This editorial represents the views of the young people in The kNOw and was written by one of the youth participants.
When you first hear the word “gang,” fear is a common reaction. Thoughts of being jumped or dying run through your head. But to some, gangs are a sanctuary: A place where people will “have your back” or show you the way when life gets confusing.
There are different viewpoints on what gangs are or can be, but no matter the viewpoint, the fact remains that gangs are harmful. In a broad sense, the current gang impact in Fresno can be seen through violence, tagging on the walls, and recent news headlines highlighting intensified efforts by local police forces to crack down on gangs. However, many people in Fresno aren’t directly impacted by gangs unless someone they know gets jumped or killed.
Some of us in The kNOw have stories of how gangs have impacted our friends and families, whether it’s that we know people who have joined gangs or have been injured or killed by gang violence (and there are many of those stories).
On the flip side, sometimes a gang may be the only thing a young person has, especially when life gets tough. When a young person faces depression, rejection from parents and siblings, or looks for life meaning, sadly, some of them end up finding stability in gangs. A gang provides a network that promises to always be there. Some youth eventually find better alternatives to gangs, but others remain in a group that inevitably changes them – most often for the worse.
For young people seeking support in a gang, The kNOw has some advice: Be strong. Get through life. Someday, everything will change. For now, you need to know who you are and where you stand – not as a member of a gang, but as a person.