A New “Way Of Being” for the Baddest Gang Member in the Hood
By Jason Campos-Keck, Southeast Region
Use Somewhere: “I looked at my fellow point man; I looked back at the gang member. I then declared that was no longer my life.”
PHOTOS: From left to right Naomi Clark-Keck, Aidan White Hawk Clark-Keck, Jason Crazy Bear Campos-Keck, James Keck Jr., Gertrude Keck, James Keck Sr. (in the green shirt)
Other photo Campos-Keck(Apache), Mike Ison Jr.(Lil Mike), Arthur Nieblas (Sapito) (NOT USING NAMES)
My Dad and I PIC 1
Me at 16 w/ Mama T veteran female gangster blessing my jump to leadership in neighborhood
PIC 2 (not using names)
From left top Capone WSB, Oso WPL, Gumby FVG, Psycho 36th Loco’s, Casper WSB, Cabeson E7th, Nacho 38th Loco’s FVG bottom Dreamer WPL-WSB, Apache WPL-WSB. Beginning of an alliance which led to a truce between WPL, WSB, FVG, 38TH, 36TH, E7TH, NPG, MITCHEL ST.
Jason Campos-Keck, MDI member in the Southeast Region, is VP of Outreach for MDI. His story of life in the gangs and life out of the gangs helps him teach a “way of being” for any man in his circles. He asks readers to reach out to him with any questions they may have.
My full name is Jason Crazy Bear Tircuit Campos-Keck. I was born in Chicago, Illinois on the South West side in February 1972 and relocated to East Oakland some time in the summer of 1978.
My ethnicity is a multi racial combination of African American (creole), Native American (Chactaw-Apache), and European (French, Spanish, German, and Polish), but the culture that was most prevalent in my single mother household was African American as our Native heritage had been educated out of my mother through the Louisiana Catholic school system.
My attitude as a young man came from an adaptation of the male examples I experienced growing up both in Chicago as well as California, from the men I saw on the street to the men my mom knew: my uncle and my grandfather, both gangsters in their day.
Specifically, my “way of being” looked like anger, rage, and manipulation, for the purpose of self-protection and survival at any cost. My context was “me against the world.” Success for me was becoming the biggest, baddest dog on the block even when that pursuit often ended me up in the smallest cage on the yard. Success in those days was all about impressions and keeping a difficult balance maintained between fear and admiration from others. This is all difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t lived that life.
To understand the turning point in my life, you must understand the journey, which I will try to summarize as best I can.
My first personal interaction with gangs – outside of playing with their siblings since pre-school – was in 1981 at about age nine when I was recruited to guard the block in case of police interference for the gang’s drug trafficking, burglary and robbery. It escalated in 1985 when I had my first incarceration at age 12 for assault and brandishing a weapon.
I graduated in the gang to local leadership at age 16 after surviving a stabbing and escaping from police out of an emergency room window. I moved up to regional leadership at 18 after being shot twice three months apart. From that leadership spot at 19 I negotiated a truce between seven major gangs in East Oakland. I then married my way out of street activity at the age of 21.
After my divorce at 23, I got stabbed again and spiraled back to street activity and full-blown narcotics addiction. That was until age 26, at which point I officially retired without declaring so. In case I found myself back in prison I wouldn’t have to face any consequences for deciding to sever those ties.
I met my new wife in 2001 a year and a month before my Sterling Men’s Weekend. She almost left me a month later after she realized who I had been after I was shot a third time. I spent a year trying to prove my commitment to her and was not taken seriously until graduating my Men’s Weekend in March 2002. It was here, at age 30, when she began to see my actions were matching my words. She did her Women’s Weekend six months later, and we have been successfully raising our two boys, age 16 and 11, ever since.
It did not become truly clear that I had put gangs and gang life behind me until 2003 when I was leading a point team program. I was with my point man second; we stopped to pick up snacks for a meeting when we were stopped by a young gang member who recognized me and was pleading for my help to go negotiate him out of some drama he had created for himself. I looked at my fellow point man; I looked back at the gang member. I then declared that was no longer my life.
My way of being now is most clearly expressed in my purpose, to be a stand for non-violence and global unity, through direct action in my own environment, by the practice and teaching of men’s work, Tribal Ceremony, healing arts, martial arts, and poverty advocacy, so that my time left here on this life’s journey inspires others to be their purpose, and with that be of service for many future generations to come. My context is purpose-driven, solution-oriented, no problem mother f***er, the man I always wanted to be. Success for me looks like being of maximum service to others, an example of compassion and redemption, moving always forward and never backward.
If I were to speak directly to a man presently in a gang, my message is simple:
Life is too short, too fragile, and too sacred of a gift to continue being played at such a small, insignificant level. If your life finds you suffering such a pain and misery that you feel compelled to throw it away, then throw it away into something that contributes to the universe around you.
- Take a bullet for an orphaned kid
- Do some time for a battered woman
- Get high on feeding a homeless person
- Go down fighting for a life not against a life if you have already lost the fight for your own
If you have survived the life this far and are still alive to be addressed, then you have something to teach others about survival. Ultimately survival is about adapting to change and having the wisdom and courage to see when something no longer serves you, transforming it to something that does.
And if you have lost as many loved ones to violence as I have … close your eyes and speak to them, all of them, and don’t open your eyes until you can hear all of their answers. What do they wish for you? To die? Or to live on in their honor and maintain the freedom of choice they can no longer make?
In truest service, I am complete.