Powerful activist, writer and filmmaker, Valerie Goodloe, produced a gut wrenching, personal documentary about her daughter’s journey into gang life which is painfully honest, gripping and in-your-face. The memoir depicts when some young ladies decide to explore homosexuality and gang life, despite having a middle-class upbringing. Being a doting mother and providing private school and violin lessons to society “appears” to be the right thing to do for child raising, but when a daughter rebels, there are some internal issues that have manifested in the child’s life.
Goodloe says all parents’ need to be mindful of their personal decisions, which have impacted a child’s life. Feelings of abandonment, loneliness and feeling voiceless in one’s own home can have wide-reaching effects on youth, despite a family’s class, values, formal education, religious training, work ethic and income status.
Goodloe appeared at Saint Sabina Church, with a small group of about 100 women, to share her documentary and facilitate a discussion about how to steer our young ladies away from gang life. Black and Latino girl gangs are rising, as gang bangin’ is an option for young women who want this element in their life.
Goodloe said sometimes young parents are caught-up in “living my life” and lose track of what is happening to the children in the household. Goodloe has three sets of children by three different fathers. The transition of husbands, step-children and internal change impacted her daughter tremendously.
“As we step out and do things, we must consider HOW we do things…We don’t want our kids finding consistency somewhere else,” said Goodloe. The film shows that one daughter becomes a mother and graduates from college, while the other daughter graduates from high school and eventually becomes a gang interventionist in Queens, NY.
Her daughter, Nafeesa, never adjusted to her parents’ divorce or living between two different households. Nafeesa, who was 11 years-old at the time of their divorce, also felt very uncomfortable with the anti-gay tone in the family, which did not accept her homosexuality. In the documentary, Nafeesa’s father says that the Bible and the Holy Quran do not accept homosexuality. “I still love my daughter,” said dad, Shareef Asa.
With the changes in her personal household, she felt that the love she received was limited and sought more attention from her parents. Nafeesa’s mother provided horseback riding lessons, music instruction and artistic offerings at a summer camp, but her daughter chose not to use the arts as an outlet for her frustration and anger from her family.
Nafeesa’s gang “family”, the LA Bloods, provided consistency and love for her chosen lifestyle. Nafeesa’s gang life put stress on her mother’s family, which almost divided Valerie and her current husband. Nafeesa had to live with her biological father to relieve the threat to their marriage. When Nafeesa was released from jail or returned from a running away from home, Valerie said sometimes it was like her immediate family was walking on eggshells around her daughter. They had to cope with Nafeesa’s choice of bringing stolen goods in the house to carrying drugs in the home.
In the documentary, Nafeesa talks about how her parents talked about each other, which deeply hurt her feelings. She felt as if the problems in her home overshadowed the attention that she needed from her mother and father. She expressed that she needed someone to talk to, but that communication was absent.
“I was living in fear. I could not let fear enable me,” she said of her experience. The almost two-hour long documentary explores and examines how females are underserved in our communities and rarely receive funding for studies on behavior or family. Goodloe also shares snippets and interviews from a police chief, who also suffered a loss when his granddaughter was murdered, as she was involved in aspects of that life.
Nafeesa said that a successful way in which a girl gang member can leave the gang is to relocate and remove herself from that environment. Nafeesa showed maturity in the film, when she graduates from high school and takes pride in her personal appearance. The family celebrates her accomplishment. Eventually she leaves California for employment and other opportunities, but she admits that she still misses her girl gang members. To date, Nafeesa has not returned to her past lifestyle as a gang member.
Goodloe said she has made peace with who her daughter is today, but still uses this documentary to help parents know what the warnings signs are of daughters being in gangs. Goodloe said that she would find clothes hidden in her backyard and other odd things happening in the atmosphere. Middle class families are not exempt from their children joining gangs, even if the child has had counseling.
“Sometimes by the time we see it, it is too late…Some mothers have no idea of what is going on with our daughters,” Goodloe said.