Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Dotted Line
I talk a lot about gangs at Shitty, but I really don’t know exactly what’s going on with them. The kids all say that gangs are a big problem, and that there are a lot of them.

There’s certainly a lot of gang graffiti scrawled on the desks and doors and walls. "Somebody Bonez." Latin King crowns. "Bloody This" and "Bloody That." Red B’s or blue C’s with an upwards pointing arrow piercing their hastily scrawled loops. DDP (Dominican’s Don’t Play) is a common motif, and in out of the way corners I’ve even noticed a few pitchforks, six-pointed stars and other, more explicit references to People and Family.

When it comes to which is which and who is who though, things become much less obvious. Kids wear all red, kids wear long white tee’s, kids wear beads and braids, and I honestly don’t know what’s what. I spent the better part of last year thinking their was some sort of “pink gang” running around the Bronx, until I realized they were just jocking Dipset and Kila Cam’s trendsetting styles.

My confusion is mostly due to my own ignorance, but some of this stuff is just mixed up. The Bronx is rough, no doubt, but this isn’t LA, we don’t have drive-by’s, and I’m not sure how organized or cohesive any of these gangs really are. Kids do get shot, stabbed, and beat down, and I’m sure there’s plenty of low-level drug-slinging and small-time robbery, but Shitty kids aren’t running any major schemes. I just can’t see it.

I’ve been curious as to Roulo’s gang affiliation for a while now. He regularly wears Latin King beads, and has proudly shown them to me along with a couple of LK hand-signs. He’s also prone to Crip-wlking quite adeptly across the classroom floor, often while rapping the Crip-centric lines from Snoop and Pharell’s mega-hit, “Drop it Like it’s Hott.”

Which is it? Crip or King? Are they mutually exclusive, or in cahoots?

Roulo and Colombia strolled into class together ten minutes late today, just like every day, boldly ambivalent to my ire. They settled in to their seats with relatively little fanfare and began to intently study a yellow sheet of paper.

I strolled over and snuck a glance, curious as to what other teacher’s homework might have them so enthralled. It was a contract, professionally rendered as far as I could tell from my quick glance, for entrance to the Latin Kings.

Roulo, I guess, is not certified gangster quite yet after all. I called him over to my desk after class, I had to return the cell-phone I had confiscated from him yesterday (he kept playing his “Gasolina” ring-tone) anyway. I’d like to say I did something profound like rip the contract to shreds, or make him rip it to shreds, but I didn’t. I told him I knew what it was.

“How you know what’s dat, Mista?” he asked, visibly nervous.

“I’m not stupid, Roulo.” Mysteriousness is always more menacing than literacy.

“Don’t do it, Roulo. You’re a good kid. You’re smart and funny. I don’t want to see you in trouble…”

“I not get get in trouble, Mista, I…”

“I don’t want to see you in jail. I don’t want to see you in the hospital or…”

“I just looking it, Mista, I just want look.”

“Don’t do it, Roulo.” With that he left.

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