Kids & Parenting
The Gang Line Series Part Three
by Mike Ramey
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Old School Tip: Communicate daily with your child about happenings in school, the neighborhood, etc. Such conversations unearth items on gang activity in your area! Don’t wait for the six o’clock news to tell you about gang activity in your own hood!
I was getting a haircut in my local barber shop not that long ago, when I happened to notice a young man in the waiting area with his shirt turned inside out. The color of his shirt was blue, but the number on the BACK of his shirt was reversed, and clearly visible.
It was the number 5--traditionally associated with ‘People Nation’ or ‘Red based’ Modern Street Gangs (MSGs).
While the young man couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen years old, he had a grasp of street issues that made him wise. The number on his shirt and the COLOR of his shirt did NOT go together in this neighborhood. He had enough sense to know what he had to do to avoid a beating--or worse--from a possible ‘offended’ gang member. The young man turned his shirt inside out and ‘ducked’ the number for safety.
Since the neighborhood where the barbershop was located was in Vice Lords (and other miscellaneous gangs sympathetic to them) territory, the teen had enough wisdom to avoid potential problems.
If a child had such wisdom, then how is it that parents, the police, and government officials ‘miss it’ when it comes to gangs in their cities and communities? Could it be that many who profit from examining gangs think more of the money to be made on ‘the grant train’ rather than putting the existing gangs in their cities in check?
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES:
In terms of the street, my young brother was wearing something that could have been interpreted as a ‘slam’ (insult) to a gang. He knew what many adults do not want to admit…there IS trouble in paradise. The young are waiting for the adults of their communities--especially their parents--to ‘catch up’ and ‘admit’ that there ARE gang problems in our respective neighborhoods, and deal with the offenders.
This is one of the sub-issues within the modern gang scene.
Until those in positions of authority admit gangs exist (instead of living in denial) we will ‘allow’ the mayhem in our streets, schools and churches to continue.
Let us be blunt. The good teens of our communities cannot confront the evils of the gang culture alone! They need for their parents and other adults to back them up when evil comes. Too many teens have heard that they need to tell an adult whenever such activity is sighted, but when they start calling adults for ‘back up’; many adults are AWOL, and nowhere to be found. In fact, parental ignorance continues to abound when it comes to the gang issue. Let me provide an example. A pastor friend of mine invited me to speak to a graduating class of church counselors as to some of the things they would be confronting as they went about offering comfort to some of the troubled teens in our city. I put forth the ‘basics’ of the MSG scene, including clothing and lifestyle cues. The counselors took notes on my presentation, got their certificates, and all was well with the world.
My pastor friend later informed me that his nine-year-old daughter talked a blue streak about my presentation on the way home. She had provided my friend with even MORE information on the gangs operating around her neighborhood. It seemed that Dad had gotten an earful of reality because of what his daughter was seeing on a daily basis in her world. Needless to say, there have been more conversations on this issue between them.
KIDS AND TEENS ARE NOT DUMB:
Parents--whether you are single or married or foster--please remember that communications between you and your children are a two way street. We cannot say that our ‘door’ is open to their questions if we are not on the other side of it when they need us! The Bible instructs us who are adults NOT for forget our youth. The reason for such an admonition rests with the shape of our hearts when we become parents. It gives us an added bit of wisdom when our kids wind up in some of the same ‘pits’ we were in when we were THEIR age.
One of the sad commentaries of our modern times is that many parents have forgotten their youth. They have also forgotten their role as authority of the home as society has demanded that the home ‘trust’ its authority to media pundits, self-help shows and counseling twits on flat screens. When trouble comes, parents are often left holding the bag, as the ‘experts’ are nowhere to be found…something that delights many a gang member today.
THE REAL MARKETING PLAN:
Let me hasten to add that another group who are happy over parental inaction are those in the marketing game. They are targeting your purse or wallet THROUGH your children. Their cause? To ‘enrich’ the entertainment or sports industry--no matter how harmful their wares may be. In the marketing mix of today one has a hit movie when one has a video game, a hit soundtrack and accompanying video (with high rotation), plus a ton of publicity BEFORE the movie is released.
‘Street Credibility’ (a.k.a. the MSG ‘lifestyle’), is also part of the marketing plan. The rougher, more tattooed, more vulgar the personality, the more money that can be made from MP3 downloads, and other revenue boosters. No, the marketers are not ‘denying’ that there are street gangs…they are making money off of their misery, and injecting JUST enough entertainment to separate families from their money.
Unfortunately, the sports kabal have been having separate problems with the real marketing plan. Much of today’s sports paraphernalia has been assimilated into the gang lifestyle. Team jerseys can be bought, or custom made. It is not by chance that NFL, NBA, MLB and even College/University sports teams are used by gangs as their ‘colors’.
6 TO 12 MONTHS VS. 3 TO 5 YEARS:
If you think that I am exaggerating, please remember that it wasn’t very long ago when young men knew how to keep their pants up, and young women knew how to keep their skirts down. Modesty, sexual responsibility, along with mental and moral purity was held to be ‘cool’. No longer. The ‘jail/prison’ life is held in high sway.
Yes, there is more.
Every 6 to 12 months from constitutions, to membership rituals, to music, gangs undergo changes as some in society catch on to their codes and signs. Some say that it is even shorter; moving to a school year to school year range. The last change on the street saw more gangs aligning themselves with either the Red or Blue Nation color scheme. Thus, a Red-based gang in Los Angeles would be acceptable or could form an alliance with a red-based gang in Chicago, and/or a red-based gang in New York, regardless of race--in some cases. Their enemies would be the same--even in prison, jail, detention or street. Sadly, it takes an average city government some three to five YEARS to develop a top-to-bottom plan to combat MSGs--that is, IF they admit that gangs are active in their city.
Many of us need to take a deep breath and begin to walk a mile in our children’s shoes. We need to be up front with our kids about what is REALLY out in the neighborhood. When trouble does come--and it will--we can give our teens more to stand on than turning a shirt inside out. Perhaps--parents--we can spread some terror of our own. Perhaps we can ‘lock up’ those who would dare inflict terror on our children, churches, schools and communities. That, my friends, is up to you!
See you next month.
MIKE RAMEY is a Street Gang Specialist, consultant, trainer and Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. IF you have questions, comments, or would like to have him speak OR train your group, ministry or agency on how to spot/stop gang activity, email RameysGangLine@yahoo.com ©2008 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.
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