Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crips and Bloods, made in America

Last night, the "Break the Silence" folks, went to a documentary screening of Crips and Bloods, Made in America at the Langston Hughes performing arts center. This documentary received a lot of national attention. It's narrarated by Forest Whitaker and one of the producers of the film is Baron Davis, a former(?) NBA star who grew up in LA.

This was an incredibly informing and beautifully moving documentary. It begins with exploring the ways that the legacy of slavery in this country kind of provided a historical context for the role racism plays in gang violence. Then it provides a long timeline of gangs in LA, the rise and fall of gang violence and different factors that contributed to the rise and fall (civil rights movement, neighborhood ordinances that contributed to racial segregation that kept people of color in ghettos, lack of resources for extra curricular activities for the youth in these communitites, etc.) It definitely explored police brutality, and how when a group of people are continually being treated like they are worthless by those that are supposed to protect your community, a message becomes instilled in your mind about your own worth, and you then become "an instrument of your own oppression." (There was a really awesome quote someone they interviewed had said about that, but I can't remember it, just the last part which i quoted)

Overall I really appreciated the documentary, and I feel like as a community member, we are fed by the media images and perceptions of what gang violence is. Often simplifying this issue as something isolated, something that's happening now, disconnected from the past, sensationalizing the issue that the youth are "out of control and violent." etc. The more who see this documentary the better.

However, there is definitely an entire conversation missing from this documentary, an issue that the documentary completely over looked, which was kind of a disappointment. The documentary was definitely from a male perspective, with out acknowledging the different ways that gang violence might impact women and young girls in these communities. While I understand that gang violence for males and females is an entirely different experience, and so to focus on the male perspective in some way can make sense, but this should at least be acknowledged , and it wasn't, which made it seem like when discussing gang violence it would be expected for there to be a focus on the male perspective, making the female perspective invisible, forgotten and ultimately unimportant.

Through the documentary they interview current/former crips and bloods (who are all men except for a 5 sec comment by a young women who was a former gang member), asking all sorts of questions about their experiences. One question asks about their home life and there is definitely a pattern of a single mother home, and feelings of being un loved by her. One interviewee mentioned watching his father "beat the shit" out of his mother... then it moves onto the experiences of the mothers who lost their sons, not really exploring the violence that might be prevalent in their lives. Or the violence in the lives of the young girls who live in these communities, and how the male gang members perpetuate violence onto the young females in their communitites through sexualized violence like domestic violence or rape. And how many of these young single mothers are survivors of this kind of violence and how might it affect the home environment where they raise their sons, only continuing a cycle of violence.

Anyway, I think youtube's site is down, but when it's up and working again I'll post a trailer of the film or something.

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