RC: Let's dive right into it...how did you become a gang member?
Joe: I never knew my dad. My mom worked 3 jobs to feed me and my two brothers. I had a lot of free time.
RC: Is that an excuse? I mean, a lot of kids are "latchkey" kids with working parents. A lot have single parents.
Joe: Not an excuse, just the way it was. We lived in the projects. Didn't have cable tv, internet, or anything to keep us inside. We were street kids. Got into drugs.
RC: Do drugs and gangs always go hand-in-hand?
Joe: Most of the time? Yeah. Either using it, selling it, or collecting it.
RC: So, you were a street kid...
Joe: Yeah. You know the same old story...got in with the wrong crowd, doing drugs, then not having money to buy more, so got into stealing.
RC: To support the drug habit?
Joe: Yeah. And then the cool older guys I'd always admired approached me.
RC: Older guys?
Joe: Yeah. These three dudes who I thought were cool. Had a kickin' car. Cool crib. *awesome* grills.
RC: Things you wanted.
Joe: Of course. I was so jealous of those guys. Well, maybe envious is a better word.
RC: You kinda hero-worshipped them?
Joe: Oh, yeah. So when they came to me, told me they'd been watching me and were impressed, and wanted to know if I wanted to hang out with them...I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
RC: I bet. So you did?
Joe: Well, yeah. Hung out with them a couple of times. And they started telling me that they had the kickin' stuff cuz they didn't snort all their money. And I asked them, "what money? I ain't got no money." Then they told me I could have money, but they didn't know if I was ready.
RC: What'd you say?
Joe: I told them I was ready for anything.
RC: How'd they respond?
Joe: They told me I'd have to prove it. So I said, "okay." Next thing I know, I'm getting out of the backseat of their car, having a gun shoved into my hand, and being told to shoot anybody who tried to run out of the house they were walking up the front stairs to.
RC: What did you do?
Joe: Stood there and pointed the gun at the door.
RC: Did anybody come out?
Joe: *1* and *2* went up the front steps. *3* went around back. I stood on the sidewalk and waited. A dude answered the door and him and *2* did a little shovin'. *1* and *2* forced their way into the house. I heard yelling. Stuff breaking.
RC: Sounds scary. Were you scared?
Joe: Out of my mind.
RC: What'd you do?
RC: Did he die?
RC: So, these 3 guys, your heroes, they were happy with you?
Joe: Yeah. They took me that night and introduced me to my new family. I'd passed their test and was now a member of their gang.
RC: How old were you?
Stay tuned for part two...