Gangstaz

I was invited by a mate to a special church service the other evening.  It was an evangelical/pentecostal church, predominantly Pacific Islander.  It was a branch of a church based in the U S of A.  That night, the sermon was preached by a Pastor from the States.  He commented how there’s a scene on Sione’s Wedding where there is a Palagi guy, Derek from “G-g-g-Gfield” (Glenfield on the North Shore is a affluent part of Auckland/Aukilani), acts like a “gee”.  He’s a very funny character in the movie, and everyone in the crowd laughed, thinking about how hilarous it is to see a Palagi trying to act all hip-hop, down with the brown, a real “gee”.  But then the Pastor said, “It’s funny you laugh, because that’s exactly how I reacted when I saw a lot of youths here in Auckland trying to act all gansta”.  A reflective pause from the crowd hit home the comparison.

Now I love my old school music, R’n’B, Soul, a bit of Jazz etc, and there’s no doubt the popularity of the hip-hop culture here in New Zealand/Niu Sila amongst the youth in general and more specifically Polynesian youth.  There are some strong messages in the some songs, and it is easy to identify with other working class marginalised struggling non-mainstream peoples.  But the line between connecting to, and being influenced by, is often crossed by Polynesian youth.

It’s no secret that a significant proportion of our Samoan youth are in youth gangs which imitate movies such as “Blood in blood out” etc.  Apparently Bloods and Crips have chapters here in Niu Sila, all the way on the other side of the world from LA (What the?  Bahaha!).

I often come across younger family members with their bebo pages fitted out in blue or red.  I’m forever telling off my little cousins for wearing colours around, and hit them up with questions about if they even know anything about the US Civil Rights movement, or Martin Luther King Jr.  I’ve even changed tact by asking them questions instead about the Mau movement in Samoa, or the Polynesian Panthers during the Dawn Raids.  Call me old fashioned, but since when did we start calling one another “gee”?  Since when did the New Zealand vernacular start sounding like an American one?  Since when did joining youth gangs ever replace families?

Lately, I’ve become sick and tired of it… I start seeing little hoodlums everywhere.  I’ve caught myself giving a quick look of disgust at a few, judging them and thinking they are a blight on society.  “They should go get a job and get off the benefit” I’d think to myself.

But one day, I caught the train into town wearing my comfortable hoody.  Having paid my fare once I boarded the train in South Auckland, I proceeded to have a nap, leaning forward onto my folded arms, I went for a snooze (- in Niu Sila you pay for the fare onboard).  The trip is about 40 minutes into town.  I woke up about two stops before my destination, when the train conductor asked if I had paid.  I said yes, that I had got on at the Puhinui stop in South Auckland.  Usually train conductors take passengers for their word at this point, but this guy demanded to see my ticket.  Still waking up from my snooze, and with the eyes of other passengers all focused on me, I obliged and showed him my ticket.  He looked at it then walked off.  I sat upright and thought, ummm why did he demand it from me?  I saw him walk down the carriage and never demanded to see tickets from anyone else.  My thoughts were, if it were truly a random search why had he not asked anyone else?  Why did he think I of all the people on the train was trying to get a free ride?  With my thoughts running wild, I asked him when he came back down the carriage towards me, “Excuse me, why did you only ask me for my ticket?”  He mumbled something about he has the right to ask people for the tickets.  I responded by saying “But of all the people on this train why did you suspect me of trying to skip paying?”  He again said incoherently something about he being the only conductor working this train and he can’t remember everyone.  I retorted “I’ve been on here for a whole half hour and you suspect only me?  Is it coz I’m brown?  Is it coz I’m wearing a hoody?”  I can get quite hysterical.  But as the conductor walked off and as I was demanding an answer from him, a Palagi girl across the isle nudged the conductor and said she hasn’t paid yet.  At that point all hell let loose.  “You mean to say you suspect the only brown guy on this train of not paying, when you didn’t even ask her to pay?!?  Why didn’t you ask her for her fare aye?!?!”  Poor conductor guy.

But that incident got me thinking, people are all too ready to judge people by their appearance, whether it’s their skin colour or their attire.  The conductor didn’t know who I was, where I had come from, what occupation I might have, which charities I may volunteer for etc.  Yet he judged me.  And so did I, everytime I thought I saw a hoodlum.  I was as guilty of judging brown youth as the conductor was.

I’m not sure how to solve youth gang issue amongst Samoan youth, but I know that beneath the misguided gang colours and affiliation is a human being that has the potential to achieve great things.  Our young brown youth are not thugs, but are potentially tomorrow’s leaders… we just need to help them find that potential.

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11 thoughts on “Gangstaz

  1. Thanks for the comment Seki. You are right, it’s up to us to decide our future. Thank you for sharing your story and all props to you for deciding to make a change. Malo le taumafai!

  2. I enjoyed the story!!!! Especialy the train one because I myself could relate to similar situations and incidents I have been through and YUP I TOO GET ALL HYSTERICAL when things like that happen LOL. As for the youth gangs it exists everywhere not only NZ & OZ & U.S.A but everywhere else. I made a bad choice when I was young and decided to hang out with a local youth gang I accompanied them to what they called CRIME SPREES long story but i managed to pull myself away before it was too late and that was my choice no one elses but mine. I think that no matter what parents do no matter how much guidence and communication they do at the end of the day its their own son/daughters choice whether or not to get involved.

    MUCH LUV 4 DA BLOGGING O 4 OSOME!

  3. Thanks for the thoughts alisa and lofz. Yip, our parenting needs to up-skill quick! The last people that should be failing our kids is us, their families.

  4. It all comes down to a parent not communicating enough with their children. I don’t just mean telling them to fufulu the ipus or vele the vao. I mean.. the whole corny palagi thing.. spending quality time and getting to know one another.
    I’m a parent,and i’ll be damned if i let my son lose himself the bullshit that comes with wearing red underwear on heads and drinking piss to get a buzz and rapping about gloomy ass shit.
    i had a ex from sydney who had the potential to be somebody with his rugby and his rapping.. but instead chose to roll with “hoodrats” and throw up gang signs. He came from a broken family and in return made a broken famil of his own. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that he was a lost kunt because he had no mother or father to hug him everday.
    I understand parents work hard to make money to put food on the table, but u still need to sit down with ur sons and daughters and get to know them to the point where u can trust that they wont waver to the dark side.
    for the parents reading this thinking to themselves they know their kids well… tell me.. whats ur kids fav colour? whos his fav musician? who do they currently have a crush on? ia ga… if the only thing u know is his fav alcoholic beverage.. then ur obviously doing something wrong

  5. i never undastood y its so cool to get into gangs…yeah i know that sometimes its peer pressure but were islanders and we in my opinion are raised to know wats right from wrong…even though people pressure u into doing things you shouldnt go down that road being an islander and knowing the things your family went through wen they came ovaseas for a better life..y go ruin it because we all know u get in a gang u are more than likely to end up in prison..and then wea do u go from thea?

  6. Thanks for the comments guys.

    A couple of days ago, some Pacific Island teenage youths (14 yo’s) held up a corner shop and stole some money, sweets and ice-cream.

    I’d bet that these kids are from good island families and probably have siblings that are on the straight, doing good for themselves. There doesn’t seem to be this developing underclass situation in the Samoan community because most of these kids went to the same churches, schools etc as we did. Along the way they make the wrong decisions.

    But it begs the question why? And how do we stop it?

  7. DAYUM! *proceeds to share her story*

    I was youtubing the other day (as you do instead of doing mum’s feaus whooops lol) and I came across a poem by this palagi guy on def jams by the name of Gemineye called “What are you fighting for?” (here’s the link -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GF8rmu5WPQ). Far out it was deep and so true that i wanted to share it with all the “g’s” i know (esp. my fia ‘bloods’ bro who grew up in Western Samoa and only came here all but 5 years ago). So, I show him the first chance I get (while he’s beboing ofcourse! haha), pretending it’s some mad as thingo majig-o haha and honest to who! The first two lines and he’s angry… Umm, confusion? Why are you angry and tossing in your seat, unwilling to listen to this poet speak truth? His excuse? “F dis, white people F’d up everything for us”. OIII, THIS GUY! Grew up with the love and support from his mum and our extended family, My uncle adopted him to Australia so he could get a future here, fed/clothed/basically did anything for him and what did he choose to do? Drop out of all his OP-elligible classes to the easy ones coz his friends were in it (his dream to become a music teacher down the drain), start drinking/smoking/staying out late -- ALL UNDERAGE, hang out with these olders cats who are in their mid20s and are affiliated with such activities mentioned before, not to mention into making ‘beats’ and all that blah… ANYWAY! This article has a true point when it says that these kids need to learn the difference between ‘relating to’ and ‘being influenced by’ anything they see/feel from these gangs.

    Now i don’t know if something went down in my brother’s upbringing that has given him a sense of relating to such gang movements but no-one has f’d anything up for him but himself. Now all he has is a red rag and no job, no money, no future coz he chose to follow a colour instead of remembering his family’s love for him, his ‘dad’s’ dreams when he went to fix the paperwork to make the adoption final, that some day my bro would be rolling in the money so his mum back in Samoa will have a future too.

    Don’t make excuses and try and analyse the choices behind them, these kids need to grow up. Who give a *ish how you started the race, it’s how you finish it that counts.

    Peace

  8. I’ve never been to NZ before, but I’m from California, and you do see Polynesian Youths associating themselves with gang factions.

    To me its more of a peer-pressure thing. Where their enviornment they live in, kind of leans them towards going into such directions as joining a gang. Maybe the youths feel the need to be protected, and that affiliating themselves with a “click” can give them that sense of protection. Maybe the youths are neglected in their individual households, and feel the need to find acceptance wherever it may be. Maybe its a acceptance of what is “hype” or defined as “cool,” where some polynesian youths might be lead to believe that joining a gang defines them as being one of the “cool” people. Maybe its the modern day what we would call “Rap” “Hip/Hop” “Gangsta” music, and movies that are flooding the mainstream media and culture these days.

    No matter what the case or reason may be, the one real solution to solving this dilemma is in fact, there is no real solution to solving this problem. It is going to take many solutions, and its going to have to start in each and everyone’s individual household. That’s where you are raised and that is where you learn the difference between what is good and bad.

    Here in California what I noticed with a good majority of Polynesian Youths that joined gangs was that none of them joined local Sports teams or leagues. The kids that did join sports teams, ended up better off in my opinion. Off the streets, away from trouble, in a team enviornment and atmosphere, learning the nuances of hardwork and teamwork. And just being in a social setting that was not anywhere near gang like activities, was truly a blessing for most of these kids. I could not say the same for those kids who did join up with gangs and never took part in sporting leagues. This is just a simple example, of how we could all address this issue. Its a big issue not only their in NZ, but everywhere.

    It the end its up to the individual’s own will power to determine for him or herself what they want to do with their lives.

    Nice article!

    joda

  9. Malcolm X once said judge a person not by the color of their skin (well if you juxtapose that principle into this day and age and also in application to your thoughts… .by the hoody they wear .. grins.. you get my drift heh heh) but by their deed, by their character. And how true that is. It is unfortunate at times that we live the paradox ‘first impression do/does count’ You don’t wanna fink ill or jump the gun, but you’re driven by fear and bias and from the information you’ve been exposed to, in seizin up/out or passing judgement on people.

    Of the gangzta issue, it is complex and you can come in at any given angle. I hear your thoughts.

    There’s the lure and attraction, the superficial glitz & glam of the whole thang. There’s the ‘easy life’… There’s ‘recognition’ ….. there’s ‘respect’ …. And then and sadly as well, there’s ‘family’ … Most youths immerse themselves in this lifestyle to replace an emptiness in their lives, to give their lives meaning. Many may come from broken family and are often ‘recruited’ with the tools of the trade (drugs and a ‘good time’ ). The reasons go on . . .

    That’s why in our island community. In the nucleis of each individual Samoan family this needs to be our focus. To instill in our young uns our values our core beliefs. And not only that, follow that up with positive reinforcement. A family as a whole, parents and children, siblings, collectively it needs to be a joint effort…. Of course there’s always the chance or the situation that even our best efforts or even if we follow these ideals and ‘formula’ it don’t always pan out. The hard thang about it is not to be harsh with oneself for if you know you’ve done good by the youth, woteva happens ‘out there’ is beyond your control. The important thang is not to tire in our responsibility of keep on keeping on. At least if they do find themselves in Gangstga Ville… that little voice that has been instilled in them throughout their growing up will always be talking to them….

    But I harp on…. suffice it to say, I loved your thoughts immensely uso.

    Brings back memories for I too used to catch the train into the city for work :)))))

    Ia manuia

  10. tru…@ article…and jayfoo (rahh tiger)

    we dont kno people…what they’re going thru/been through….what their life is like….

    For sure, the whole gang thing is annoying….seeing kids with their colours, signs etc…

    i wish we could do more to help them realise, that they can find strength within …, direct their energy into something a lil more positive….

    i’d like to say, that there family should be their support group, but hey, these days….sometimes its lack of, that pulls them into it

    But yes….We should always treat people as individuals…, look inside them, rather than the outward appearance…..treat people fairly…..

    Loved ur article 🙂

  11. loved the story buddy. i too get annoyed with the youth and seeing them dressed to represent a colour/group/gang whatever but i always bite my tongue lol because i dont wanna judge ppl on what i see…i dont kno much about gangs but i do hear and see a lot about it. id love for it to stop, i dnt like it lol infact i hate seeing the young samoan kids taking photos of themselves acting all tough..but i jus gotta find another way to help change that..lol instead of judging and causing a big fuss lol.
    and as for that conductor guy LOL some ppl dont even realise theyr being judgmental/racist whatever..theres like this thin line between ‘doing your job’ and ‘using your instincts’. It sure does suck when drown your thoughts with race issues and all…but we cant help it sometimes.

    anyways..i loved the read.

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