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OPINION: ''I Am Not a 'Gangbanger,' I Am an 'Alternative Youth Group Coordinator''

 

As many people know, so-called “street gangs” in Chicago have been in the news recently, more so than usual.  We are being blamed for the current and skyrocketing violence in the city. This renewed attention to Chicago violence and its gangs have given us chances not only to express our concerns and demurs to police, but with the media’s heavy interest, we had an unprecedented opportunity to undo some long standing misrepresentations about who we are.  And just like I said last week: we, the Chicago chapter of the Mara Salvatrucha social club (a.k.a. MS-13), are not “gangbangers.”

I am not a gangbanger, I am an “Alternative Youth Group Coordinator.”  I reject the term “gangbanger”, personally.  It is inaccurate and hurtful.  Just like a sports scout, I scout out troubled teens and young adults and help them find strength, stability, and a sense of belonging in their communities; a sense of family, if you will.  We mustn’t forget that the world is chalked full of physical and emotional dangers for kids.

Case in point: Last month a talented young athlete named Jimmy Wilcox, from South Division High School, was in football practice when he suffered a serious head injury on the field.  He is still in Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, unconscious and having to be fed intravenously.  He may never recover.

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What a heartbreaking, needless accident, huh?  And when I heard about it I couldn’t help but think of how Jimmy wouldn’t have suffered such a tragedy if he had just been hanging out with us, Chicago’s MS-13 organization.

Another painful case: 14-year-old Andre Lopez was helping his father clean the gutters on their house last weekend near Wood Dale. Police say Andre broke his neck after he slipped and fell 12 feet from their roof. Honestly, do you think we of MS-13 give a shit about clean gutters? And so Andre would be alive today if he had just been hanging out with me and the rest El Salvador’s best! The disaster would have been averted; it just makes perfect sense.  Andre would be alive right now, building self-esteem, hanging with his friends at MS-13, and even developing his math skills while calculating measurements of nonconventional pharmaceuticals.

Image And what about the kids who are just socially awkward, who have never been good at getting friends or a date?

Society is tough on kids.  Many today have low self-esteem because they’re unpopular, or bad in school, or have troubled home lives.  They’re made fun of and never picked for dodge ball teams in gym class.  Can any of you remember how humiliating it was to be denied entrance into a club, or job, or sports team, or a group of girls, or even your own family?  Well, I, as a Chicago's MS-13 Alternative Youth Group Coordinator, say “Yes, we have a spot for you!”  We have that club you’ve been denied access to; we have more jobs than you can handle, we have a family atmosphere for you, too.  And we have girl and boyfriends for you like you wouldn’t believe!  And as for getting picked on in school..?  Trust me, it won’t be happening again once you join the MS-13 community youth group association.

But whenever I come within 500 yards of someone’s school to get them to join my club, I’m not hailed as the Alternative Youth Group Coordinator I am —it’s “gangbanger” I’m called.  What a demeaning, disingenuous term!  It’s almost enough to make all my 25 “R.I.P…” tattoos weep.

Well, it’s time me and my fellow MS-13 sssociates get credited for the services to our youth.  We perform a valuable service to disgruntled and lost teens and young adults in America’s cities, and we only ask for their love and loyalty in return…endless, obedient, undying loyalty.

So the next time you see me in your neighborhood or hanging around a school, please don’t scoff at me with murmurs of “Look at that gangbanger!”  It’s just me, your local Alternative Youth Group Coordinator.  Pleased to meet you!

-Sincerely,

Juan “Stinky Toes” Hernandez,

MS-13 Alternative Youth Group Coordinator

 

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