There were gang fights at school. Also school wasn’t nice because when you come out of the grounds there are guys waiting to beat you. The whole day my mind’s on how I’m going to get home past them. I would run away at second break because I knew they were expecting me when school ends. So to get to school safely I joined the Americans. And the gang was interesting; it showed me things I would never know about otherwise. Also this place is crazy. If you stand on a corner or anywhere, guys can come and take your stuff and do with you what they like. That’s why you have to join a gang. You have to join to survive.

I live with my mother – in the yard – and with my girlfriend. My father went to prison again maybe four years ago. When I was growing up my father was most of the time in prison. Maybe because of that, things got to where they are today. If I’d known then what I know now, I would never have been what I am.

I have a daughter aged seven but I don’t see her because she’s not living with me but with her mother. Sometimes I take my bike and go down there. But for only a short time because I don’t like to go without money. You know children they want money.

I was in Porter Reformatory. I learned a lot there – it’s where I learned tik. And I met people from other places. Survival depends on what you know and who you know. Then I went to prison for murder. I just thank God that I’m still alive.

There have been a lot of murders in this place. Many times I’m scared for my life. My friend and me were smoking nice together and ten minutes later he was dead. When you come out your house you don’t know a gang has had trouble with your friend and so you walk out. Then bang they shoot you. You need the network of your brothers to stay alive.

You hear something is going to happen so you go home and get your gun. And you’re ready. When a guy dies his whole family is crying and you see the heartbreak. It’s not nice. And he’s not even 20. Me I’m 35 and all the other guys are younger. It’s hard to live long. Yo! Four times I’ve been shot. One bullet shattered the bone in my leg.

In this place you can’t be dik gerook. You must be wide awake to stay alive because here is full of possibilities and danger. And when it’s dark! Oooh all hell breaks loose. But if you stand on a corner and look like a billionaire, you can’t tell me nothing. I can make the streets hot for you. I just go fetch a gun. You’ll be nothing. Woman and children will be running. Guns give you respect. It makes people afraid and now they want to be your friend. And you know why they are your friend. For now. Some people are scared, yes. I don’t want them to be scared. But people must listen to me. If I tell someone don’t do that, they mustn’t do it.

I have to be on the lookout for those who want to take my life. I’ve been doing the same thing to other people. I have a lot of friends who are not living. I’m one of the only survivors at my age. I’m the leader of the Americans in my area. In prison it’s better for me. Inside I get anything. They say the Numbers don’t pay, but me, I get my salary. But I can’t stop. I have no choice.

Maybe I could resign from the gang. But after a few months they will kill me. Why? Maybe for one year I’m not with the Americans. But then another gang shoots me because it will still hurt the Americans. Maybe I have a brother in the gang, a friend in the gang, and when they hurt me they gonna hurt them. So there’s no way out.