I call this missive “Edgar’s letter” because it was found in the personal papers of my friend Edgar Orsini after he died. Edgar was a Latin King that I first got to know in the early 70s. The letter is not addressed to anyone in particular, nor is it signed. That makes it uncertain as to whether Edgar was the author of this letter or not. It remains important for the rest of his family, as well as others connected to the gang lifestyle, however, because of its content. Whether Edgar wrote this note or not, it must have been important to him because he kept it neatly packed in the file of his personal papers. What makes it eerily haunting for his son Anthony, however, is that it echoes what his dad said to him the night he was killed. Just before going out on that fateful night, Edgar turned to Anthony and said, “I care about you. I love you very much,” words almost quoting verbatim what we find in the next-to-last paragraph. Therefore, whether Edgar actually wrote these words, they were considered important enough to keep and must have echoed his own personal sentiments. These were sentiments he obviously wanted to communicate with members of his family, and in particular, we might guess, his own sons (Edgar Jr., Carlos, and Anthony). Hence, the message is of utmost significance to Anthony and others who will read it. It has a message of truth that all gang-bangers would be wise to heed. The letter itself follows:
* * * * * * *
Before you make the wrong decision, please listen to me. The history of all gang feuds is the history of label struggle for the sake of “click” recognition. It is the egotistical force which leads our people to rivalry and senseless disputes which often cost the high price of human life. The life of our people! With the intention to help change this social and oppressive phenomena, I’m writing to convey to you the negative aspects of gang life and shatter that false illusion of good that blinds our brothers and sisters into believing that they need to be a gang member.
Imagine a group of people on top of a cliff, and they are all holding hands, they made a vow to hold each other’s, jump off the cliff and not let each other go until they hit the surface. Well, that symbolizes the gang life. The group represents the “gang.” The vow symbolizes the vow that every person makes once they join a gang., the deadly act represents the need for recognition and the surface symbolizes destruction.
You are probably saying to yourself, that’s not a good analogy because they wouldn’t make that vow, anyone knows that if you jump off a cliff, you would surely die or if you are lucky, get severely injured, but you are wrong, those kids that join gangs see people die in their own neighborhood because of it. So, what I want to talk about is the fact that they hold hands, the false illusion of love and unity is what binds them, the need for recognition, acceptance, and purpose. Cause our young brothers and sisters to choose that path. (blindfold) You see, we all want to be part of something, but due to our ignorance of the potential consequences, we see sometimes make the wrong decisions, joining a gang is definitely the wrong move and once you make that decision, its hard to turn back.
While they were falling and getting close to the surface, some of them realized what they were headed for and some remained blind, those that wanted out before they reached the surface were trying their hardest to grab a tree branch or something that would stop the fall, only a couple were able to succeed, some of them couldn’t make it because they jumped too far away from the cliff, and nothing was within reach. Some of them couldn’t get out of the situation because the person that was holding their hand wouldn’t let go. So, in the end, those that were blind, those that were not within reach of anything, and those that were held back were all destroyed, yes, only a couple out of the whole group managed to stop the fall by grabbing hold of something.
While living a gang lifestyle, everything looks fine, but after a while, things change, reality begins to kick in and some gang members want to make a change. They begin to see the destruction that lies before them, only a small number are able to make that change, some of them couldn’t change the situation because they were too deep into gang-banging and there was no help within reach, “it was too late”, some of them tried to change their lives, but their homeboys held them back. So, in the end, those that were blind, those that couldn’t find help, those that were held back were all destroyed, like I said, only a small number of gang-bangers wake up and are given another chance. But, they are not the only ones, even right now, as I write, there are thousands of teenagers getting ready to jump off that cliff. This isn’t going to change until we unite and let it be known that joining a gang will get you nowhere, I know this for a fact! I’ve served half of my life in and out of gangs.
We need to talk.
Yes, I want to talk to you! I want you to know I care about you and love you very much, you are my life. And I do not want to see you make the same mistake I did, or maybe one worse.
Please don’t take your life for granted.
Edgar Orsini was shot to death on July 15th, 2001. That night, before he went out, Edgar turned to Anthony and said “I care about you and love you very much.
Beach and Spaulding Latin Kings ca. 1972. Edgar Orsini is top row, far left. Big Papo is top row center. They’re all dead.
After reading this you might want to view this rap video by Lecrae called Don’t waste your Life. Find it at: