Chapter 2 - 'The Making of a Gangster'

by Jeron McCall

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Posted by JeronMcCall
During the years immediately following the creation of the 135th Street Gangster Crip Gang, the willingness of its members to commit crimes for monetary gain and street credibility had many negative repercussions. The eastside of Hawthorne became a place where drugs were sold openly, gang-related shootings occurred often, and residents felt unsafe. Due to the abundance of apartment buildings whose owners welcomed residents that were dependent upon government assistance, the socio-economic status of the people in that area continued to diminish. That was because people who lived their lives dependent upon the welfare system viewed Hawthorne as a desirable place to live. Upon moving to Hawthorne, they brought with them a lack of interest in learning, a weak work ethic, and a dearth of self-esteem that caused them to take pleasure in making life difficult for others.

As the 135th Street Gangster Crip Gang grew, its members engaged in acts that resulted in them suffering. Jinx had been shot on two separate occasions, and he had served several years in prison for an armed robbery. He was unemployed and still lived in the same location with his mother, as he sold small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine for sustenance. Flex was murdered by a Blood who sought revenge after Flex had beaten him during a physical altercation. Meanie was serving a life sentence in prison for murdering the Blood who killed Flex. Goose worked a legitimate job as a truck driver, yet he continued to maintain his ties to the 135th Street Gangster Crips, and was willing to commit violent acts against its enemies whenever necessary. Despite the unproductive lifestyles of the 135th Street Gangster Crip Gang founders, they served as role models for some of the children who lived in Moneta Gardens.

In an apartment building on Lemoli Avenue across from Jinx’s home lived a 12-year-old boy named Antoine Edwards. His mother, Jasmine Edwards, had given birth to him when she was 16-years-old. Afterwards, she chose to drop out of high school. She then elected to party and preferred to live a life of fun over being a mother, which led to her becoming addicted to crack cocaine. Her lifestyle rendered her unable to care for her son. That resulted in her mother, Bertha Edwards, opting to raise her grandson rather than allow him to become a ward of the state of California. Bertha had another daughter who had little to do with Bertha or Jasmine. She was married and successful, and did not want to be burdened by the endless problems occurring in the lives of her mother and younger sister.

It was admirable that many grandparents were willing to raise their grandchildren when their own offspring were incapable of caring for the beings that they created. But the byproduct of that arrangement often meant that the grandchild was cared for, but not raised. Although they were provided with food and clothing, their grandparents often failed to teach them values and the importance of education. That may have been the result of the grandparents having tired of raising children. However, the negligence of those grandparents created young people who contributed to the problems in society, rather than being people whose actions would help to alleviate them.

Antoine was one of the aforementioned grandchildren. He was a troublesome child because nobody had taught him how to properly behave in society. Although Bertha would beat Antoine mercilessly when he did something that she did not approve of, her method of discipline was unproductive. She spanked Antoine because she had been disciplined in that manner by her parents, and she did not possess the sophistication needed to question the beatings. As such, she was unable to realize that spanking was a holdover from slavery, during which slave owners and overseers severely beat Black slaves for perceived indiscretions. Rather than reject that abusive behavior, many Black parents chose to beat their children for disobeying them. That often resulted in Black youth becoming more violent than their White peers whose ancestors were fortunate to not have been slaves in the America's.

Reading was not valued in Bertha's home. She did not nourish any intellectual curiosity in Antoine or supervise his homework, because she felt it was the duty of the Hawthorne School District to educate her grandson. But because the district was responsible for teaching many other students, they could not focus their attention upon individual pupils. Therefore at a young age, Antoine developed the mindset that because his grandmother did not appear to care about his education, then neither should he. As a result, Antoine's level of intelligence lagged behind that of his peers, whose parents closely monitored the instruction of their children.

When children were not instilled with morals, they made their own determination about the importance of various aspects of life. If they were not taught that strength of character is what makes someone a good person, they believed the acquisition of material goods made them better than people who lacked what they had. Antoine’s grandmother spent money provided by the government for the care of her grandson on clothes, video games, and other material goods. Because of that, Antoine began to consider himself superior to some of his peers whose parents were financially unable to purchase those items for their children. That created unnecessary conflict between Antoine and others, which sometimes led to him being physically attacked by his peers for being arrogant.

Without being taught the wisdom that is needed in order to possess confidence, Antoine had low self-esteem. His lack of self-esteem was manifested by his antagonisms towards his peers who possessed less than he did. That was his way of fooling himself into thinking he was superior to them. The irony was that Antoine was secretly jealous of his peers who either had stable families, or were more intelligent than he was. His secret envy of others was the result of him not having known his father, being abandoned by his mother, and the failure of his grandmother to mentally nourish him.

The actions of 135th Street Gangsters and other criminals in Moneta Gardens created a dangerous environment that offered many negative experiences for youth to observe. While playing outside as a child, Antoine observed rampant drug dealing, fights, and on one occasion, a murder. There was a time when he was visiting a friend. As they traded football cards in the friend’s yard, members of the Hawthorne Police Department’s SWAT team ran past them on their way to serve a warrant on a home where drugs were being sold. Antoine’s immediate reaction was to run home to the security of his grandmother’s apartment, and as he did that, he passed the house where the raid was occurring. He could have been killed if a shooting had occurred.

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