs you are following rules that are designed to control how you take orders and carry them out based on the leaderís expectations and his need to control your person, so Antoinette, you now know your situation as well as your options. You must decide whether you are going to be a follower or are you going to be your own leader and break they cycle that has destroyed your family unity.

Your future is in your hands and you have the power to make the choices. They are now are truly yours to make. So which of the two do you desire, good or evil? The choice is yours.

Truly your friend - Pablo M.
New Jersey

Dear Antoinette:

The first thing you have to do is make a decision that is best for yourself. Itís obvious that you have already done that by stating you donít want to be in a gang any more. You have taken the first step which must have come about because you see the problems gangs have caused in othersí lives. By saying your whole family will be mad at you if you get out of a gang, I have to think they are in gangs and you can see the down side of what that is bringing them.

I hope you can turn to someone with your problems. If it isnít someone in your family maybe clergy, a teacher or counselor who can help. It may be a tough choice to go against your familyís wishes, and it may take a long time, maybe years, but in the long run if you get out and change your life in a positive fashion like doing good in school, getting a job and raising a family of your own, some of your relatives might be motivated by your changes, to change themselves. Try to remember that good things do not come easy. You have to work at them and slowly start to see small improvements. Keep in mind the changes you make will be hard but if you stay at it, in the long run success will happen and you will feel better about yourself for doing this through your own hard work.

Al R.
New Jersey


I recently moved away from my carnales and am no longer into that. I have no friends where I live now b/c I am use to playin' a role of a chula. I was wantin some info on who I can talk with about this problem. I mean, I want to stay away from that now but I am so use to just gang related shit. If you are in a gang or recently broke loose, I would like to correspond with you or whatever, ya feel me? Chow!

Dear Sandra,

Hi, I'm Jesse. I kind of understand what you're going through. I had moved to Texas to get away from things and had no friends myself, but as time passes you meet different people and you can choose them. It's a new start. You don't want to do the same things and end up in the same mess. Yeah, it's funny at first cause you tell yourself, "Man, how clueless can some people be"? But be patient. You'll meet some nice people sooner or later. I worked at a produce store and that's how I met a lot of nice people.

Take care and good luck, Sandra.

Sincerely, Jesse G.


Iím trippin because my crew just turned into a gang. Now that we're a gang, I wanna be on my own and they donít want me to leave because Iím the one who gave fame to the crew because of the tagging. Now the question is should I stay or leave?

I am writing to you because I hope to change your mind about joining a gang.

I was 16 when I joined a gang and it was the worst decision Iíve ever made in my life. We sometimes make decisions we regret later on in life. Joining a gang is something you will regret as you get older. You never want to give anyone the power to make decisions for you, and that is what you do when you join a gang.

Love - Charley

Think of something that goes against every fiber of your being. Now think, ďWho or what could force you to willingly participateĒ? I think nothing or no one could force you to do anything your hard-set against. I myself had to burn up my life before realizing. I now try to never do anything before I work it out in my head first. Ask yourself three questions before committing:

  1. Is it good?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. What do I risk giving up?
After this, whatever decision you make will be a conscious one. You will hopefully be able to live with long term. Remember everything I decide today will have an effect on the end-result of my life.


Hey friend,

As long as youíre alive, itís never too late for anything. If you donít want to be part of a gang, then you donít have to be. The choice is yours to make and not for your ďso-calledĒ friends to decide. Donít give them the power to decide your future. The blind cannot lead the blind because theyíll both fall in a ditch! You seem to have a good head on your shoulders; now donít be weak-minded by allowing them to influence your choices. ďHe who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm,Ē (Proverbs 13:20). Why should you be part of something you donít like? Donít allow fear to take control of your life. Fear wasnít the reason to join them in the first place. Hey, itís OK to be lonely as long as youíre free, and as long as youíre with them youíre in bondage. Iím not saying that your choice will be easy, but if you stay the consequences will be hard. Gang life will only bring you disastrous choices in life, along with death or prison time, a ruined life, and in the end hell.

Use your talent wisely, and for the good of others. You can get paid for your art. Spread your fame through business and show people what youíre all about by simply doing things right and legally. A good education can help you, so never stop learning and progressing in the right path of life. God alone can give you the courage and strength to do His good will for your life, by allowing Him full control no matter what may come your way. Trust in His love, mercy, and power, and leave the consequences to Him.

Well friend, you take good care of yourself and family. Remember to do the right thing, and put your trust in Jesus who gave Himself for you. Thank you for your time and question. May the Lord bless you and your family in His mercy.

Read your Bible - ďCommit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.Ē (Proverbs 16:3)

In Christ - Al


I'm not from a gang but a crew sometimes it's hard for me to deal with it. I've been trying to get out of it but I don't know what to do if I should or not?

Your crew is a gang by street definition. If you seriously want out, then here is one option, attempt to lead your crew in community services, anything your neighborhood will benefit from. Take baby steps with this progress. They will either follow suit, divide, or put distance between themselves and you when they realize you are your own person and not willing to be their puppet.



All my life Iíve been in one gang but Iíve been with someone thatís in another gang for about 5 months and I really love him. Now I have to decide who Iím gonna join with! What should I do? And what do the girls have to do to join?

Thanx - Noel

Whatís up Noel,

First and foremost, I canít really understand why you would want to become a member of any gang, even one that may not be involved in violence or wrong-doing, because in todayís society the label itself carries a stigma which will probably tarnish your future expectations as you get older and want to become a part of the real world.

As far as the individual whom you have become so fond of, well I can only say that if the only way for the two of you to be able to develop a viable relationship is for the both of you to belong to a gang, the I really donít think that the relationship has a true chance of enduring over time; because when people join gangs they become followers of somebody elseís orders and not their own. Also that situation may cause your relationship to go in a direction you may not want to travel.

Noel, you must consider all of your options before you decide to venture into a situation which may prove to be truly detrimental to your future. Also, you had better consider whether this is the direction your parents would want for you to be in at this juncture in your life.

Being in any gang in todayís society will undoubtedly bring labels upon you when you may not deserve, but the system doesnít consider whether a person is in a good gang or a bad gang when they make their judgments, because to them a gang is a gang and all gangs are bad point blank.

Remember ďMurphyís LawĒ (what can happen will and what will happen can!) So when you make your choice to be a part of a gang, remember this, that whatever comes as a result of your active participation is your own doing; and any and all actions of that particular gang will reflect upon you and upon all its members regardless of the role you are playing. So remember that the end results donít always justify the means and that the future you save may be your own. So you had better be sure that being a member of that gang is really what you want because usually when you get in one, there is no way out.

So, in closing, I hope when you make your choice you do so with your future in mind and not your feelings or emotions because they can truly lead you astray.

Peace! - Pablo M.
New Jersey