Andre Christian found himself immersed in gang life at an early age in South Central Los Angeles. By the time he was 14, Christian began to follow older gang members and eventually joined the Grape Street Crips.
He soon discovered the negative aspects of life on the streets by losing family members and being shot 13 times. Christian survived the turbulent times and decided to use his life story as a way to inspire change within the neighborhoods affected by gang.
During a recent community gathering in Los Angeles, Christian sat down with rolling out to share why it was important for him to change his life and help put an end to gang violence.
Why did you initially decide to join a gang?
I had a lot of abuse going on in the house, so I ran away. I started staying in the neighborhood with all my cousins and the neighborhood embraced me along my family. I basically started representing that. The streets showed me love when I didn’t receive that same love from my household.
You were initially embraced by the gangs. What were some of your negative experiences with gangs?
My experience with gangs really came from a lot of peer pressure. I didn’t realize it back then. But I’ve been shot 13 times. Three times on one occasion and 10 times during another occasion. I also lost a cousin to violence. I later realized that I didn’t see anything good come out of being involved.
What changes do you see in today’s gang environment?
When we came up, we weren’t facing three strikes you’re out or 25-to-life in prison. Back then, you could do manslaughter and get about seven years in prison. But today, they’ll put you in jail for a crumb. I know guys in jail who got life over crumbs. So that’s one of the things that have changed. They still try to hold on to this gang banging glory, but I try to tell them the true story about what’s going on and the consequences.
The gangs in L.A. have decided to unite. But how do you think the hoods can stay together?
Maintenance. You have to maintain stuff cause that’s what happened back during the first gang truce in 1992. Back then, I wasn’t involved with the truce because I was still stuck on stupid. But it makes me understand the youngsters and where they’re at right now. I try to talk to them about peace. I use to be one of them, so I understand that you learn as you get older.