‘Gangs: Not My Kid’ the best treatment of subject on TV
By Andee Beck
McClatchy News Service
“I just thought it was fun to be in a gang, cuz I love dope, I made a few hundred dollars, actin’ crazy, you, know. I shot at somebody. Don’t know whether I hit him or not.”
This is Billy James Fletcher talking. He’s not a fictional character in some TV movie. He’s real and he’s a part of the documentary, ‘Gangs: Not My Kid,” which premieres Wednesday on the Lifetime cable network.
If you don’t watch television, watch this anyway.
If you don’t have children, watch this anyway.
“Gangs: Not My Kid” is a one-hour special that tells a side of the story that’s so obvious, so powerful, it’s a surprise television hasn’t touched it until now.
As host Tyne Daly explains at the start, “This is a program about gangs. But we’re not going to show you drug busts and police raids – you’ve seen enough of that in the movies and on the news.” Instead, the filmmakers show us the families, whom Daly calls “the real casualties of the gang crisis.”
At the core of these families, and the heart of this film, are mothers, who, like most of us, believe they are doing what’s right for their children, believe they are providing the best possible upbringing, under the circumstances. But the circumstances are stronger than some mothers, too many mothers, in gangland.
The gangland that’s viewed in “Not My Kid” is South Central Los Angeles, home of hundreds of deadly youth groups, including the two that have traveled our way in the last year: the Crips and the Bloods.
L.A.’s the place where gang shoot-outs were responsible for 387 deaths last year. But the gangs and the violence in the city of angels haven’t always been so widespread; the growing number of street deaths reflects a current trend in many urban area.
“These gangbangers don’t care,” says one mother. “They don’t care who they shoot.”
This is a film about those “gangbangers,” about why they don’t care, and about a group of mothers working to reach them and teach them how to care.
Among the “gangbangers” is James, who lives on the dividing line between the Crips and the Bloods. At 13, he was attacked twice. At 14, he continued to resist membership into either gang. When James was 15, his mother, Renee, felt relieved to see James find a “crew” of friends he could spend time with – until Renee discovered the “crew” was affiliated with the Crips, that James had skipped half the school year, and that he had been selling drugs.
The program attempts to describe what motivates such self-destructive behavior. It dishes out textbook explanations about relationships between gangs and poverty, racism and broken homes.
But “Not My Kid” does not pretend to be the definitive document on the causes of gangs. Its power comes from its emphasis on the consequences.
Just as not all kids join gangs, not all “gangbangers’” parents are guilty of negligence. The documentary looks a Spirit House in East Los Angeles. These grieving mothers meet with gang members at a medium security detention camp, and they share their feelings about the gang killings of their sons.
The documentary looks at a family’s hope for Billy James Fletcher, who spent nine months in detention.
The documentary looks at MAGIC (Mother Against Gangs in Communities), a group that stares down the street toughs while painting over their graffiti and leading anti-gang marches through their neighborhood.
Patricia Patrick, the founder of MAGIC, says she’s heard parents say, “Oh no, not my kid.” And here’s what she has to say right back: “Yes, it could be your kid. It could be my kid. The parents need to stop and think, and stop saying, ‘Oh no, not my kid.’”
“Gangs: Not My Kid” is the work of executive producer Dave Bell, a veteran TV producer, and producer-director Shari Cookson. It’s the third in the Lifetime “Signature” series that was started in April with the intention of exploring social issues’ impact on the family.
(San Luis Obispo, CA)
Transcribed By: S Cookson