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Those Unsung Homies—Stupidity, Anger, Violence, Despair

The Beat Within, Youth Commentary, Jo Posted: Dec 07, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the past two years, Jo — the 16-year-old writer of the following — has been locked up in a San Francisco Bay Area juvenile hall behind a solid steel door on which there is a large sign stating emphatically: “Do not talk with this minor.” Ironically — given the designation of “minor” on his door — at the time of his crime, the 14-year-old Jo (under the terms of California’s Proposition 21) was “magically” designated an adult by the District Attorney for the purpose of trial and punishment.

Since writing this, Jo has been sentenced to multiple life sentences, after which he wrote: “The first time I get to go before the parole board (to be denied) I’ll be fifty years old, so watch out for that.”
boy behind doorEven in isolation, “this minor” has honed his thinking and writing talents, looking deeply inside himself and the environment in which he grew up to try to understand what happened two years ago when, in an eruption of gang-inspired violence, Jo and his co-defendant shot and killed two teen rivals. Unable to join the weekly workshops conducted by The Beat Within, a writing program in Bay Area juvenile halls, Jo relies on the U.S. Post Office to deliver what he writes, never knowing how his pieces will be received. His writing has become both an act of faith and a means of survival. Jo writes for The Beat Within (www.thebeatwithin.org), a writing program inside juvenile halls in the Bay Area and nationwide.
—Michael Kroll


Damn, it trips me out how the homie Stupidity is always present. He’s there with you all day, every day. Even on a church day. Most of the time you’ll catch him posting up with his carnalito, Ignorance. These two brothers get along so well that it’s truly hard to believe. They’ll both get in your mente and spin you up into making irrational decisions.

I don’t know if you’ve met their baby primito Anger yet, and let me just say, bro, if you haven’t, then don’t. These foo’s got a little juego they play where Anger will pump you up into doing something and Stupidity will just assure you that it’s firme—don’t even trip. Then here comes Ignorance breaking it down to you that what you’re about to do is right because the other person “played you.”

After a while, if they like you and they see you won’t abandon them, they’ll introduce you to their beautiful distant yet close cousin, Violence. This jaina is as lovely as can be. The way she would help you take care of your problems is just magic in itself.

If she thinks you’re serious and not afraid to commit, here comes her uncle, Impulse. This vato will have you reacting so fast, you won’t even see Violence hasta que she’s walking away with a satisfied smile on her face after being allowed to assist you in another one of your oh-so-many problems.

Then here come the locked doors and brick walls, and now the homies mentioned earlier are dominating mostly your every thought. But all they’re succeeding in is helping you get yourself deeper and deeper. With time, but only with time, something will go wrong with all the homies, and they will sick their weird tio, Sadness, on you. This one’s no better than the others — if anything, he’s worse, because all he really succeeds in doing is making you feel like he carved out your insides with an ice cream scooper; makes you feel as though your corazon’s been on fire for centuries.

One day after being with Tio Tristeza all day, you hear someone knocking on the front door, and who else can it be but his brother, Despair, who is a lightweight hermit, and who chose to hold off on meeting you ‘til he seen his carnalito was loving it.

Despair…Damn, what can I say about Despair? That like all the other homies, he’s there more than enough, and he will accomplish having you thinking why are you on this mundo anyways? He’ll have you wondering how you’re gonna get through your days — until they take you to visit the grandfather of all these homies, a guy named Reality. This viejo will have you in his hands for the rest of your life, once he opens your eyes with a bucket of cold agua. He’ll be there for you siempre to wake you up, to put you to bed… for everything, he’s there. It’s funny though--once you meet him, he just won’t seem to go away.

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