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Artwork by Sparky

There is a very vicious epidemic occurring in America. Thousands upon thousands of people have been murdered in recent years as a result of gang violence. Our inner city urban communities are imploding at an alarming rate. 

We as a society have failed to acknowledge and address this epidemic in ways that are conducive to finding realistic solutions. Of course, the behavioral patterns of inner city street gangs have been studied by various experts, but all of these professional opinions, however, have been written from an adverse and biased perspective, and have not resulted in accurately identify­ing and describing the source of the problem. 

And while gang violence is considered to be an epidemic, it has not been evaluated and treated as an epidemic. Society views gang members as sociopaths who have chosen to live this nefarious criminal lifestyle. This has resulted in a one dimensional approach to a multidimensional problem. 

Now America is the incarceration capital of the world, occupying 25% of the global prison population. Ironically, despite all of the alleged gang members that have been locked up, all of the prisons that have been built, and all of the laws that have been passed in an effort to curb gang violence, the problem has only gotten worse.

I believe the only way we as a society will ever be effective in one day curing this epidemic is if we first understand that gang violence is a symptom of what I consider to be an actual disease. Our communities have become infected with a malignant ideology, in which the senseless indiscriminate murder of my people by my peo­ple is part of a normal everyday way of life within our urban subcultures.

This malignant ideology now needs to be recognized by society as a disease. Then it needs to be viewed from an his­torical perspective, studied from a clinical perspective, treated from a psy­chological perspective, and cured from a sociological perspective.

My approach to this epidemic, however, is unique because it comes from someone who has suffered from this disease. 

As an actual member of one of the largest and most notorious gangs in South Central Los Angeles, I was completely indoctrinated with this malignant ideology at a very early age in an environment saturated with fear, hate, ignorance, confusion, greed, envy, crime, violence, drugs, and alcohol. 

Along with just about every other combustible element one can imagine, I have the most objective and informed understanding of what caused this malignant ideology, and what needs to be done to cure it. 

I began writing my book, The Malignant Ideology in 2008 while incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison. In 2010, I was sent to the administrative segregation unit for nearly a year, where I had all the time in the world to focus on completing my book.

As part of my book, I had to come up with an art design for the cover. I came up with an image depicting two brain surgeons oper­ating on a distraught gang member to remove the malignant tumor from his brain so as to cure him from his socio-psychological disorder, as he is obviously overwhelmed with the guilt of a lifestyle that perpetuates the mass senseless murders of his own people. As a Black men, we all descend from Africa where tribal warfare is as common as tribal war­fare among gang members. So being that our rivalries are rooted in African tribalism, I decided to depict my image within the continent of Africa. 

As it happens, my neighbor in the hole at the time was an extremely gifted artist, and I commissioned him to draw this image for me from a basic sketch I had drawn myself. His name is Sparky from El Monte Flores, and I owe a debt of gratitude to him for per­fectly capturing the image I wished to convey. Even after he was moved to another sec­tion of the hole out of my reach, he was able to figure a creative way to send the com­pleted image to me. He had it sent within a carbon copy of a medical slip that he gave to a female guard to smuggle to me.

The art department at Xlibris, where I self published my book, then transformed this image to the colored depiction you now see.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Stephen J. Williams

Stephen J. Williams is a writer incarcerated in California and the self-published author of "The Malignant Ideology: Exploring the Connection Between Black History and Gang Violence.” He has been active in restorative justice and ending gang violence through self-help groups that he facilitates. After 22 years, he is now eligible for parole.