By Winston Peterson II
I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I was sent on assignment into the meanest suburb in Beverly Hills. Would I be offered free shopping samples as I walked these streets? Would I see someone famous in pain from a night of overdoasing ? Would I be looked down upon snobishly? I was cautious yet optimistic that I could make a difference with my reporting. I knew the story of these streets had to get out to the outside world if things were to change.
I had to pull a few strings but I got a meeting with one of the toughest wiggers on Maple Rd. His name is Johnny, but around here his friends and his crew call him "J-Unit". You wouldn't know it by his youthful face, but this wigger has seen his share of heartache and pain. J-Unit agreed to talk to me about how hard it was to be caught in the gangsta lifestyle while knowing your very actions harm your family and your community. "If I could change just one thing, it would be that I could actually have some free will. But out here, we are all animals."
J-Unit joined a gang at the age of 9 after an argument with his mom. She wouldn't let him stay up to watch a Pokemon late night special so after steaming in his bedroom for what seemed like eternity he snuck out of the house and wondered the streets cursing the heavens. He says that he wandered into a dark alley and was offered solace about his troubles from some older youths. He was offered a cigerrette, a bootleg copy of the Pokemon episode he missed, and was made to feel like someone really cared about him. But there was a price to pay for all this.
I was forced into this life, I didn't choose it.
If he could go back and change that night, he says he would. He should have known better, it was too good to be true. Especially the Pokeman bootleg. J-Unit says that eventually by the age of 14 he was completely sucked into the life of hardcore suburbia gang bangin'. J-Unit finally broke free only 6 months ago, but says that things continue to get worse in his neighborhood. Just the other day his neighbor's little boy had his lunch money stolen from him at the school bus stop. "This wasn't random, this is part of the danger of these streets".
As I delved further into his shattered life, he hung his head and a lonely tear fell to the floor like the last drop of rain after a thunderstorm. He raised his head and smiled. There is optimism. It's within him he said. "A better neighborhood, a better life, it starts with me....and I'm ready for the challenge."