A History Lesson
Alex Moir/February 13, 2001
Kody Scott grew up in South Central L.A. during the nineteen-sixties and seventies, soon after the creation of the Crips. Raised in poverty without a father, and a full family raised solely by his mother, Kody Scott led the stereotypical ghetto life, a poor and broken home. However he does not blame this on his own personal decision to join the Crips while only eleven years old. The allure of the respect and glory that bangers got, along with the unity of the set(name for the specific gang) is what drew him into the gang. Once joined, he vowed to stay in the set for life, and claimed that banging was his life. After many years of still believing this, he eventually realized that the thug life was no longer for him, and that gangs were a problem on society and the Afrikan race(page 382-383).
In his book Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, he tells of his life story and how he came and left the gang life. For thirteen years he was a member of the Eight Tray Gangsters, a set of the Crips, and throughout the book he explains, sometimes in full detail, the life he led while in the gang and his many times in jail and prison. These life stories he tells, include drive-byes, shootouts in supermarkets, parks, streets, houses etc., fist fights, group beatings, kidnapings, doing drugs, selling drugs, car-jacks, amputation, robbery, friends deaths, enemies deaths, being shot, knife fights, police abuse, jail riots, jail rapes and any other part of the gang life possible. Now if possible, imagine that this all happened within thirteen years, and to a teenager. These crimes, more specifically the brutal ones, are what got him his nickname Monster Kody. None of this really affected him though, until when in jail, he was converted to a Muslim, when he changed his name to Sanyika Shakur. However, it took him a while to realize that what he was doing was wrong and it was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Although he now realized this, it wasnt because of religion really, but more for the survival and advancement of the Afrikan race, as he was now becoming more and more politically and morally conscious(page 277). After coming and going out of prison, he was struggling between the two lives he was trying to lead, one as a banger and the other as a leader for the Afrikan movement. Being the respected and feared figure he was, he unconsciously was trying to be both, and to mend the two together. However, once out of prison for a while, he knew that this wasnt possible in the real world, like it was in prison. He now had to make a choice. Once in Prison again, after a failed attempt at gang unity, he realized that the Afrikan race as a whole along with his newfound responsibility to his family(wife and kids), was more important than the set, and that he would now leave the set and the gang life. However this was no easy task, as most who attempt to leave the set dont succeed or die trying. It took him a whole three years to leave the Crips. He now, however, unlike before, realized that a banging was wrong for more than just the black on black crime and such, but that it was a matter of morals and family, and he now no longer took pride in his past actions, but still took responsibility for them(page 357). Once out of prison again, he was now out of the set and could start a more normal life with his family and with a real paying job. He was still however part of the New Afrikan Independence Movement, and also devoted to stopping the causes of gangsterism(page 377).
This complete turnaround in his life and new devotion, is the purpose of the book he wrote. At the start of the book he tells of how he joined the gang and why. He also tells of all of his glory stories and how much he enjoyed banging. However as the book slowly progresses, he starts to mature and to develop mentally. Until toward the end of the book, in which he is a much more educated man, and also out of the gang life. He shows this progression, mainly because this is what happened, but also because he wants to illustrate that people only join and use gangs for their shallow and basic needs.When he joined at only eleven, he didnt know what life was about or what he wanted from it or what to do with his. The gang was his choice at the time because it made him feel important and needed, and could gain him respect, fear and fame, but most of all made him feel like a man and was what introduced him into manhood(page 6). He then goes on to tell of his many stories of violence and crime that he had committed throughout his gang years. The detail and ferocity in which he explains the gang mentality and actions, are to show people the cruel and harsh life that bangers lead. That it isnt what is seen on T.V., where kids think it looks fun and cool, and that nothing would ever happen to them, that it is in actuality not a life that anyone should lead, no matter what. That is why he told so many and so much of his brutal life and of all the lives that gang members lead. He wanted to scare people away from the gang life and hood mentality with brutal first hand accounts. Who would want to live a life where, dodging bullets and running from other gangsters and the cops, is a daily habit? Where the law of the streets is kill or be killed, in which he acted upon many times, where losing friends is a common event and not being able to attend their funerals is also a reality for fear of being shot while there. Having to kill or wound people almost daily is necessary for survival, and where going to jail for doing so, being raped or killed in jail is even closer than on the street, is expected in order to rise in the ranks. These are just some of the stories he told and examples that he gave in his book. These are to serve as a warning, that this is what gangs are all about, and nothing else.
He then approaches the book with a more intellectual approach, instead of the previous more physical and visual one. Shakur now explains the reasons of why he decided to leave the gang. Some of which were religious and nationalist, but knowing that these are not for everybody, he also uses family and morals to get his point across, which everybody can relate too. After reflecting on his past, which he had plenty of time to do in jail, he realized that he was getting tired of the monotonous gang life of constant warfare. He now for the first time deeply wondered how he was going to raise his kids in a safe environment while in a gang(page 357). He also was now much more bothered by his violent life and especially his deeper past. His subconscious was telling him that it was over and that he was washed up, he was now beginning to get to more moral and logical in his thoughts, to where he knew he mentally and emotionally wouldnt be able to bang much longer(page 277). He now had left the gang life behind in order to raise his family in a safer environment and also to settle his conscience down and feel better about himself. In conclusion, Kody Scott a.k.a. Sanyika Shakur, used this book as a tool to help let society know the dangers of the gang life, and possibly some advice to help prevent gangs from growing and spreading, and also to prevent his past from becoming somebodies future. Which is best summed up in his last paragraph from the book in which he states:
How do we come to grips with the fact that this thing has gotten way too real, out of control like some huge snowball running down a hill, threatening to smash and kill all in its path, including those who originally fashioned it? Time is of the essence, and every thinking person with a stake in life-especially those involved in the fighting-should put forth an effort, something more concrete than a media truce, to deal with this tragedy. The children deserve to have a descent childhood where they live. They shouldnt have to be uprooted to the suburbs to experience peace. We cannot contaminate them with our feuds of madness, which are predicated on factors over which we have no control.