The boys went into a liquor store.
I followed with a camcorder.
One of the boys asked the store owner, “Can we interview you for our documentary?”
He knew the boys.
They asked again, calling him by his name, “Come on, Chico.”
“No,” he insisted.
Most of those approached wouldn’t take the boys seriously.
People knew the boys outside of what they were doing now — being community organizers for Villages Without Walls.
We walked down a side street.
A few dudes sat on the steps of an apartment building.
“Yo, we need to interview you.”
It was Freeman.
Freeman is well known to the police.
Late last year, someone tried to shoot Freeman while he sat with a woman in a parked car. The bullet grazed him but killed the woman.
“Yeah, I’ll interview,” Freeman said.
The interview began.
Interviewer: How old are you?
Freeman: How old am? Twenty-eight.
Interviewer: Has gang violence ever affected you in any type of way?
Freeman: Yeah, gang violence affects me in every way.
There’s nothing glorious about being in no gang, dog [a term of endearment].
The only thing is you got a whole bunch of niggas that got your back.
That’s about it.
Like, you got to take the good with the bad sometime.
This ain’t like it use to be.
You just walk around and it’s just fun.
It’s not fun no more.
Niggas getting shot at; shooting at people like; [filtered word], going to jail.
I use to be this man’s size. [Freeman points at one of his boys; the boy smirks.]
200 pounds something; straight muscle.
I got hit with that thang [shot with a gun].
You see it.
Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Freeman: Five years.
Hopefully, up out of here.
Basically, this is real as I can keep it.
It’s not about, it’s not about, if you’re in a gang; it’s not about changing.
You can do that.
It’s about if the other mother [filtered word]s who don’t let you out.
It’s not about people around your way.
You could be walking somewhere with your family, have a shirt and a tie on and some slacks and somebody still want to kill you for [filtered word] that somebody else did ten years ago or what you did ten years ago.
So, people be like, oh, why can’t you change your life and just be…
It’s no changing.
It’s no changing.
And even though you want to change, people won’t let you change.
I am going to keep it official.
Interviewer: How do you think the community can help?
Freeman: I don’t know.
But I am going to keep it official, right.
I am going to say, in the next two years it’s going to be a whole lot of fighting and a whole lot of stabbings going on. Shooting is really about to come to an end.
You can, you can, avoid all this [filtered word] period and stop making guns.
They can end all this [filtered word] right now if they stop making guns.
They know what the [filtered word] their doing.
They get money off of us doing this bull[filtered word].
Everybody gets paid off of gang violence.
Gun makers get paid.
Police get paid.
Cause if there is no violence what the [filtered word] are they doing?
Domestic violence, trespassing …
They get promoted on breaking cases and catching guns.
The more guns they catch the more promotions they get.
I ain’t knocking their hustle, they got to work, they got to feed their family.
Gang life ain’t where people think it is.
But like I told you, most people join gangs to get a sense of family.
Some people don’t grow up with a family.
Some people join gangs because they been getting picked on and beat on and they need some protection.
Some people join gangs because their family is in the gang and they just want to be cool.
Ain’t nothing cool!
Keep it official.
These dudes around here are the only dudes I’m cool with.
Like, no more people around here.
We not letting no more people hang around here.
This is it!
This is it!
Once everybody right here quit that’s it.
We gonna cut that, we gonna cut it off.
I’m not gonna sit on the camera and glorify and say oh, oh, where just gonna get jobs and quit.
[filtered word] happens.
I can be talking to the camera right now, talking to ya’ll.
[filtered word], bout time ya’ll see this I could be in jail or anywhere else.
Not because I want too.
It’s just the roll of the dice.
It’s a gamble out here.
I done say I got shot twice; nigga so [filtered word] can happen any and everywhere.
You can be at church.
No, true story [He tries to convince the interviewer].
You can be coming out of church and a nigga will bust on you [Fire a gun at you].
Niggas ain’t got no respect no more.
Niggas, getting shot with their kids.
Niggas, are shooting at niggas while they got their kids and all type dumb crazy [filtered word].
[Freeman stares into the camera, seriously.]
Shoot at me while I got my mother [filtered word]ing kid!
I am let you know.
We are not a gang, where a family.
We are a family.