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Two Macon Brothers Speak About Gang Affiliation

2015-05-14 18.32.05

 

The Macon Monitor met this week with two Macon-Bibb citizens who acknowledge gang affiliations, but who dispute the perception by many public officials and members of the public that gangs and gang affiliations are themselves the major cause of violent crime in Macon-Bibb. G-Rell, 30, is affiliated with the Crips, and wore blue clothing to our meeting at a Unity-N-Community office.  Johntellis Mathis, 27, is affiliated with the Blacc Team, and wore black clothing. Both are affiliations common in their respective neighborhoods. Mathis joined the conversation later.

Monitor: How long have you been affiliated with a gang?

G-Rell: Since I was about 10. But it’s not what you think, all fighting and shooting and such. It’s a brotherhood. And it’s also about being supportive to our community. Like if somebody needs their grass cut and can’t do it themselves, we help make sure the grass gets cut. And if there’s a grandmother in the neighborhood who’s walking, and needs a ride to Walmart, so we give her a ride, help her.

Monitor: But it’s not all about helping old ladies cross the street.

G-Rell: It’s also about protection. Gangs go way back to the Black Panthers. If you can’t count on the police or others to protect you, you look out for protecting yourself and your brothers and community.

Monitor: And it’s also about selling illegal drugs.

G-Rell: That’s not true for everybody. I have a full-time job. I’ve been working steady for years, since I was a teenager. I work for a major local employer. I have my own car and place and life.

Monitor: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about gangs?

G-Rell: About violence. The gangs are responsible for keeping violence down, not the other way around. You’d be surprised. As for people with different gangs getting along, it’s usually no problem. We go to things where there’s one Blood, one Crip, side by side. No problem. People come for the good time, like to the Macon Peace events, or music events, or wherever.

Monitor: What’s the attraction of the gang affiliation?

G-Rell: There’s so little else that young people are doing. When I was growing up, seemed like we had more activities, and then I got work. Nowadays there ain’t much for young people to do. The places to go, and the jobs, just ain’t the same. Westgate Mall, Macon Mall, they’re nothing like they used to be. What’s left? The clubs? Alcohol and drugs? As for kids, where can they go besides the rec centers and Chuck-E-Cheese?

Monitor: Did you get a high school diploma or GED?

G-Rell: No. I just got jobs and worked. That was easier for me, though. Brothers with felony records have a hard time finding work. Guys like my own brother who went to college, he left. He moved out of town. He says we don’t have no opportunity here for him.

Monitor: Do you have complaints about treatment of people affiliated with gangs?

G-Rell: We have our affiliations, but other people do too. It’s just that our affiliations seen as bad. Police is a gang. Church is a gang. Mercer is a gang. Now, sometimes people in gangs commit crimes, but that’s not usually because of gangs. It’s maybe because a couple of guys don’t like each other, or maybe want money and don’t have jobs and don’t want to hit up mama for money. They want to be men, to provide for their kids.

Monitor: Do you have children?

G-Rell: No.

Monitor: A lot of young women and girls involved with guys in these neighborhoods are getting pregnant young and having babies. Why is that?

G-Rell: You have to ask them. They get money from government for help, and they get child support from the dads too. They seem to do all right compared to the guys.

Monitor: And a lot of these unemployed guys go to prison.

G-Rell: Some of that is bullshit. You look around and see some bad sex offenders and rapists, you see them walking the streets. Why they not locked up and made examples of? And then because some guy gets in a fight for something, or commit a small crime, they get charged for participating in a gang activity when that was not the real crime that they committed. And you can get many years for something that you didn’t do? But you can destroy a child’s life by raping the child, get small time and be back on the streets? Some of these probation officers have no trouble finding gang members after they’re released, but the officers seem to have lots of trouble finding sex offenders who don’t register. Why is that?

[At this point, Mathis entered the room and, after introductions, joined the conversation.]

Mathis: We friends. I can depend on him [G-Rell] even though we be with different gangs.

Monitor: We’ve been talking about the way people view gangs.

Mathis: Some people think gang connections are all bad. But look at some of the top NBA stars. Some of them have gang connections, and they’re still held up as role models. Zack Randolph and Derrick Rose said to be with the GDs [Gangster Disciples]. John Wall said to be with the Bloods. Jason Terry and Shawn Marion said to be with the Crips. Around here in Macon, though, you be with a gang, you looked down on automatically.

Monitor: Some gang members locally have done some pretty bad crimes.

Mathis: Right, and that’s not good. But just because KKK members were Christians, nobody blame all Christians for being bad guys.

Monitor: So what is causing violent crime?

Mathis: A lot of it is bad parenting, but they blame the streets. But the people who be blaming the streets aren’t raising their children. The gangs are really stepping up in the absence of families.

Monitor: When did you get affiliated with the Blacc Team?

Mathis: When I was maybe 12 or 13. And it actually helped me grow and develop, which is what I mean by the “GD” gang, which I’m also affiliated with. Kind of like a fraternity or sorority at college, only I didn’t get to go to college. “Blacc” to me stands for “bettering lives and creating community.”

Monitor: You have a brother who was arrested in the Wings Café shooting.

Mathis: That was a bar fight but they’re making it out to be some big gang thing. My brother really isn’t involved with the gangs. But you get some officer swearing on the stand that my brother’s a gangster, and everybody just assumes that he is, and that what went on at Wings was some big gang thing. It was not. It was a bar fight that got out of hand because some people had guns. The guns was the real problem, not the gangs.

Monitor: What is the state of the gang community in Macon today?

Mathis: The gangs in Macon are more unified now than they ever been. Gangs are making efforts to stop violence, get rid of gun violence. You can see some of these stop-the-violence messages in videos like Racks Up, Mac-Town Down.  We do what the police don’t do. We be getting people to stand down.

Monitor: What could the police be doing better?

Mathis: One thing would be a drive, no questions asked, to collect guns from people. Give them incentives to give the guns up. We tried that a few years ago. We should make that permanent. Get the guns off the street.

As for selling drugs, some guys do that, but you know, it’s a mixed message. Even Allen Peake is basically saying let’s legalize marijuana.

I say let’s focus on the guns and the violence. The gangs can get together on that. And the gangs would be willing to get together on that with the police if the police would change their approach to gangs. That’s not possible, though, if the police be targeting gangs just because it sounds good to target gangs.

Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. Big Brother says:

    I dont agree to those words because I know for a fact these guys try to make it seems like it’s all about brotherhood but it’s not. Majority of them dont have a high school diploma or GED. Whats even sad is that they think everything is a gang…A church is a gang??!!!…..REALLY MAN?!! That was the most ignorant statement ever.

  2. MF says:

    I find it funny the first post on the page is a negative one. If you know anything about black history or read a book, you would know a church, law enforcement, and government itself is a gang. The army kills people everyday.. anyway, misconceptions and ignorance are a bigger problem than gangs. What sir or madam are you doing to improve the community?

  3. Sunshine says:

    big brother whoever youbig brother whoever you are you are so quick to put down the young brother. Just because you have a little more education then him you are no better. You may not had walk down the road those young men have been down. So fund away to help them not beat them down. Now I do agree with the first young man about the kids in Macon don’t have anything to do or go for the summer or after school. I remember growing up in Macon there was a lots of summer camps. Now you my find s few. The bible said it take a village to raise one child. So what do you would think to raise a so call gang sons? I also agree with when he said that the Police is a gang. But not only the police, the judges, lawyers,lawmakers,firemen and the KKK.. Now you’ll hear them asking for help. My question is what are you guys going or can do to help them? Also fon’t just show and take about the bad things the gang members or doing. Talk about the good too.

    • Blaque says:

      I completely agree with MF and Sunshine. Nowadays, they consider any two “black” men a gang! Really?? But how many gangs do you see giving back to communities, feeding the homeless, helping less fortunate families get toys and clothes for their kids Christmas, pass out cards and roses for Mother’s Day, Family fun day for fathers on Father’s Day??? How many “gangs” do those type of thing? The problem these days, people are so negative and rarely support each other on positive things. If its not beneficial to them, its not worth anything. We need to get together and come up with something to better our city and involve these kids more. Lets start a peace challenge!

      • Dave Oedel says:

        Blaque, a peace challenge sounds good, but I’m hearing through the grapevine that some authorities are not taking too kindly to this discussion, and to the olive branch offered by Johntellis Mathis. Let me remind one and all that there is something called the First Amendment that still holds firm in our constitutional system. We should encourage a robust discussion, not try to squelch it through the use of official power. That is the kind of tyranny that gave rise to our nation in the first place.

  4. […] citizen Johntellis Mathis, along with another Macon citizen, G-Rell, spoke out on prosecutorial over-aggressiveness with respect to gang affiliation last week in the Macon […]

  5. Nate says:

    I read all of what was said. I won’t comment one way or the other on the interview. But I do have a question. If a brother or sister wanted to leave your gang, can they leave without retaliation or getting a beatdown?

  6. Nate says:

    I posted a question yesterday and it appears that it’s not in the list of comments today. I would like an answer.

    If a brother or sister want to leave a gang, will they be beat or retaliated against?

  7. Kacie Jay says:

    I came to this discussion through a search of the new Jeezy video. I am white but I understand the need for people to gather in groups of like minded people, and to have a support system. I think one problem is the word “gang,” the negative connotation of that word alone immediately prevents people from understanding what a brotherhood is. Yes, churches are “gangs” in the typical sense that they are a grouping of like minded people who gather for various reasons and events. And yes, there are some very bad people in those churches. I will agree that white people immediately feel uncomfortable being the racial minority in a group of people. I cannot imagine living my life always being the minority. What I do, however, is try to approach every person I meet – regardless of skin color, religion, etc. as an individual, human being and forget the differences. Try to find common ground. Higher education isn’t for everyone. I have a college education – my husband has a GED. There must be adequate job opportunities for everyone and experience needs to as important, if not more, than a degree. There must be affordable, good housing. There must be an excellent public school system to assist everyone. We cannot continue in the direction we are going.

  8. Kacie Jay says:

    One thing I would like to ask, what is your opinion on the Jeezy video which seems to glorify the poverty and crime of Macon? Why couldn’t this video show the people helping each other out rather than making it about drugs and cash and crime? (I am pro legalization of weed, btw).

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