Sitting in Dickerson Park, a former gang member reflects on his life and his experiences.
“Gangs are everywhere,” said the man who wants to be known as Jay. “I’ve been shot, I’ve been robbed, I’ve been held for ransom against my will. People try to set me on fire, people shot up my mom’s house before. I’ve done some things myself. And it’s real.”
Born and raised in St. Louis, Jay became involved with the Bloods, a gang that ran drugs, stole property, and even killed.
“I’ve seen a lot of people die unnecessarily,” he said solemnly. “It wouldn’t be no thing to walk to school and walk over a dead body and say, “Oh, there’s another one.” When you grow up a certain way, it’s kind of like embedded in you. You don’t really care about it. It don’t move you as much when you get used to it.”
Jay was groomed by the gang very young and would do whatever the older members told him to do.
“It was like a family outside of family ‘cause they took care of you. I was always a small guy and I grew up an only child. I always wanted that big brother feeling and they gave that to me,” Jay explained.
His job in the gang was to sell drugs. At 16-years-old, he was caught by law enforcement with drugs for the first time. Although he spent time in and out of custody, he said the gang lifestyle was a hard one to leave.
“I was so used to doing it; I didn’t want to leave the lifestyle. ‘Cause the lifestyle can be addictive,” said Jay. “You didn’t want to feel like you were betraying people that loved you.”
Jay finally hit rock bottom when he was back in state custody and realized his family was gone all because of the gang. He said he moved to Springfield to start a new life and to put the Bloods behind him.
read rest of the story- Jay turned his life around and now runs group meetings.