Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Doc to watch: "Crips & Bloods: Made in America"

I've always felt misinformed and ignorant about the gang wars in South Los Angeles. After my friend Rachel wore many hats producing "Crips & Bloods: Made in America," I met Aqeela Sherrills at the Men's Story Project in Berkeley, who consulted on the project and helped broker the 1992 Peace Treaty. I finally Netflixed the film after many conversations with both of them, especially with Aqeela, who lives a life of gang mediation and whose Reverence Project and Watts Arts Gallery offer opportunities for peace and hope for youth and adults. Directed by Stacy Peralta and narrated by Forest Whitaker, the film offers both an overview of the history of the city and South L.A. as well as an inside view from current and former gang members.

A few quotes / highlights from the film:

Surrounded by the California dream, this region has its own legacy. … It’s also the home of America’s two most infamous African-American gangs, Crips and Bloods. This bloody, 40-year feud, has taken 5 times as many lives as the long-running sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, yet whose devastating body count continues today. But in South Los Angeles, life wasn’t always this way. (Narration)

"In a free society, I’m walking down the street and police got the nerve to ask me, ‘Where you going? Where you coming from?’ It ain’t none of your damn business where I’m going! It ain’t none of your damn business where I came from! … He’s going to go and ask me ‘What are you doing here?’ He going to go ask anyone else what they’re doing there? You stop and ask anybody else in this society, ‘Why do you exist?’ … You’ve got the nerve to ask me that all day, every day, now what do you think that does to me psychologically? What does that tell me? What message am I being fed? Every day. See you don’t understand, every day he’s feeding me a spoonful of hatred. Every day, that’s my diet, a spoonful of hatred. … I’m a walking time bomb. I’m going to go off, some day, some time, on somebody. The question is: upon whom?"

"That’s where the gang problem, so called, is. It’s been redefined as a crime problem and a gang problem, but it’s really an issue of no work, and dysfunctional schools and so on. …It’s a belief that our society did not contribute to the formation of this problem. It’s the story of the scapegoat. The gang member is the scapegoat. Nothing’s our fault, it’s their fault. We didn’t create them, they’re inevitably incorrigible." (Sen. Tom Hayden, Author, “Street Wars”)

"Part of the mechanics of oppressing people, is to pervert them to the extent they become the instruments of their own oppression." (Kumasi)

Peralta: "So if the resources were here, you’re saying these kids wouldn’t choose gangs."
Gang member:"They wouldn’t choose that cause there’s no hope. You in no-man’s land. There’s no hope."

"In a recent comparison of twin psychological studies by the Lancet and Rand Corporation indicates that children in South Los Angeles are exhibiting greater levels of post-traumatic stress disorder than children of a similar age in Baghdad, the war-torn capital of Iraq." (Narration)

"The streets of South L.A. have given rise to a new sort of gang, determined to fight not simply for turf or colors, but for the lives of the next generation. These peacemakers, many former gang members, have stepped out from behind the guns, and are now standing between them, literally risking their lives for the formation of street-level gang intervention organizations. (Narration)

“See, the ingredient is to care about people and to love them, that’s the ingredient, across the board. And to understand that they’re human, they’re not gang-members, they’re human beings.” (Jim Brown, Amer-I-Can)

To find out how to help, check out all the grassroots organizations working toward peace at How to Help on the film's website.

(All photos from cripsandbloodsmovie.com)

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