From Darkness To Light

I grew up poor as a child. My father was a violent alcoholic man who liked to party with my mother. I am the youngest brother of three, Juan  is a year older than me and Manuel is the oldest. The neighborhood which we lived in was infested with gangsters, immigrants, and low income families, only Hispanics lived there. Violence in the streets was a normal thing for me to watch and inside the two bedroom apartment where 5 individuals lived, violence was never lacking. I witnessed many times my father beating up my mother. I remember one time my parents came back from the nightclub, at 6 years old, I woke up from the commotion, I walked to the living room and sat on the sofa while my father argued with my mother. All of a sudden, my father began to pistol whip my mother until knocking her out unconscious.

On another occasion I got a beating from my father for sneezing and blowing my nose at the kitchen table. He was hung over from drinking too much and he didn’t like the fact that I blew my nose. I didn't know that was a bad thing to do and so he threw a lime at my face. I ran straight to the restroom, locking the door behind because I already knew what was going to follow. My dad pushes the bathroom door open and begins to punch me with his hands until I fall into the tub. I learned not to blow my nose at the table that day. I was around 7-8 years old.

One day I was drawing on a piece of paper on the kitchen table using a Sharpie (permanent marker) that I borrowed from my older brother Juan. My father was taking a shower, then I heard him yelling as the water stopped from the shower head. He walks out of the bathroom, with only a towel on, towards the kitchen and looks at me drawing with a black Sharpie. I noticed that my dad’s white towel had large black stains which appeared to be ink. His chest had ink smeared on him, I looked back at my hand and stared at the Sharpie. I know I didn’t do it, but I paid the price for it by receiving a lamp cord to my back, arms and neck, this happened during the summer. I went to summer school with long sleeves button up all the way to my neck to cover the cuts.

Violence, hunger and lack of love surrounded me which I thought was a normal thing and everyone went through it. I remember hearing that a gang member from the neighborhood was shot to death at the Elementary school park that I attended. Few weeks later a drive-by shooting took place inside the apartment complex, and another young teen was murdered. My parents decided to move to a different apartment complex within the city. I began High School once we moved, I was 14 at the time. The apartment complex which was mainly populated by African Americans, less than 10 % were hispanics and 1% were whites. Within the first week living there my middle brother and I were welcomed by a beating from my African American brothers. I received a fractured jaw that day as a welcome gift. My parents never took me to the doctor, I had to sip through a straw Ramen noodle soup for 3 days until I was able to eat on my own. I witnessed more beatings, if you weren’t African American you will get one. As I grew into my teens violence never lacked.

My oldest brother became a gang member. My brothers and I got into trouble all the time and by the age of 15, I had got a total of five tickets, for theft, invading arrest, trespassing, curfew violation and truancy giving my parents many problems. My parents got tired of it, and decided to move to the country. I was 16 years old when we moved from the big city to the country. The country was a ghost town for us, no loud music, no shootings, no weed smoke, no sirens from the police, just fields and cows. My middle brother Juan and I went to High school, where the whites were the majority and Hispanics were 10% and the Africa Americans were 2%. There were gangs as well but not violent like the city gangs. My brother and I chose to stay away from the gangs.

Throughout my junior year I heard of an after school program called Latin Vibrations where a group of students were learning to breakdance, which I had experienced since I practiced everyday after school with my best friend when I was living in the city. I decided to join, made friends, taught other students, performed during pep-rallies, and performed in parades. During the year I decided I wanted to join the military and so I applied for the Marines. They went to my home to interview me with my parents present. I took some tests in the city and passed. All I had to do was graduate.

On the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break, a group of friends decided to go to a lake and hangout. There were a total of three vehicles. On the way to the lake my guy friends (mainly break dancers) rode in the bed of a truck wearing their bandanas. Each individual wore a different color (It was a style). The truck led the way and I was in the third car with my buddy and two girls. All of a sudden we all came to a stop on the side of a county road. A group of gang members had pulled over the truck because my friends were wearing bandanas. They wanted to fight but no one got up from my friends that were in the bed of the truck and so I got out of the car and stood up to them. They backed off and told us to meet them at the nearest gas station so they can call more gang members. We were outnumbered but we met up at the gas station. Multiple cars pulled up and we were about to fight, until the gas station owner came out and threatened us by calling the cops if we didn't leave. So we all left and no fighting occurred during the break. 

Back at school, I ended up getting into a fight with one of the gang members. I got suspended and fined. After that day, every gang member from the guy I fought was from, tried to beat me up. So I spoke to my parents and was allowed to drop out of school. Didn’t graduate, therefore, joining the Marines never happened.

The incident that changed my entire life, that opened a dark hole was when my brother Juan was dating this girl and he sometimes spent the night at her trailer, not knowing that she was writing to a guy that was in prison and soon to be released. Once the inmate was released my brother's girlfriend broke up with Juan. She calls Juan to tell him to come pick up his clothes, warning my brother that her boyfriend was on his way. So Manuel, Juan and I spoke about the situation that may occur. We planned that I would drop them off at Juan's now ex-girlfriend ‘s trailer. While Juan gathered his clothes and Manuel would wait outside. Later I received a call from Manuel to get my bat and hurry up to pick them up. I drove as fast as I could to pick them up. When I got there, they both jumped in the van and told me to drive to this house, which was the inmate that was released. Manuel and I got out of the van and Juan got on the driver's side. I stood at one side of the former inmates door with the bat on my hand and Manuel knocked. The former inmate opens the door with a bloody shirt adding pressure to his stomach. Manuel tells the former inmate "I know you just got out, you are on parole as well, and therefore, do not call the cops and whenever you heal, come to our house to finish what has started". Then Manuel describes to the former inmate where we lived. Returning to the house my brothers explained to me that Manuel stabbed the former inmate with a beer bottle that he was drinking while he waited on the front porch. 

Few months later, when Manuel and I came home from partying during the day, my brother Juan stated that the former inmate had visited with other members of his gang “wanting to go to war”. Juan stated to the former inmate to come back later and that we will be ready, he gave us the same respect that we gave him when he was injured. Therefore, my brother Manuel asked me if I could get some people, so I called my friends that I knew were violent and not scared. Most of them were working and the others sold drugs so they showed up in a matter of minutes with guns and cocaine, then we waited. At this time my parents had left for the city and planned to return the next day. As we waited, my brother and a friend lifted weights while we drank some beers. My brother and my friend ended-up breaking my parents' new cherry oak table legs by adding too much weight playing arm wrestling. All of a sudden, we heard a noise at the drive way, I looked out the window and it was my parents. I panicked and told my brother Manuel. He ran to the room and got a small cabinet to place underneath the cherry oak table in order to balance out the table. I told my friends to sit around the table and with one hand to hold the table up. My mother walks in and the first thing she sees is the guns in the kitchen then sees all of us around the table, my mother looks at me and tells me “your dad is not going to like this Jose'', then my dad walks in and looks at the guns then looks at the living room; empty beer cans, the cocaine in the living room, then looks at my friends, then yells at me "GET ALL YOUR CLOTHES AND GET OUT!"

I ended up in the streets, started to break into cars, met some guys, planned out how to make money fast, and so began with robberies, made money, and started to hit the nightclub. People began to hangout with us, and hurt a lot of people. Ended up going to jail multiple times. I got shot at, I ended up getting locked up for having cocaine in my car ( I took the blame for the drug), went to jail, did three months in County jail and signed for 3 years of probation. I ended up violating my probation and was sentenced to 10 months in the state after serving 2 more months in the county. I was placed in a holding tank to get transferred to state jail, you could hear everybody talking loud. But somehow I heard somebody calling my name so clearly, it got my attention and when I looked towards where the voice was coming from, I saw an older man sitting on a bench. Without thinking, I went to sit by his side. He started to tell me a story about a man named Jonah who was eaten by a whale. While he was telling me this story, I was able to see it with my own eyes, it was a vision. I could see it like it was on TV. I was awed and surprised, at the same time I could feel peace inside of me, it was a weird feeling. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I told the man I was able to see the story he was telling me. He looked at me with a smile, looked back down at the ground and kept telling the story.I ended up going to church in state jail, started to read the bible, I began to get revelation about my own life, how I was living was wrong. 

When I got out of state jail, three months later, I went back to drinking and partying. I lived like that for 9-10 years. In 2014 I gave my life to God and began to go out to preach in the streets telling people that there is hope.Helping the homeless, blessing people, teaching at a local church, making rap music sharing what God did in my life.

"to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."
Acts: 26:18
New International Version 

What do you think about this story? Would you survive a gangster lifestyle and prison? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Check out his music here


  1. Do you regret anything from your past? What is your message to the young adults audience?

    1. I do not regret anything from my past, overcoming my struggles made me stronger. God has my story completed and he knows that I had to go through what I went through. For the young audience, listen to the ones that love you. Find out who God is and give him your life, not physically but spiritually, your life will be way better than it is now, you will still go through struggles but your struggles won't bother you, God will provide you wisdom, knowledge and understanding to live a real Life.


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