Gangs and their Roots

By: Ariana Falco

This week was very topic heavy on gang related violence, which was a very eye opening experience for me. In my blog I will try to be as unbiased as possible and explain my experience, I did learn a ton of information and putting thoughts into words is not always as easy as it seems. 

To start off, we were honored to have a local journalist, Julie Reynolds Martinez, explain violence from the prison to the streets. We had a long discussion about the Nuestra Familia and how organized their gang is. Being from Colorado, I have never been around gangs as structured and dangerous as the NF. Hearing that they have a constitution and seeing the ways in which they function were very shocking. This might all be common information to people that live in inner cities, but I found it fascinating to hear about. The hardest part to hear was regarding the members and who is targeted for recruiting. The youth. Young boys starting in middle school are being recruited to do the street work for these men. Boys who can’t even drive yet are running drugs through their neighborhoods. Why do they join? There are many reasons for each boy but it boils down to one simple reason. Security. Safety for them and their family. The NF members in the prisons sell it to the young boys as working for “the Cause”, what they say stands for Conduct Awareness Unity Security and Education, which is in fact not true at all and just a lie fed to these young boys to have them do the dirty work for these men on the streets. This sense of security offered to the boys gives them a sense of belonging and somewhere they know they have an identity. The way to change this is to look at the systemic factors and what the problems are at home to make the boys need a sense of security.

We were given the opportunity to have a former gang member come in and speak with us about his experience. His name is Lou Hammonds and he shared his story with us. His journey with violence was very heartfelt and I’m very appreciative of how open he was. Lou believes that it is not a gang problem but a character defect problem. I would agree with that. Hearing that from a former gang member gave me hope. He had paid his dues and learned from his mistake and took that experience to help others. Empathy is what drives restoration. We need to understand ourselves in order to understand and help others. This is  much easier said than done but regardless needs to start being implemented more in society. We can make a change a step at a time and Lou was an amazing example of this.