I had been waiting for this moment for about three weeks. I strategically picked out what I would wear to class. No red. No blue. The thought process: I don’t want this brother to come up in here and have any flashbacks. Green? Yeah, green is pretty safe. I’ve never had to think about this before. Growing up, I could wear any color I pleased. No second thoughts. Just roll out of bed, throw on something, and leave the house without reservation. Not tonight though. Tonight was different. In fact, the past two years have been different. I moved to Pasadena and wore red with reckless abandon. I had all kinds of red shirts in my closet, so they were part of the regular rotation. I didn’t know any better. I even drove down to my fiancee’s grandmother’s house in South Central L.A. (off of Manchester) wearing a red shirt. Two years later I’m smarter. I realized that the Pasadena Denver Lanes (a Blood outfit) lived closer to me than I realized. I realized that driving down to South Central decked out in red attire might not be the smartest idea. So tonight I didn’t want to take any chances. Green would be safe. Boy was I in for a surprise.
I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve read about it. I know what a gangbanger looks like, so I know what a former gang banger should look like. I know the swagger they walk with. I know the gangbanger dialect. So I was really excited to hear from a former gangbanger tonight. Mr. Rodriguez walked in the the room an hour into the class. He wore a long coat, dress slacks, and a pair of rimmed glasses. He was an older gentleman (I would give him about 38 years old at best). An African-American male, he was about 6’1” and weighed about 235 lbs. He had the build of an NFL linebacker. And I thought, “Yeah, he must have been an enforcer.” After a brief overview of gangs, the professor introduced the brother. He got up and began talking. At this moment, my life was touched in a very profound way.