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There’s No Upside...

Michael Leavitt shares his innermost thoughts as they relate to his personal and family life. He can be heard to say often to his kids... “There’s no upside!”

NOTE: If you are interested in Michael’s business inspection related blog, then click on Bloggers in the left column and select Michael - Inspector.

Gang Mentality - Part VII of “I Survived Washington Irving JHS”

Gang Mentality - Part VII of “I Survived Washington Irving JHS”

GANG MENTALITY - DOCUMENTARIES - The following is part of a series of articles written by Michael Leavitt about his real life experiences at Washington Irving Junior High School in Los Angeles, California from 1974-1976. The events are true and have been documented to help Michael's family better understand the racial tensions he endured during that era.

CH. 1 * CH. 2 * CH. 3 * CH. 4 * CH. 5 * CH. 6 * CH. 7 * CH. 8 *




Michael Leavitt

In putting all of this latest research together this past week regarding Frank Reyna, it is obvious that when you train up a child to become a gang member, then it is a pathway through life that is ingrained into their soul and near impossible for them to leave when they are older. Honor, tradition, and respect, are all great qualities when they are in defense of a good cause or belief, but when they are used in defense of an evil empire that you must swear a blood oath upon entry, then it is deceptive ploy used to destroy our youth.

The blood oath of which I refer is when you completely give away your free agency to enter the gang. The agreement is simple, if you decide to quit the gang you die. Let us remember that boys change over time. Young men also change over time. And full grown men change even more throughout their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s 50’s and beyond. But the blood oaths and sworn allegiances required for young adult gang entry are apparently for life.

NOTE: My junior high school experiences were with the young wannabe gang-bangers. As I documented in Chapter 1, a young man could change his mind as he affiliated with one gang and then decided he wanted to change affiliations. The commonly heard phrase, “Where you from esse” gave them a chance to announce their current affiliation. When they changed their minds, there were harsh penalties, but they were not required to make blood oaths. From my youthful perspective it all seemed to be about respect and protection back then, and this gave them licensed to instill fear and wreak havoc on all others in the school, especially those of other ethnicities.


In the past few days I have taken the time to watch a few documentaries on Pelican Bay and the Mexican Mafia. Both of these topics I knew very little about. If even a sliver of the truth is represented, then it confirms what has become an epidemic amongst the young men in many parts of the world. As they fight for respect and self- worth amidst their peers, the allure of the gang’s power, money, and prestige is just too overwhelming. The gangs get them when they are 13 years of age or less and then have them for life. My focus is on the Hispanic gangs, yet the similar model is apparently taking place with Black, Asian, Polynesian, and Caucasian gangs worldwide. The documentaries I watched referred to their young members as “foot soldiers” and “street soldiers” who are carrying out the work of the older gang leaders. The fallacy is that this exploitation in the name of honor, tradition, and respect, is really just a clever cover for money and power derived from illegal activity. To rise through the ranks requires obedience and dedication with the ability to act without hesitation to carry out any and all orders. With dedication comes protection in the midst of a very harsh environment; a lifestyle where murder and death are commonplace.

If you are interested in learning a bit more, then please invest a bit of time and watch the following online documentaries. Please be warned that they are harsh. I believe that most of my friends, family, and business relations have never been exposed to any of this, which is both a blessing and a curse. The curse is that all of it is happening right now, whether we acknowledge it or not. It is easy to bury our head’s in the sand, but the realities are that this gang mentality is quickly disintegrating our society. Sure, we can act as though it doesn’t exist, but it does. Those of us who have fled the gang environment of Southern California can turn our backs and try to live our lives as though that is not happening there and rationalize, “I am too busy with my life here to worry about it.” Unfortunately, the gang mentality only gets worse and eventually it is going to spread to wherever one has fled. As a wholesome part of society we need to rally together and help bring change that will help rescue our youth everywhere. We need to help save an entire generation, not just those that live in our immediate neighborhoods. We also need to help those adults currently imprisoned by the deceptions of men, and allow those who wish to change the humane environment with which they can. I don’t know about you, but I cannot keep my back turned any longer...

I found these videos to be of value because they helped me better understand what goes on in our high security prisons and what gets these men involved at such a young age in gangs in the first place. I look forward to any and all feedback.




Here is a Northern California gang documentary that was incredibly insightful on how the youth get wrangled into all of this mess.

Nuestra Familia, Our Family

Published on Jun 25, 2012 - 54:08 minutes

More than three years of research and filming resulted in a groundbreaking documentary that goes inside one of California's most violent and organized gangs.

"Nuestra Familia, Our Family" features interviews in prison and on the streets with family members and gang members opening up about their lives, painting a haunting picture rarely seen by the public.

The film tells the story of a father in a small California farm town who raised his son to be a gang member. It follows the father's painful struggle as he turns his own life around but then sees his son become deeply involved with the Nuestra Familia prison gang -- and unknowingly falling into the grip of an FBI informant.

"Nuestra Familia" also tells the hidden history of the Norteño street gang and its links to the prison-based Nuestra Familia, which, ironically, was born out of the radical movements of the 1960s in the fields of California.

Former NF members detail the rigidly organized structure of this prison gang and how its leaders are able to operate with impunity from the lockdown section of Pelican Bay, California's highest security prison.

From there, NF leaders control the activities of thousands of Norteño gang members on the streets, and manage the systems for teaching recruits and collecting taxes from gang activity. This military-style organization keeps an eye on everything from who gets killed to how guns are distributed among street soldiers.

As young Latinos cycle in and out of juvenile hall and prison, they are literally nurtured into a life of commitment to the NF -- a commitment that is enforced by blood.

The film contains never-before-seen scenes of the Nuestra Famillia in action, footage of an FBI gang informant as he appears to approve a murder, and exclusive interviews with the young triggerman in that crime.

"Nuestra Familia" brings home the sorrow of an entire community that has been devasted by the almost constant violence wrought by the NF on its once-quiet streets.



Pelican Bay Secure Housing Unit Yard

KQED News KQED News - Published on Feb 24, 2013

Today in Sacramento lawmakers are delving into a growing national controversy over special security units that are used to isolate thousands of inmates from the regular prison population. Civil rights groups say long-term isolation amounts to torture while state corrections officials say the units are necessary and the conditions are humane.

Around the state there are four of these facilities, which are known as Security Housing Units. The most controversial is at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City.

At the heart of the debate: conditions in the units (many inmates are held in windowless cells and have been denied everything from calendars and sweatpants to phone calls); criteria that determine which prisoners are placed there and how they get out; and the lengthy terms some inmates spend in the facilities.

More than 500 California prisoners have been locked in the special units for 10 years or longer, according to state data. Of those people, 78 prisoners have been held inside for more than 20 years.

Over the years, authorities have allowed media into Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit, but access has been limited and the inmates carefully selected by staff.

However, top corrections officials granted unusual access to a team of reporters and videographers from the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED. We visited all areas of Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit except for a section housing leaders of a 2011 hunger strike.

Using a small camera mounted to a wall, our team was able to record Beasley exercising with a rubber handball in the small concrete pen (prison staff only began allowing the balls last year). At all other times--day and

night—he is held in his cell alone. While skylights allow filtered sunlight into the units, there are no windows.

        • Reporter: Michael Montgomery
        • Videographer: Singeli Agnew
        • Editor: Lisa Pickoff-White
        • Produced by KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting







September 12, 1993




Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah - - Originally written 11/25/2013

NOTE: Washington Irving Junior High School was 7th, 8th, and 9th grades during my 1974-76 tenure. I see that it is now named Washington Irving Middle School and features 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I wish the change happened decades ago and I could have completed 9th grade at the much more impressive and friendly Eagle Rock High School.

NOTE 2: Washington Irving has changed again. The internet shows it is now called the Irving Magnet School and is painted white and vibrant blue and features grades 5th through 8th. LINK

What are your thoughts?


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