“What the hell is a LA gang member doing in Geelong today?” Excuse the language but that was the question posed as I sat in a packed audition, spilling with both high school students and police officers and youth workers.
Down the front Alfred was sitting, wedged between curator Stephanie Tribe and Courthouse ARTS artistic director Ross Noble.
Wearing a white polo top with tattooed arms and chest, Alfred Lomas shared his story, the one which attracted the crowds: his life, once dedicated to gangs, now dedicated to violence prevention and peace efforts.
Ex-gang member of LA gang ‘Florencia 13’, Alfred joined this famous ‘super’ gang at the tender age of twelve. Supergangs are much bigger than “ordinary” gangs, having about 2000 members.
“Many kids, they’re born into the lifestyle,” he tells.
One of the reasons Alfred shares his past is to deglamourise the myth of gang culture as seen on rap music videos, etc.
He shares candidly: “There’s absolutely nothing romantic about the gang lifestyle! Hopelessly addicted to drugs, no person was designed to live like that.”
“Gold teeth, Land Rovers … all a facade,” he continues, telling that the two likely destinies of being involved in gangs: death or prison.
“I lived the life. I was there. Everything you see on TV is completely wrong.”
As well as being boring, he tells that the average lifestyle of a gang member is not fun, “There’s nothing glamourous about alcohol or chronic drug use.”
Alfred, who spent “seven or eight” years in prisons, tells of his faith being the reason he was able to leave his gang life, “my transformation came from the Lord.”
Now, he shares that he is “challenged for what it is like to give back”and tells of the integrity needed to live a positive life.
“It takes work, courage to do good. Any dummy can pull the trigger.”
“Real strength and courage is a person who goes to work – like your parents – and learns to love your [sic] wife, family,” he continues.
Alfred, who now works in violence prevention is driven particularly by the prevention of violence towards women and children.
Though he’s been told that the “issues are too large” his motivation is clear.
“Even if it’s just one child being saved… how precious.”
He likens being in a gang to slavery, “So you’re no longer living your life, you’re living the life of someone else.”
The lure of gangs is, he tells, often so because of broken families and circumstances, “gangs are very attractive because they provide loyalty,”
Yet, there’s always a better way even in the most adverse circumstances, he is adamant “No matter how hopeless it may be, there’s always hope. Remember that.”
Before he was mobbed afterwards by people wanting their photo taken with him, Alfred was asked a provocative question by some curious teenage boys: have you killed anyone.
Alfred grinned and joked, “Only people who ask too many questions.”