GIRLS BANG TOO. A South African’s Tale.

Talk about amalgamation… Choice…Living…and Being… I am IAsia Azania , native of South Africa (straight Khoisan) that immigrated to the US in 1981, then found herself with four other family members in the Garden State, then the most “livable city in the country”, Pittsburgh, once my father became a doctor. The demand for work brought us to Pittsburgh in 1989.

When I look at the time line from the early nineties to now, Pittsburgh has had a lot of blood shed and crime scenes, with gang culture at the helm of much of it. In our city the tolerance for your neighbor that lived up the street or two miles from your block, wasn’t enough of a rationale for brothers to not kill brothers or for sisters  not to choose the life style of their men. My young ass did. In black Pittsburgh, Where you live is where you see colors; and if you come from the background of a person that is young, poor and black, you fell right into the various systems that the older cats passed to the younger cats and there you have an easy two plus decades of work put in, in the city of Pittsburgh.

For a lot of us here, we all knew about one another (sets), and being that everything in this city is about twenty minutes apart, you can see it, and feel it in the atmosphere when you go from hood to hood. My experience with gangs is simple, you either claim or you don’t, you put in work or you don’t, you see those red, blue, black or purple boys and girls as your family. We had posses in the 412 when I first moved here in 1989.  This set the stage for young impressionable kids who hated school, and hated life (but loved their hoods) to look at what the older boys were doing.

Writing, building crews, strappin, hustling, bangin and terrorizing the neighborhoods was the order of those days. Was that attractive to me? Depending on who had the piece with the magnetic. I lived on the 2 4 7 set, Lincoln Avenue Crips, where my black man at that time stayed, at the age of say, 15 or 16. He lived in Crip territory, being that I was his girl, fresh out of high school and recently kicked out of my parents home, I needed to belong to something, that’s how it was. Girls that claimed sets would ride for the hood and for their guys.  If need be, bang with other girls that were from oppositional sides.

The awareness that each set had for one another was the craziest. Pittsburgh is made up of basically the east, west, north and south sides. The east side was basically bloods and crips, and two united hoods, Larmier Ave. and Wilkinsburg, called the LAW. On the north side you had your OG’s (original gangsta’s”, and Deuces. On the South side you had crips, that wore different colors and based on the surrounding neighborhoods, they beefed with different people. So a lot of hoods were in street confinement, thus creating a mentality that hurts the babies now a days, because their uncles or in some cases grandfathers banged, so now they do the same. Its all they know, so that’s how they live.

People were hostages in their own communities and had to bare witness to the culture, by wearing the colors that represented the set. Good, bad or indifferent, that’s how it was. How could a city like ours balance the street dynamics of being in a gang, and getting money??? A lot of the old heads here, that came home recently from doing 10-15 year hits come out and see that the game has drastically changed. Gangs nowadays beef over sets, money, fiends, and control of the block, not so much the color. The color is deep seeded though. Blue bleeds blue, red bleeds red, black bleeds black and so on. The understanding of this particular culture is rooted in money where as before, when the old heads that went to the service, or came back from doing time, brought some magnetic with them that was irresistible to the young.

 You can go to any hood in Pittsburgh, and the colors haven’t changed, it’s the game that changed. What brings about a chance of balance and better days for the elderly and the babies that live in these neighborhoods, is music for real. Gangsta’s don’t play sports all like that, Gangsta’s don’t go to college to often, they stay around as long as they can, and make sound tracks for the hood, ghetto anthems, and memoirs for the homies that they lost. Like that…

If your from Homewood, its deep seeded, if you live on the Hill District its deep seeded. In this city we all accept It in one way or another, because a factor of fear has accompanied the reckless ways of young and old cats that conceptually own these streets. Do they? Don’t they? Depends on when you come out, and for what reason. The old heads in the city, couple of them that did time in the feds for various reasons, came home and were able to get 501c3’s and open up community based organizations, attempt to call truces, travel to conferences and things like that. Then they would get ex bangers jobs, like us, and have us go out onto the plantations to perform miracles. Bullshit being, that they would set trip too! Being that they were panthers, or pan africanists, and had organizations, complexes, old beefs from when we were like 10 years old, they found the lost found (so to speak) and gave us jobs. We gotta eat, so now couple of us work in those arenas for those men that used to bang and now want to give back, hmmm.

Some of us would feel pimped at times (we were young coming into the game, legitimate jobs and things) for the reason that we never came together as C B O’s (community based organizations), then we started watching what one another were doing , how effective we were. Running into each other in the schools, running programs, or seeing each other at rallies in the hood. Gangsta’s aren’t trophies to me. So many people want first dibs on the gangsta’s, give em jobs, get em to come out, get to come and speak…Killers are killers, gangsta’s are gangsta’s period. Even when they come into self knowledge, the times in life when we were young, had to choose, define family, define power, define freedom, or death, it was in the name of a color.

I am neither anti gang or pro gang. When I’m around the little young niggaz, I talk with’em, don’t fear’em, yet I know that they are dangerous. I give’em things to think about, that’s all I can do. Gangs live in my city getting money by any means, dealing, robbing, pimpin, selling heat of all forms is never gonna stop. That’s what I am clear of. I do me, they do them, however love is love.