Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member
"Where I came from, in order to be down you had to be 'in'" (Shakur, 226). This quote, taken from Sanyika Shakur's (aka Monster Kody Scott) Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member relates the mind set of those growing up the concrete jungle of South Central L.A. This powerful account of the triumph of the human spirit over insurmountable odds brings the reader into the daily battles for survival. His story starts at the beginning of his gang life (being initiated at age 11), moves through his teen years (mostly spent in various correctional facilities) and ends up with his transformation in a member of the New Afrikan Independence Movement.
When Kody Scott was 6 years old, the gang wars started in Los Angeles. It started out as a battle between the Crips and the Bloods, but by the late 70's and continuing today, the biggest killer of Crips is other Crips. The Crip Nation was divided into different divisions, which Monster compares to the U.S. Army. "For instance, one who is in the army may belong to the First Infantry Division, 196th Infantry Brigade, Second Battalion, Delta Company. A member of a gang might belong to the West Side Crips, Eight Tray Gangsters, North Side Eighty-third street" (78). The smallest division was known as a "set" and it was to this group that the gang members claimed the most loyalty. From the time Monster joined the Eight Tray Gangsters (part of the Crip Nation), he aspired to achieve the status of Original Gangster (O.G.). Before he quit "banging" and joined the New Afrikan Independence Movement, he was almost at that status. O.G. was the highest honor a banger could get, and only then would you have the true respect of your friends and enemies alike. Monster spent many years in Juvenile Detention Centers before he turned 18, and a few years in prisons (such as San Quentin) after. It was in these prisons that he first attended a Muslim Service and met Muhammad, who would dramatically alter his life. Muhammad gave him Soul on Ice by Elridge Cleaver, and The Autobiography of Malcom X, two books which introduced him to the concept of the struggle (jihad) till death. This struggle was against the "racist oppressors" (215). Monster found this language to be highly intuitive to his individual situation, which caused him to read more and study more. Before he completely unallied himself with the Crips, he attempted to better the Crip Nation by becoming part of the Consolidated Crip Organization (CCO). This organization attempted to halt all the Crip-on-Crip violence, and unite them in their common purpose, destruction of the Bloods. After his release from his seven-year term for murder (of which he served four and half years), he settled down with Tamu (his future wife) and their two children. It was then that he withdrew from that life of gangbanging, which had changed considerably during his time in prison (that life was now fully dependent on selling crack, and the weapons had been upgraded automatics). "It's almost as if I had contributed to a structure here, but then had somehow slept through the years of its development, and now was awakening to find a more advanced, horrifying, form of the reality I had known. I was like Rip Van Winkle, or more aptly, Crip Van Winkle" (367).
This book, written from the viewpoint of someone who spent many years on the inside, offers the reader new insight. Sanyika Shakur, brings the seemingly chaotic world of South Central L.A., and let's the reader experience it for a few hours. He does an excellent job of relating his near-death experiences (being shot 6 times, being beaten unconscious by the prison guards) in an effort to educate those who still have time to do something about it. The fact that Monster Kody Scott, one of the hardest of the hardest Crips, could turn his life around, offers hope for those many other human beings chained to a life of gangs simply because of where they live.
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