When I first moved to South Central, I was aware of the gang violence but I didn’t fully understand the culture. I did have knowledge about the bloods and the crips, but there was a lot that I didn’t know. Thankfully, we live in the information age and I was able to do a lot of research; partly because I was interested in learning more about the culture, but more importantly was the necessity to stay safe.
Initially, I was told not to wear red – I didn’t heed the warning because I thought it was silly. (My stubbornness also played a large role in my decision.) Honestly, the advice didn’t make any sense. Why would I not be allowed to wear red, but blue was not off limits? Further more, I wasn’t involved in any of the gang activities so I didn’t see the need to stop wearing red. Plus, I have a lot of red sox hats and t-shirts, so I didn’t feel like not wearing red. Following this advice would have been a huge inconvenience to me.
I lived in South Central for several weeks and wore whatever I felt like wearing. I have a pair of red Adidas which I wear regularly, and many Red Sox hats, which have a lot of red. Thankfully, I was able to befriend some guys who grew up in the area, and the consensus was that I could wear whatever I wanted and I should be fine. They’re main concern was whether or not I would be riding the bus, which I learned was a hotbed for gang violence. I have a vehicle, so the bus was not an issue. Also, I was told to be careful around teenagers, because they would be more likely to be violent due to their need of proving themselves and building up their reputations in the streets.
One day, I wanted some fried fish and I found a place on Crenshaw, which was only a few blocks away. I drove to the fish spot and walked in wearing a blue Red Sox t-shirt with a large red B on it, my red Adidas, and a blue Sox cap with a red B on the front. Inside, there was a lady receiving her order and two young men in their early twenties waiting on their food. Once the lady left, I stepped to the counter and placed my order.
I stood against the wall awaiting my food. (I didn’t say what I ordered because I don’t remember, but it was probably some fried catfish, which is way better than the ones online that ruin the lives of their victims.) The two men kept staring at me and talking low enough for me not to be able to hear. Their interest in me was apparent (Not in that way…not that there is anything wrong with that.) and the tension was building. Unfortunately, I don’t own a gun, so I was at a huge disadvantage. Suddenly, the cook came from the kitchen, looked at me and said, “I like your hat.” I thanked him and he continued. “Seriously, I like that hat…I am from Boston.” He said proudly.
I let him know that I was from Roxbury and learned that he was from Dorchester. Once I revealed that I was from out of town, the tension ended and one of the guys said, “I figured you weren’t from here after I heard you talking…you should be careful wearing all that red around this hood.” It turned out that I was in the territory of the Rolling 60 Crips (shout out to Nipsey Hussle! Get Victory lap and you won’t be disappointed.), where bloods were unwelcomed, and at the moment I looked like a blood.
The cook made it known that any time I went to the shop, I should always wear my “B” hat. The guys were interested in learning more about Boston, so I answered all of their questions. After a few minutes, they received their food and started to leave. One guy stopped at the door, threw up a “W” with his fingers and said, “west side!” I laughed and he left.
Thankfully, my first encounter with gang members in their gang territory went well. While living in the valley, I ran into the rapper August Blue, who is really cool and talented, on several occasions. Interestingly, he is from the Eight Trey Gangster Crips (They don’t get along with the 60s) and in a wheelchair due to being shot. You may have heard of the Gansters from Monster Cody, who wrote the book Monster, about his life as a member of the Eight Trey Gangster Crips. (A very good read.) The fact that I survived this encounter without any incident strengthened my initial assumption that the color thing was a little overblown; I continued wearing anything I wanted.
So far, I have had a few more experiences, and I will write about them soon. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the sun and following the snowy East Coast from a distance!Thanks for reading!