My name is Armando T. Frias
. I’m an ex-gang member and am currently doing life
. I’ve been doing time since I was 12 years old. I started gangbanging at 9 years old. I’ve been through juvenile hall, boys’ ranches, group homes, California Youth Authority, county jail and now prison.
I want to share my experiences with everyone. So that you, your kids and loved ones will not have to go through the pain, suffering and heartache
that I have gone through because of my stupidity and lack of knowledge
I’m here to help those who wish to be helped and enlighten those who have questions. This is my way of making amends to a society I once terrorized.
I’m here to share my advice, opinions and experiences on gangs and to answer any questions you may have. Ask what you’d like, I’m here to help.
-- Armando T. Frías
Q: I saw the documentary on Nuestra Familia, It really made me think a lot of things, such as how it really isn’t worth it, but on. But on the other hand it’s hard, because it’s a form of respect that you get from your homies and your enemies.
What I wanted ask you is if it’s really worth being a down gang member to earn your respect in the streets?
A: When I first stepped away, I was sick for weeks. I made a choice I never thought I'd make. I had good friends of mine questioning if it was true, because they couldn't believe it. But when it came down to it, the respect I thought I had was gone as soon as I stepped away.
You see, we often wrongly define respect when it's really fear that you're putting into your homies and enemies.
Once I got broke off my time, people started counting me out, figuring I ain't ever getting out. "So-called respect is hard to earn, but easily taken." If you're quick to put in work, people fear you, because they know you won't hesitate at any given moment. If they cross you the wrong way, it could be them on the other side of your barrel. It ain't worth it, because it is a temporary form of respect. It's more fear than anything. I know of people who are still in good graces with their homies, but they're locked up and their own so-called homies are trying to get at their girlfriends, sisters or disrespecting their family. Now tell me, what kind of respect is that?
The only way to earn a righteous respect is by removing one's self from that crowd and group. Because with them, respect will NEVER be gained.
Q: I work at a juvenile correctional facility. What advice can you give me to help those who glorify the prison lifestyle. Some youngsters really believe they want to go to prison.
A: First off, young Norteños don't hold no respect for authority figures. To them, they're cops. You must get them to respect you as a man and not a badge if you want them to hear you out. By doing that, converse with them about sports, video games, music, etc. That will bring them out of their zone of trying to act hardcore. Once you build that communication, trust will follow.
It's best to talk to them individually that way it takes away the pressure of what their homies might think.
Gangbanging is a dirty game, let them know to get ready for the pain and heartaches they will have to endure, because when you're locked up, the world continues to turn. Their girlfriends will move on and continue their lives. So prepare for the Dear John letters
. One thing you will have to do is leave your family and friends behind.
In a prison gang, you got to get ready to pick up the steel and put it work. If you refuse you, will be the one getting the steel put on you. You can come to prison for 3 years but leave after serving 15 years, or you might wind up doing life. In prison, ain't no half-stepping.
Just so them youngsters know, most of the time, you'll be moving on your own people. Norteños are the worst enemies of Norteños, and Sureños are the worst enemies of Sureños. Yes, the war is against each other, but most of the time you're hitting or moving on your own group, all because of power struggles, jealousy, envy, etc. I got friends I grew up with since childhood who are now my enemies because of the gang.
All you can do is share this info with them. Some will listen, most will learn on their own experiences.
Q: How is it that you can just leave everything that you have known all your life? Almost everyone in my family is gang related and I have tried to break away but I don't know no other life style.
It's hard to live and be like other people, you know, not having to worry about being killed or anything. I would like that but I really can't see myself going against my blood as much as I may want to, I can't. What do you think i should do?
A: I understand your situation. It's hard to break a cycle that runs deep through your family. For example, if I were to get out tomorrow and my old enemies were to see me, they won't care if I'm a changed man. So I'll be forced to still watch my back.
Ain't nothing wrong with being proud of who you are or where you're from. But one thing you must ask yourself is, what do you want out of life? The choices you make determine the life you live.
You're guilty by association because of your family. Nobody's telling you to turn your back on your family. But just like the saying goes, "only the strong survive." To be able to succeed in life and be somebody, you must have the determination to change. It won't be easy, there will be many obstacles you will overcome and believe it or not, when your family sees your potential in the positive things you CAN and WILL do in your life, they will root you on and support you.
Life is too precious to end up stuck on the shelf for the rest of your life. There is so much talent and potential within our Raza but we find ourselves behind these concrete walls, limited in the things we can do to showcase our skills.
If we weren't blinded by the illusions of this fairytale "cause," who knows what good we could have accomplished?
Don't be added to this group of wasted talent. I'm rooting for you, lil brother, keep your chin up and stay strong!
Q: I would like to know how prison life has changed you?
A: Well, first off, I ain't a complete changed man. I still got old flaws and habits. But what has caused me to make changes ain't prison. It's the situation I found myself in. I was one who promoted the Norteño cause to the fullest! I knew I could one day die or end up doing life in prison because of my beliefs, but was willing to make the sacrifice.
The change came when I got busted and seen my so-called brothers/homies telling on me, backstabbing me and trying to run my reputation through the mud
. I noticed the greed, betrayal and envy that surrounded me.
The "Cause" that I was willing to sacrifice my freedom and life for did not EXIST
! It was a ploy. The "cause" is a ploy used to manipulate our young Raza.
That's when I realized that my loyalties and priorities weren't right. My family, my son is who I need to be loyal to.
That was my mistake, living for a fairytale "cause" when I should have been living for my family. My family has always been there for me, through thick and thin, unlike my so-called homies who crack under pressure. That's real talk!
c/o El Andar
PO Box 7745
Santa Cruz, CA 95061