Why be a gang member? "It was fast money, it was good money, and it was tax-free money," says ex-gangsta Brian Stewart of Seattle. What turned him from a future in crime? “My cousin was dismembered, Tyrell Dorian Johnson, they chopped his arms off, chopped his legs, slit his throat, dumped him on the side of the street in the south end…"
When does gangsta life begin? “I’ve seen them as young as five years old, kindergarten, first grade," says another former member Gabe Morales. “It’s rare, but I’ve seen them, dressed up like gang members, treated like a mascot of the gang." Once, even in gangs, child indoctrination was banned. “But now a lot of gangs are proud of that, this is their future they’re advertising."
Those are among the questions by a rightly aghast C.R. Douglas and the answers from experts on gang activity and prevention, playing on the Seattle Channel’s current City Inside/Out program. It timely arrives during a spike in Seattle gang-related homicides and assaults, and explores street truths and myths. It’s not just those inner city kids, says Morales: The fastest-growing group of gangs consists of suburban white kids, influenced by a glorifying culture and media (MySpace and YouTube in particular. 0h, and click here to “Shed that weak-ass honky image with your very own gangsta name" on Gangsta Name Generator).
Fortunately, there’s an upside to the show: It’s the wisdom from Marcus Stubblefield, program manager Safe Futures, Tanya Kim, executive director of Powerful Voices, and Terry Hayes of Seattle Human Services -- and knowing that Morales is now a widely respected gang expert, and Brian Stewart, with a degree from WSU and a master’s from the UW, is working with kids. By the way, his cousin’s killer, a double-murderer, was caught. He apologized.