Red, White and Blue Becomes Red Versus Blue

Summer is here! Fourth of July is upon us! That means cookouts and block parties. Unfortunately, depending on your neighborhood and friend circle, we all know some cookouts and block parties end up ruined by violence. Some instances are caused by one crazed and/or hothead individual. Others are a result of gang violence which, as of 2011, makes up approximately 48% of violent crimes nationwide. As a Jersey girl, especially one from Passaic County, I was always taught to be aware of the colors I wore. Funny enough, red, white and blue were top of that list. Followed by yellow in my high school years. Here is the Alphabetical List By State of Common Street Gangs in NJ.

NEW JERSEY 135 Piru 464Piru 793 Bloods Brick City Brims Haitian Outlaws Hoover Crips Grape Street Crips G-Shine Bloods Hells Angels MC Latin Kings MS-13 Ñetas Pagans Trinitarios Sex Money Murder

As a child, I limited the roles of gang violence to shoot em up and run. Occasionally, an “advanced” gang would indulge in the corner selling business that ultimately ended in shoot em up and run. How naive of me. “Gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional gang-related crime, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution. Gangs are also engaging in white-collar crime such as counterfeiting, identity theft, and mortgage fraud, primarily due to the high profitability and much lower visibility and risk of detection and punishment than drug and weapons trafficking. ”


So why would someone join a gang? We’ve seen the movies. According to movies and songs, unless you make it in the rap or sports game, joining is just the inevitable path to a career and life end game. Here are the reasons that likely come to mind.

  1. Poverty. Many gangs exist mainly as a moneymaking enterprise. By committing thefts and dealing drugs, gang members can make relatively large amounts of money. People who are faced with a lack of money may turn to crime if they can’t earn enough with a legitimate job.

  2. Peer pressure. Gangs intentionally recruit teenagers. If they live in a gang-dominated area, or go to a school with a strong gang presence, they might find that many of their friends are joining gangs.

  3. Boredom. With nothing else to occupy their time, youths sometimes turn to mischief to entertain themselves. If gangs are already present in the neighborhood, that can provide an outlet.

  4. Despair. If poverty is a condition, despair is a state of mind. People who have always lived in poverty with parents who lived in poverty often see no chance of ever getting a decent job, leaving their poor neighborhood or getting an education. They are surrounded by drugs and gangs, and their parents may be addicts or non-responsive. In some cases, parents approve of their children joining gangs and may have been a member of the same gang in the past.

While the list above is accurate, it lacks a clear understanding and scope of of the need fulfillment that gang life provides. Without this clear understanding, we perpetuate the “fantasy” or stereotype, whichever word fits best, that everyone in a gang is some broke ghetto kid trying to be down in a city where there’s nothing else to do. Although those exists, there’s more behind the reasons of joining a gang.

Before I go into a better list of reasons, let’s go into what I mean by need fulfillment. The most common description and categorization of a human’s needs are seen in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Image result for maslows hierarchy of needs

Reasons like “boredom” and “despair” do not fit into these categories. However, Los Angeles Police Department had its own list of reasons that better explain the need fulfillment that gangs provide.

  1. Identity or Recognition – Being part of a gang allows the gang member to achieve a level of status he/she feels impossible outside the gang culture.

  2. Protection – many members join because they live in the gang area and are, therefore, subject to violence by rival gangs. Joining guarantees support in case of attack and retaliation for transgressions.

  3. Fellowship and Brotherhood – To the majority of gang members, the gang functions as an extension of the family and may provide companionship lacking in the gang member’s home environment. Many older brothers and relatives belong, or have belonged to the gang.

  4. Intimidation – Some members are forced to join if their membership will contribute to the gang’s criminal activity. Some join to intimidate others in the community not involved in gang activity.

  5. Criminal Activity – Some join a gang to engage in narcotics activity and benefit from the group’s profits and protection.

The emphasis of self actualization, belongingness and love and safety are more prominent in this list. Since we need money for our basic needs, let’s add physiological as well.

Why is determining the reasons and needs of joining a gang important? It humanizes the victims and members of gang activities. After so many articles of teens killing, children shot in drive-bys, girls raped for gang initiations and other events that just hurt to discuss, it becomes too easy to tally these victims (dead or alive) as numbers and statistics when in actuality, every number is/was a person. We know the stereotypes that begin to form so there’s no point in indulging in those descriptions. When we humanize those involved in gang life, when we find the root of these problems, we can find solutions. Here are some organizations making a difference in New Jersey:

  1. Big Brothers Big Sisters State Association of NJ:

BBBS State Association of NJ

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation of NJ is to support the Big Brothers Big Sisters Programs throughout NJ through the sharing of best practices, mutual support, awareness building, advocacy and the acquisition of developmental resources and funding.

  1. The Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T) Program:

GREAT Community

The G.R.E.A.T. Program is built around school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curricula.  It provides a continuum of components for children and their families.  These components include a 13-lesson middle school curriculum, a 6-lesson elementary school curriculum, a summer component, and a families component.

  1. GRASP (Gang Rescue and Support Project):

GRASP|Gang Rescue and Support Project

GRASP (Gang Rescue and Support Project) is a peer-run, intervention program that works with youth who are at-risk of gang involvement or are presently active in gangs, helps families of gang victims, and serves as a youth advocate. GRASP works so well because it is primarily run by ex-gang members who broke free of the gang life-style and turned their lives around.

  1. New City Kids:

New City Kids offers after school programming for local low-income youth. Children and teens get a chance to explore music and academics in a creative and fun environment. Though there are many challenges of urban life, especially for youth, these programs give children a safe place to feel and hear that they are valued and loved.

  1. STRIVE:

Building futures, One person at a time!

STRIVE (Strengthen Teens and Reach Inner-city Vital Environments) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to paving a pathway into productive adulthood for New Jersey’s economically disadvantaged youth.

#health #hoodlife #sports #hood #relationships #sprintdreams #endgunviolence #brotherhood #peace #love #books #crime #enggangviolence #sisterhood #safety #stopviolence #newyork #newjersey #gangviolence

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