Izote Vos

The Color Red

I have always liked the color red. But I began wearing red in the sixth grade, at my middle school, James Denman. On my first day there, I kicked it with some old friends from nursery and elementary school who introduced me to some of their norteno friends. Within two months, I started kickin' it with people who would wear red all the time. Older norte–o friends -- those in the seventh and eighth grades -- they all wore red. Little by little, red just grew on me.When people see me kicking it with nortenos, they think that I am a norte–a. But I am not in a gang. I don't claim and I've never been jumped in, but I represent and chill with nortenos. I am somewhere in between. Before the sixth grade, I didn't know anything about gangs. Little by little, I started to get norteno friends and soon enough, I knew what was up because I would hear my friends say, "I don't like scraps," meaning surenos. Some of us got along with surenos, and some didn't. They were just a different group. In the sixth grade, things weren't so bad.But towards the end of the year, things changed. I remember being inside the yard when these surenos jumped the fence and started to rumble with these nortenos on the outside. Soon, the security guards came and broke it up. I thought it was just a fight between some kids, but later I found out it was gang stuff. That was the first gang fight that I saw, the first of many I witnessed.I wear a lot of red not only because I kick it with nortenos, but also because it's my favorite color. But I won't go to 24th Street because it's too hot there. When I have to go by there, I get a little bit scared and nervous, because I don't know what will happen. In five minutes, lots of things can happen there. Even when I walk by with my mother, I can feel the stares. I have learned to: 1.) Say I don't claim anything. Some will leave me alone and some won't. 2.) Be sure not to wear red where the surenos are at and don't wear blue where the nortenos are at. It's safer that way. 3.)When I walk by a norteno or a sureno, I don't stare at them because they might want to start some funk.When I meet a norteno or a sureno, it's the same way I meet any other person ... they're no different. Most people think that gangbangers might hurt or disrespect somebody. But everybody disrespects somebody in a certain way. The only thing that makes them different is that they're "in" a gang. Some gang members like to represent wherever they go, and they get into hecka fights for that. Over the color. And it's just the color.I have had norteno and sureno boyfriends before. Most of my other boyfriends didn't claim anything. The same goes for my friends. My mother doesn't like the idea of me going out with a guy that is in a gang, because she doesn't like the way they dress. She gets these ideas from TV, where they talk about gangsters with hella tattoos, who talk bad and put up signs. So she thinks that all guys in gangs are like that, when they could be just like any other guy. Back in the day, I probably would've joined a gang, but that's because I was stupid then. I wouldn't get in one now. Hell na! Because now you're really putting your life in danger and I am not that stupid. When you are young, gangs are not a big deal, but now that we're older, it's putting your family's life in danger. When you get older, you get into worse stuff. You get into more problems, like stabbing or killing people. Another reason is that I don't want to end up dead like my homeboy Will.I probably will stop kicking it with my norteno friends once we all -- hopefully -- get our lives together. When we get a good stable job or get our high school or college diplomas. When we calm down and gangs are out of our lives, when all we think about is the future and our families. But for now, it's hard. I tried to be a better Christian, which meant stop smoking, stop drinking, stop going to parties, stop kicking it with gangs -- things I couldn't avoid. I tried for a week to stay away from that one spot where my closest friends would kick it every day, but I couldn't just leave and not talk to my crew.

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