Friday, September 28, 2012

Bangin‘ For A Solution

By Santonio Murff in 2005.

I‘ve been affiliated with one of the largest and most notorious street gangs in the history of the United States of America since I was 13 years old. I'm 31 now.  If you listen, you will learn something. If you give a damn, you can make a difference.

Civilians (non gang members) always ask: "Why are we gangbangin'?" Poverty and miseducation are the root causes of the gangbangin' epidemic that exploded in California and swept across the nation like a brush-fire, leaving a crimson trail of death and destruction. Youth and ignorance (not knowing) are the fuels that feed that raging inferno that has left thousands dead, millions victimized, and turned our already dilapidated communities into smoldering urban war zones. Movies like Colors that glamorized and took the Los Angeles' street gangs and style of gangbangin‘ nationwide fanned the flames and made Ice T's lyrics from the soundtrack of the same name hauntingly prophetic: "The gangs of L.A. will never die / just multiply."

So why not get out when you're older and know better? Contrary to what is promoted in movies, fear of reprisal has nothing to do with it. Most gangbangaz are associated with their set (gang) from their pre-teens, if not birth. (Check the picture of my son at only 2 1/2 weeks) By our early teens, we are already full-fledged members. By our late teens, we've already experienced the violent and often times fatal reality of the G-Life. It's hard to turn away from something you‘ve killed for. Harder still to turn your back on something you've watched a love one die for. For hardcore members, it's like a marriage -for better or worse - til death do us part. It's not a gang. It's a family. Would you betray yours?

What's in it for you? All of the negative aspects of gang affiliation have been the subject of a many movies, articles, and ex-member interviews, but what of the love, the unity and loyalty? The thrills of that rebellious unbreakable brotherhood? What of the ultimate sacrifices made out of devotion to that extended brotherhood?

For a minute, I want to take you to the parties that don't erupt in violence. The "nothin‘ but a gangsta parties" that Tupac and Snoop spoke of that bring the hood alive with bangin' music, our own distingue tribal dances, and nothing but love, loyalty, and respect for each other...

I want to take you to the barbecues in the park with the ribs on the grill, some Biggie blaring, slamming dominoes and talking cash shit, as half the homies surround my two year old, bouncing and screaming, "Go Pooh! Go Pooh!" as his cherubic smile outshines the beaming sun and his toddler feet represent in tribal dance. 50 Cent was wrong on that note - there's plenty of good in the hood, and most of us wouldn't run away from it, even if we could...

I want you to know about the O.G. in the projects (where fathers are not only scarce, but forbidden to reside) that takes a dozen children to Mikkie D's, and buys them all ice cream on a scorching summer day, and dips into his pockets for school clothes when mama can't. The real O.G.‘s that will take you in and feed you when your family can't, like Baby did for Big and Lil Wayne. Maybe these are small things to you, but to an impoverished child they are blessings that he'll never forget. I know, because I've never forgotten

I want you to look deeper than the headlines that scream: "GANG VIOLENCE LEAVES ONE DEAD!" See the heroics of the young souljaz that dash from safety to save a child or to dive over a hit homie. Feel the love and loyalty that spurred that "ONE LEFT DEAD” to charge blasting into a deadly barrage of automatic gunfire and take a fatal bullet to the head (R.I.P. Skeetaman) so that we could live...

There will be no medals or national memorials to commemorate these hood heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their family and community. However, we create our own shrines: hittin' their names up on the walls in the hood. Hold our own special ceremonies: laying them to rest with that flag that they represented to the fullest. Pay tribute in our own ways: pouring out some liquor and letting that A-K go into the sky, because they deserve so much more than a 21 shot salute.

Unless you accept and understand these aspects of that G-Life too, you will never understand the dynamics that keep it alive. You'll never comprehend why a multi-millionaire like Big Snoop Dogg still represents that Crip Life to the fullest years after he's long removed from the poverty and ignorance of his youth. You‘ll never be able to fathom why a man like Suge Knight who built a quarter billion dollar empire will repeatedly return to prison for altercations his Piru Blood affiliates initiate. "From the Cradle to the Grave" and “Death before Dishonor" aren't just catchy phrases. They are a way of life for real gangstaz.

We are not killing over colors! The biggest misconception that civilians have is that we are simply killing over colors. No, it's what those colors symbolize. Our flags (bandanas) are merely a representation of our love and devotion to the Family and each other. An enemy's flag symbolizes that he has, will, or intends to kill me or someone I love. The conscience soothing mentality is: "Everyone of them I kill, that's one less I have to worry about killing me or someone I love." Right or wrong is irrelevant. This is the reality that gangbangaz live. We didn't create it. We feel like we can't change it. So our only choice is to survive it, ride or die.

Why don't we just put down our guns? Most would love nothing more than to increase the peace. Any true gangsta must crave that elusive peace that will stop the hot staccato of weapons spitting from shattering the tranquility of the night, allow money to flow smoothly, and make the hood safer for the elderly, the women, and the children. Yet, it's like a Mexican-standoff with an African-American twist: no one wants to become the victims by putting down their guns first. So we war on in a genocidal cycle of self-destruction: you take mines, I take yours. We all know the consequences for getting caught slippin': you either get stomped out (beatdown) or you die!

“It's time to wipe out this darkness with light." (Mr. Quincy Jones,
VIBE Awards) Many people have published their fictitious or exaggerated gangsta exploits. Many more have criticized or condemned the lives we live with no true understanding of us nor those lives. Yet, nary a one has proposed a viable solution to the gangbangin' plaque that has been burying brothers in early graves and cages for nearly four decades. I give you that solution now in its most broadest terms: Education, Economics, and Empowerment.

I penned this article not to romanticize gangbangin', but to enlighten civilians and to provide the blueprint to curing this cancer that has been eating away at our communities, leaving heartbroken mothers and fatherless children for too long. I want those that do care to know that together we can arrest this diabolical thief that has been stealing the potential of a lost generation for too long. The second part of this article, “The
Solution,” details how to do exactly that.

Understand: It has taken over thirty years for gangbangin' to escalate to its present day proportions. There is no overnight solution. However, with the implementation of this tri-lateral attack NOW, gangbangin' (the violence of gang warfare) can be all but eliminated in ten years. We can turn the negative to a positive, clean up and rebuild our forsaken communities, and give birth to a new breed of "Righteous Ridaz" that will BANG in the long overdue era of "Equality For All".

In the illustrious words of the Reverend Jesse Jackson: "If we can conceive it, and our hearts can believe it, we can achieve it." Drawing on nearly two decades of gangbangin' experience, 10 years of studies and informal interviews with ganqbangaz, and three years of prayer I've conceived and committed it to paper. All you need do is believe it too, and we are already two-thirds the way to resolution. Let‘s get there!

Acceptance: The first step to resolution is accepting that the majority of gangbangaz will never get out. The love is real. These sets are our families. They are usually the only people that we can trust fully. Whether right or wrong, we know the Family has our back. Like an army, our strength lies in our loyalty to each other. Betrayal is as unacceptable and distasteful to us as it is to a Navy Seal. All of the programs established to help those that do want to get out are great. They should be supported. However: they are not a realistic solution to the problem, because for every one gang member that does get out, ten more will join. The harsh reality is: as long as there is poverty and pain, there will be gangs - brothers bonding together to survive and try to elevate their position in life, by any means necessary. (Usually crime; not because it is preferred but because it seems the only option.)

Turning the negative to a positive: SEE THE POTENTIAL! The key lies not in trying to eradicate gangs, but in educating and utilizing these young souljaz to rebuild these hoods that we carve into our flesh, rep to the fullest, and indeed, ride and die for. The objective must be to refocus all of that anger that poverty and pain breeds, dispel that cloud of hopelessness that hovers over our lives, and in an essence manifest that love of the hood and the unity of the Family into positive and productive works that benefit the community.

Where do we start? The key to mobilizing these urban armies of unlimited potential is that notorious O.G. that I introduced you to earlier. It is he that must be educated first and foremost, because it is his words that carry the most sway in the hood. Just as he can say "Ride" and the guns will come out, he too can say, "It's time to beautify the hood" and the trash bags and paintbrushes will come out.

It is US that must save US. Outside assistance will be necessary on all fronts, but it must be understood that there can be no lasting success without our cooperation. Too often outsiders come into the hood criticizing and defiling our creations without understanding or explanation, then running back to their safe suburbs before the sunset. And they wonder why, before the sunrise, we've retagged half the hood. It's to let ya'll know: The Hamptons, The Hills, the Burbs are ya'lls. The hood is ours. I repeat, it is US that must save US.

Damn the police sub-stations! Time and funds must be expanded to educate and utilize those that can‘t flee when the sunset. Fund weekend, part-time, and summer jobs to instill in these youths a sense of purpose, responsibility, and pride in themselves and their communities. Give them a way to make money other than crime. Give them something to do other than hang on the corner and get in trouble. Give the O.G.‘s the education and the position to do what he does anyway: call the shots and oversee it all. The results will speak for themselves immediately.

The beef between Kurrupt and DMX could have easily erupted in more East Coast / West Coast bloodshed, but Big Snoop Dogg speaks to Kurrupt and it's over without a punch being thrown. Suge and Snoop squash their beef and the positive vibes radiate all the way down south. Souljaz that would have blasted on each other on sight will now pass each other without altercation. I use Snoop and Suge simply to illustrate the power of O.G.'s to either silence the guns or unleash them. To either educate and elevate the Family or keep it in the midst of the madness.

In contradiction, Farrakhan, arguably the most powerful Black man in America, couldn't squash the beef between 50 Cent and Ja Rule. Understand! It's not the preachers and politicians, but these O.G.'s that have acted as surrogate fathers in the lives of these youths since an early age that must be utilized to the fullest in dispelling the darkness with light, the havoc with hope.

A new breed of 'Righteous Ridaz”: The majority of gangbangaz are a product of their environment and the influence therein. The rules of the hood are instilled at an early age. As The Game revealed in VIBE Magazine: "I learned at 7 years old- Some 25 year old slaps you, saying you can't wear that color.  Educating and empowering the O.G.'s will have a trickle down effect: they will enlighten the lil homies, and the lil homies will pass that knowledge and the NEW rules down to the children. Still, an all out war must be launched to claim our children before the streets, the prisons, or the graveyards can get their potential devouring claws into them.

The majority of our resources must be invested in the children: THE FUTURE. We must start programs that start their education by the age of five, before the environment and underfunded schools can start their miseducation. Children are like computers. They will act on the information that is fed to them. If we don't start programming them at an early age for positive and productive endeavors, the hood will program them to "Get that Money" no matter the cost or casualties, to "Blast on them Bustaz" without thought to the consequences, to basically live for the thrill of the moment, because our days are too dark to see a tomorrow.

David Robinson, the legendary San Antonio Spurs center, has funded such schools with inspiring and astonishing results: five and six year olds that speak multiple languages, entire classes becoming computer literate at an age when their inner city peers are still struggling to master their alphabets, and an entire student body that has garnered national attention and commendations for their academic excellency. Our impoverished students aren't slow or uneducable! It is society‘s lackadaisical attitude concerning their education that is the problem. Teachers have protested nationwide for pay raises. Where are the protests for the necessary funding to properly educate their students?

How ridiculous is it that we can produce billions of dollars to ensure the education of a foreign nation, but from South Central to South Dallas our children can‘t be afforded a wooden desk and updated textbook per student? If you don't prepare children to succeed then you prepare them to fail, even if through gross negligence. Gangbangin' is a direct result of that gross negligence.

"George Bush doesn't care about Black people.” (Kayne West) The government has made it abundantly clear that they don't give a damn. We must! These are our children. These are our communities. We above all others are affected. We above all others must step up to execute this solution and address this long neglected blemish maligning our rich and rewarding heritage. We can't afford to lose another generation to the madness.

Implement this plan NOW, and in 10 years we can be graduating a new breed of Righteous Ridaz that won‘t ride and die; but Ride and Rise, as they bang against miseducation compensating for lack of education. Bang against police brutalities and outright murders being covered up (R.I.P. Christopher Wallace) or being condoned as justified homicides. Bang against the judicial racism that has 12% of the population (African-Americans) making up over 50% of the prison population. Bang against the capitalist greed that keeps poor minorities packed and exploited in this now stocked-marketed prison industry. It is a truly sick and backwards nation that invest in the failing of its young. A new breed of Righteous Ridaz that we can all stand in proud admiration of and scream: "Get ya bang on, baby!"

The role Hip Hop must play. Hip Hop, once dismissed as a "Black" fad, has become one of the most powerful and influential vehicles of communication in the world today. It is a multi-billion dollar entity that can usher in a "Bling Era‘, revolutionize the dress code with "White Tees", or make half the nation stop to think and ask "Why?" It must be utilized to the fullest in creating the movement to save the children and orchestrate a cease-fire in this gang warfare. Hip Hop must help in creating the movement by leading the charge to the podiums with checks in hand- It is especially the voices of the gangstaz and ex-gangstaz that haven't only survived, but achieved against all odds that will be heeded more than any others. It is their voices that must be utilized more than any others, inside and outside of their music-

T.I. has stepped forward to squash his beef with Lil Flip. Now that 50 Cent has massacred most of his industry opponents (on wax) he has publicly stated his intentions of focusing on business, instead of beefs. Snoop and Suge did what many had written off as an impossibility, squashing their decade-long feud. The Game, A Cedar Block Piru Blood, teamed up with Snoop, a Rollin' 20's Crip, to launch the most successful and VIOLENCE FREE Crip and Blood tour in history- (Note: You heard nary a word about it from the press, until those brothers came together to defend Snoop against an overzealous fan.) The best way to lead is by example. From Coast to Coast to that Third Coast
(Dirty South), these Kings of Hip Hop have shown that they're ready to do exactly that.

These multi-million dollar O.G.'s of the industry need only be organized around a collective plan for creating the movement through collaborations, Peace and Prosperity tours, speaking engagements at schools, and fundraisers to generate the finances to establish and sustain the necessary programs that I have outlined. The rest of the industry will follow their lead. As always, the rest of the nation won't be far behind. I call upon the Godfathers of the industry, Mr. Russell Simmons and Mr. Quincy Jones, who have paved the way for us to take our music farther than anyone thought possible and capitalize on it in ways no one imagined, to create the stage and assist in bringing all the Royalty of Hip Hop together in pooling their vast resources and BANGIN' FOR A SOLUTION.

Throw away that tin cup, get up off of your knees, and let us do for us! Independent funding is the most crucial aspect of this solution. The worst mistake we can make is wasting time and energy pleading to unsympathetic ears for funding. That only puts the powers that be in a position to sabotage or cripple our strides towards resolution. The first phase of the Civil Rights Movement has blessed us with unprecedented economical power. If we could independently fund that first phase under those oppressive and economically challenged times, then we can certainly pool our astronomical resources of today to fund this the second phase of the movement.

The late great actor and activist Ossie Davis once stated: "We need to level with the young people: The Civil Rights Movement was only one phase. We won our freedom. What we ain't won is Equality..." (Excerpt from an interview that appeared in KING Magazine) The last thing the powers that be ever want to see is even 20% of those millions of angry disenfranchised "Ghetto Guerillaz“ with unlimited potential educated and organized around achieving social, political, and economical equality for all. That is the second phase of The Civil Rights Movement. That must be THE NEW MILLINEUM DREAM.

Common said it best at the VIBE AWARDS: "Let's bring some love. Let's change the world. We can do it." Indeed we can brother. Indeed we will. Ride and rise, baby! Ride and Rise...

Santonio Murff #0352714
Tarrent County Correction Center
100 N. Lamar Street- 60 A
Fort Worth, Texas 76102


Anonymous said...

"It's hard to turn away from something you‘ve killed for."

It's even harder to turn away from something you've been killed by.

Anonymous said...

This post is inane. He says that some "OGs" buy kids ice cream. And stuff. So that mitigates their killings?

Entries like this will likely only fuel Texas' fear of DR inmates and their lust for blood, not mitigate it.

Bonnie said...

Although I can appreciate Mr. Murff's perspective, as someone who grew up on the streets and in a gang, I don't agree with his thought process. He doesn't mention all those "kids" who did choose a different path. What seperates them from all those who choose to join gangs? I think finding the answer to that question is the 1st step to ridding gangs from our streets. Expecting gang leaders to turn things around for the kids in their hood is not a realistic solution.