Purpose And Meaning Behind Gang Autobiographies

Firsthand narratives by gang members can serve different purposes. Many of the autobiographies produced, such as the ones written by Stanley “Tookie” Williams, Kody Scott, Mona Ruiz, and Cordozar Broadus were written for a specific reason in mind; to act as a call to action. A call to action is some sort of program or force that aims to influence and help at risk youth, and also youth or adults who are in gangs trying to get out. These autobiographers express their desires to help or inspire through their writing. Some do provide help and influence in a positive light while others are argued to not be as influential.

Stanley “Tookie” Williams, one gang autobiographer, wrote, Redemption: From Original Gangster to Nobel Prize Nominee. Williams wanted to inform and educate with his writing. When he was up for the death penalty he made an appeal for clemency, one of the main points in the appeal was, “The basis of this petition is the personal redemption of Stanley Williams and the positive impact of the message he sends. Thousands of students, teachers and parents have written to say that Stanley Williams and his message are of value – that Stanley Williams and his message lift them up, teach them and give them hope.” (Brumble 155) Along with writing his book, he also co-wrote eight semi-autobiographical children’s books (Brumble 156). Thousands of people found Williams’s autobiographical works to be inspiring and worthwhile. His appeal however, was denied and he was later sentenced to death. The other side of the argument questions the actual effects of Williams’s stories. Do they really frighten children away from gang life or do they really entertain? “I think that we should be more skeptical about Williams’s assumptions that gangbanger stories will frighten children away from gang involvement by showing them the terrible reality of gang life.” (Brumble 169) Monster Kody Scott is one example where Williams’s stories were not helpful in preventing future gang involvement. Kody Scott was also a member of the crips, and Williams provided him with many of the stories that inspired Kody “‘I remember going up to Tookie’s house —he was West Side Regional Commander of the Crips – To watch him lift weights and to hear the original Crip war stories…A lot of us used to go to his house to get firsthand knowledge of Cripism..”’ (Shakur 246-47)

Mona Ruiz, another gang autobiographer wrote her book Two Badges: The lives of Mona Ruiz to help and inspire others, to tell her story, and to show others can do it too. Ruiz was involved in a girl gang and then turned her life around by joining the police force. David Brumble, in his article Stanley “Tookie” Williams, Gangbanger Autobiography and Warrior Tribes, argues that Ruiz’s book is more powerful and influential because she doesn’t tell as many descriptive war stories “…and Mona Ruiz, who writes about her experiences in a Santa Ana girl gang, tell few coup tales. But they are more insightful and more likely to inspire young people to emulate the empathic adults they became, rather than the violent adolescents they once were.” (Brumble 170)

Cordozar Calvin Broadus, also known as Snoop Dog, belongs to the category of autobiographers who say they want to help but their actions may sometimes be construed as contradictory. Snoop Dog was a member of the Crips gang in high school but eventually got out and became a rapper. In his autobiography he says that he wants to help the youth and keep them away from gangs “…urging the youth of America to foreswear gangbanging – and then he urges the youth of America to go out and buy his latest CD, Top Dog, a CD that includes such lines as these: ‘Make ‘em bleed is the motto that I live by./If you fuck with me it’s a must you die.’” (Brumble 167) The lyrics in his songs do not always promote the gang free life he promotes.

Stanley Williams, Mona Ruiz, Kody Scott and Cordozar Broadus are all ex gang members who have written about their life experiences. In many instances they have been shown to be beneficial and influential, and in others they have been considered more harmful then helpful. Regardless of the results of their literature, the author’s intent is clear, they hope to inspire, warn and help.

Works Cited
Brumble, David. “Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, Gangbnger Autobiography, and Warrior Tribes” Journal of American Studies 44 2010: 155-170. Internet.
Shakur, Sanyika. Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993. Print.
Ruiz, Mona and Boucher, Geoff. Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz. Texas: Arte Publico Press, 1993. Print.

Photo Citation:
“Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz.” Boarders.com. Web. 2 Dec 2010.