Message From Behind the Wall

Peaches is a new and different perspective of L.A. street gang life, written by a former Los Angeles gang member

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: November 9, 2007

Message From Behind the Wall

For as long as I can remember, I've lived the life of a Chicano:

~ Mistrusted and resented by Spanish-speaking only Latinos for reading, writing, and speaking fluently in English, while not so in Spanish, while proudly waving the American flag as an honorably discharged U.S. military veteran of 2 branches of the Armed Forces and promoting English language music...
~ Mistrusted and suspect by an Anglo world that has a hard time accepting that a large, dark-skinned, tattooed homie from the 'hood can change, get an education, and assimilate bi-lingually as a professional person, while successfully having a foot in more than one world...
~ Mistrusted, resented, and avoided by upper echelon educated Latinos & Latinas who ignorantly see "Chicano" as a dirty word (for their own agenda & convenience), dark skin as a curse, tattoos as the mark of the devil, and fear that associating with me will drag them to the "dark side" of a culture they seriously know anything about, and forever taint them...
~ Having lifelong memories of discrimination I shall never forget...
~...and yet, living, laughing, loving, and having probably the best family, woman, and friends on earth despite all the former mierda....

I'm not alone in my world, thank goodness, and despite the ignorance, or maybe as a consequence because of it, I have taken to exposing and promoting the artistic and creative talents of my people, to enlighten, educate, and basically share the wealth of our cultura.

...my way of evening the playing field, know what I mean?

Our people are blessed with some of the finest writers, orators, poets, artists, entertainers, dancers, builders, engineers, educators, and business, religious, and military leaders on the planet...yet we still suffer the slings and arrows of stereotype and brutal unforgiveness, especially from within our own ranks, whenever humble beginnings and existences are portrayed in artistic, noble, intelligent and didactic terms.

Education is the best solution for an unbalanced world, yet some educated people ignorantly develop a "Yeah~Yeah" attitude that works better than any Machiavellian concept in keeping our people separated, unorganized , and culturally impoverished.
("...yeah, yeah, been there, done that, know all about it already, only I know what's best...", etc)

There are 2 current and recently published books that give an outstanding look into the artistic, historical, and cultural soul of the Gente Brown de Aztlan. One being Ruben Molina's "Chicano Soul", and Ernesto Caravantes' "Clipping Their Own Wings". I would highly recommend these books to any school or college curriculum. Both these books come from established and respected Chicano authors, and both do our people well.

A third book, coming from another direction and source, also does our people well, and completes a trilogy of contemporary study of present day Aztlan.

Author Tony Melendez Longoria is a talented writer from the "dark side": he is presently incarcerated in a California state prison.

Most people would immediately think "Oh, just another Mexican behind bar who got what he deserved...he'll never change...he's got nothing significant to say.."

But Tony passionately belies that assumption with his fictional novel that exposes an intelligence and heart..."Peaches".

"Peaches" is a new and different perspective of L.A. street gang life, written by a former Los Angeles gang member. It has a sobering moral ending, but it takes no religious undertones.

The protagonist, is a strong willed, attractive, and intelligent female who ultimately becomes a leader with a noble cause in a dangerous "macho" environment.

The story does not glorify street life , as so many of today's music videos fool our children today. Nor does it magnify an unstoppable, out of control evil as Hollywood would spin it.

The gang members are not mindless, totally corrupt, drug-crazed animals, but rather, interact with each other on respectful, intelligent, loving, and almost noble levels not seen or described by outsiders before.

As a former gang member myslf, I identified with some of the scenes, and an outsider and "never was" would do well to study the well described dynamics that would enlighten one as to why the social phenomena of street gangs has flourished in the United States for so long.

The characters in the story take on a life of their own:
~ The street wise, veteran anglo L.A. cop who learns to love these Chicano kids, and ultimately protects them.
~ The mothers. All caring, all loving, all forgiving, and all protective, even to the point of placing themselves between to warring gangs in the middle of a rumble.
~ The children. So pure, so innocent, so trusting. I actually got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, when one of them becomes a victim of undeserved violence.
~ The neighbors and local business people who make up an extended family in the 'hood.

The story takes a dramatic twist and has a surprise ending that I didn't expect...and another lump and tears formed inside of me...the story is that enthralling!

Throughout the story, Tony's message is clear: Gang warfare is wrong! We need to stop killing each other and get along with one another! We need to educate ourselves and our young, yet not forget where we came from! WE ARE WORTHY OF RESPECT!

Te aventastis, Tony!....you got it right on this one!

...would make a great movie!

Note: "Peaches" is available at www.overthewall.com

~ You were right! A great book! ~ Frankie Firme

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme is the "Al Capone of the microphone, and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul", bringing it back and keepin' it alive on www.eastLArevue.com

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