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Thesis Project

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Created: January 17, 2002
Latest Update: January 17, 2002

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Jaime's photo from San Diego South Central Los Angeles

Created by: Jaime E. Shepherd

Copyright: Jaime E. Shepherd, January 2002.


The movies Boys in the Hood, Menace to Society, Dead Presidents, South Central, Don't be a Menace to South Central while Drinking your Juice in the Hood, all of these movies present images of a negative reality. They all achieved a common goal in the presentation of the problems that plague South Central Los Angeles, and urban communities across the United States.

  • The Unemployed Male
  • Drug Abuse
  • Illiteracy
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Gang Violence
  • Absent Fathers
  • Single Parents
  • Minority on Minority Crime
  • High School Drop-Out
  • Irresponsible American Males
  • Angry Females
  • Uncontrollable Children

In these films the images presented are frightening, especially if we were on the outside looking into this reality. It would be extremely easy to accept these images of South Central Los Angeles, if I were outside looking in; it would be easy to assume that all of us wear a disposition with pride.

jeanne's comments
I'm not quite clear on what "it would be easy to assume that all of us wear a disposition with pride." means here, Jaime.

Toni Morrison said, "Definitions are not for the defined, but for the definer." Cite the source of the quote. The definitions of South Central Los Angeles are much broader and much more complex than the media's glorification of the negative. Although the negative is reality, there are a variety of realities and reasons for each! The negatives are parts of the psychological changes of slavery that have endured centuries, continuing to enslave the minds of people. Why must we accept negative presentation in the media without explanation of the ramifications of lifestyle choices? The objective of this thesis will be to explore the psychology of the residents of South Central Los Angeles, to attain . . . something missing here?

One of the problems of South Central Los Angeles was beautifully explained by Na'im Akbar in an Essence magazine interview. He said: "Two major problems in African-America (South Central Los Angeles) are materialism and individualism. Materialism is the idea that what provides me with the most symbols of success is the most important. So give me a gold chain, an automobile, and something that gives me the appearance of having arrived. This mentality is a real deceptor ?of community values. The other problem is individualism: the attitude that "This is for me, this is mine, that's what counts." That has eroded the whole sense of family and community. There is a real loss of any sense of accountability. I erased a quotation mark. Appeared lost.

The second and most tragic is the doom of the children in South Central Los Angeles. They are robbed of much of their childhood and the spontaneous joy of merely being alive. They live in neighborhoods that prevent them from playing outside. Through the immediate environment they are thrown into the midst of overwhelming circumstances for which there can be no preparation. These children deal with issues and situations that harden their souls, and callus their emotions. So many special, exciting things in them are killed without their even knowing the true nature of their loss. In the heart of South Central Los Angeles normal is often confused or even mistaken for the abnormal. Youth is a time of innocence, when dreams are given first wings to explore unfamiliar landscapes, but in South Central Los Angeles the youth are confined to the concrete jungles, all around them condemned buildings, walls consumed by graffiti, and liquor stores. Man, full of years, is merely a corroboration of the lost? dreams of his youth. A dreamless environment destroys everyone that is exposed to it! Then what is the hope for the residence of South Central Los Angeles when so many of the extrinsic variables are destructive?

These same children of South Central Los Angeles are likely to have cold lives. A ceiling is placed on their dreams by an environment that taught individuals to expect little and to hope for even less.

jeanne's comments
Jaime, I feel like I'm bouncing back and forth from dreams to no dreams. I like your image of the dreamless environment. But I'm not sure you've thought it through enough to be consistent with it.

Also I'm a tad concerned that this opening sounds almost as negative as the perspective of the movies you cited above. Do you really want to start out on that negative note?

If, on the other hand, they understood the purpose connected to their own experiences and the lessons that they should have learned, and share with the youth the enthusiasm and or the possibilities of life, in exchange for the negative. That will change the direction of South Central Los Angeles! In place of giving the children what we received, let us give them what you wanted or want from life. Combine that with the love a nurturing that we received it will began to provide color to dreams that previously did not exist. It must never be forgotten that people can be conditioned in favor of the positive, just as they are conditioned to the negative. If we began to work on the psychology of the children, it will begin to transform South Central Los Angeles into the utopian state that it potentially can become. It will put in the hands of the children some of the keys that will unlock the doors to their hopes and dreams and closes the door to discontentment and discouragement. The Honorable Benjamin E. Mays said, " It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a Calamity not to dream!" South Central Los Angeles can be the sounding board that can ignite a series of consciousness, which will shine a light into the entities that plague urban communities across the United States. This can also create an atmosphere which will cause elders to condition the youth to high endeavors and great aspiring, and these in turn will put the child out of the immediate, clawing reaches of the tense or the sustained negations of the environment.

The objective of this thesis will be to expose why our Americans-Americans and other minorities of South Central Los Angeles, are Boy's in the Hood, Menaces to Society and killing, stealing, and dying over Dead Presidents. (Names of popular movies that present images of South Central Los Angeles) Also to expose some of the psychological chains of slavery that are still prevalent influencing behavior and creating a false identifications of self. It is my belief that the most dangerous people in society are those in a hopeless state of existence. Toni Morrison in her noble Peace prize acceptance speech said, " They have clipped our tongue and replace them with guns". Martin Luther King said, " Violence is the voice of the unheard". We hurt and no one understands our pain, we cry and no one recognizes our tears, we speak and no one can interpret our language but we are heard when our silent pain explodes into violence. Ice Cube said in his song Bonnie and Clyde Thang, "My freedoms got an AK!" (Which is an assault rifle)? ? The late Tupac Shakur in song Gansta Party, said, " I live in fear of a felony" is having no remorse for his action, just a fear of his third felony. (Which would merit life imprisonment)? ? The voices of our youth have been placed on mute by a society that does not pay attention to anything but violence. Violent music sells millions of albums, violent movies do the best in Movie Theater, violent cartoons are our children favorite, and then all around them violence is a norm. This is problematic in that balance is absent, not enough to counter the negative. Our children are not being heard, and for the most part don't know, nor understand the issues that they are confronted with daily. Our young people are not bad, and certainly not the horrific killers that are presented in the media, yet Good people that are making bad decisions due to limited options!

Proposed Methods:

These are a few of the individuals that I would like to interview for in the documentary.

  • High & Elementary Principals and Teachers:

    What are some of the day-to-day problems that our young people deal with? What is going on in the schools?

  • Community Center Directors:

    What are the existing programs that cater to the right now needs of the community and how can they be modified to reach more individuals. What is their target group? Who are some of the main contributors of their programs? What are some of the problems that seem to have our children caught?

  • Religious Leaders:

    How relevant is the churches program to the lives of individuals that live in the community? What programs do they have that concentrate on the whole-man? (Mind, body, and soul) Most of the churches in South Central Los Angeles have programs that address the Spiritual needs of the community but neglect other important social and physical needs. So my intention is to talk to the ministers of the local churches to see what successful programs they have that cater to the immediate needs of the community. Police, Probation Officers-What is your reasoning for wanting to be a Police Officer what are some of the common things seen on the street daily, that might be shocking to citizens. What are some of the success stories as well as some of the tragedies? What type of individuals are some people that are committing these crimes. Single Parents- Expose the difficulties of raising children alone and how this contributes to the children being involve in negative entities. Also to talk to those parents that have and are raising children in a single parent home achieving phenomenal success against the odds, what is the secret to their success? Gang Members- Old and Young to see what it is that attracted them to the Thug life and is it that attraction that has maintained their allegiance to the gang. What other option did they have before joining the gang? If they had to do it over would they make the same choice twice? What are they doing to stop others from making the same mistake? Drug-Dealers- Why? South Central Los Angeles Creator Created by: Jaime E. Shepherd My name is Jaime E. Shepherd; I was born and raised on the cold streets of South Central Los Angeles. I am a product of my environment, a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks and Sidewalk University. As a youth I cannot recall anyone, opposite my parent that advising me to pursue an education, to study hard, to take the SAT Test. I do recall the Gangsters, the players, the street Hustlers so to speak putting' it down, teaching all of us street game. As a youth I had an affiliation with the Rolling Thirty Crips. (A.k.a. Harlem Crips, one of the largest American-American Street gangs in Los Angeles) In my eyes at that time and place it meant nothing to be the son of an ordained minister, son of a public school principal, grandson of a bishop in a large charismatic organization, but to identify with eight-hundred brothers strong meant the world to me. We pledged our allegiance to each other being down for whatever the situation required. In hind site it was blatant how stupid my values were, but the hoods seemed to be the only entity that sincerely cared, for the most part it seemed as if no one else did! There are thousands of memories from my past that I can retrieve as if they transpired yesterday. Several memories that are easily accessible, I remember running home from school daily down the train tracks, for if a rival gang would approach on one side I immediately ran down the other side of the tracks. We weren't safe until we got to Crenshaw Boulevard because that is where our neighborhood began. I also recollect leaving a high school football game with some older brothers from my neighborhood. I did not know our destination but I was down! (So I thought) until one of my homeboy's in the car, spotted two rival gang members on a bicycle. These brothers unanimously decided that these two young men did not deserve to live, guilty of nothing except being born in a different area. I can still feel the silent fear that I felt, wanting to say something but didn't. I did not want to be labeled a punk. The gun was passed as the other homeboy yelled out the name of the neighborhood. (Good kid making a bad decision!) Like that childhood toy where you place shapes in their matching space. A square will never fit in a circle space, just as I did not fit in that lifestyle. In my life school never really had precedence, I somewhat haphazardly stumble my way through just putting forth enough effort to make the grade. I knew what I was capable of just never challenged or pushed myself for I had no purpose. Until I was employed at the Crenshaw YMCA, which is ironically, located in the neighborhood known as the jungle, enemy of the neighborhood that I live in. As a matter of fact it was the brothers from this neighborhood that chased me down the train tracks. I immediately began to create programs that catered to the right now needs of the community as a whole. When I started the basketball program had 75 children. May 10, 1993, we hosted a basketball Awards Banquet, at the Beverly Hilton, celebrating a league of 400 youth. (Ages 5 to 18) There are about 50 youth that find refuge in the YMCA nightly as an alternative to the street. Where I have homework assistance, computer room, stereo system, weight room, Basketball gymnasium and so often I serve as a counselor. One of my greatest joys was earning the respect of my so-called enemies and my friends. At the funeral of one of my dear friends, another friend with tears in his eyes said "We all we got". I don't believe he knew the full validity of that statement. As an American-American male in this so often alienating, oppressive, uncaring unkind society, propelled by the powers of unemployment and inflation, it is true all we have is each other, I am only as strong as my brother and he is only as strong as me. I just like many others found myself trapped in the circle labeled life, only by prayers and God's grace did I escape the clutches of the street. Now my desire is to be a crusader like Harriet Tubman assisting others from the slavery of drugs, gangs, and street life. To usher them into the satisfaction and freedom of life chasing dreams. Paul Lawrence Dunbar in a poem says, " We wear the mask that lies and grins, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes." The problem occurs when some wear the mask to survive and others love that mask cognitively believing it to be ontologically who they are. It is one thing to lie; it is another thing to mistake a lie for truth. Until responsible citizens of South Central Los Angeles launch powerful campaigns to salvage and restore our image, and not allow society to dictate to us who and what we are but instead present the true manner of people we are. We will continue to be represented as useless, shiftless NIGGAS! South Central Los Angeles Documentary Created by: Jaime E. Shepherd Statistics on the Youth and Young Adult In 1992, while comprising only 3.7 percent of the state population, American-American males constituted 33.8 percent of the prison population and 1.7 and 2.1 percent of the enrollments at the University of California and California State University, respectively; One of every three American-American males aged 20 to 29 is under control of the criminal justice system in California compared to the national average one in four; African- American males comprise 51 percent of the population of state prisons. The lifetime chance of incarceration for American-American male is six times that of white males. 2,740 teenagers get pregnant daily. 1,105 have abortions daily. Every 30 seconds a teenager becomes pregnant. 7,742 teenagers become sexually active daily. Everyday 27 Children die in poverty. 1,375 Dropout of school. 3,288 run away from home. 12 young people are killed each day. Every year 3 million youth abuse alcohol. Every year 5,000 youth commit suicide (500 attempt) 270,00 handguns are carried to school each day. Middle and High School dropout rate is 60 percent. Every 45 seconds an American-American Child drops out of school. Every 50 seconds an American-American Child is arrested. South Central Los Angeles Ghetto- A section of the city in which the minority live! The dark Ghettos are social, political, educational and-above all-economic colonies. Their inhabitants are subject peoples, victims of greed, cruelty, insensitivity, guilt, and fear of their masters. Kenneth B. Clark The sections of the city, where a nickel cost a dime and you pay for everything that you get. Langston Hughes Utopia- A place considered to be ideal or perfect! Utopia is what the imagination of a man has to say about the possibilities of the human spirit. Howard Thurman Utopias are places of refuge for the spirit and those that undertake to project a place of release at some time in the Future. The former he calls utopias escape, the latter utopias of reconstruction. The first leaves the external world the way it is the second seek to change it so that one may have intercourse with it in one's on terms. In one we build impossible castles in the air; in the other we consult a surveyor, an architect, and a Mason and proceed to build a house that meets our essential needs; Lewis Mumford