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Michael B. Green, 22, a former member of the Crips, one of the nation's most notorious youth gangs, was convicted of drug trafficking in 1987 and is serving a 63-month sentence in the federal prison in Boron, Calif. In an interview with SI's Kristina Rebelo, Green provided this street's-eye view of gangs, sports apparel and other deadly matters:
I used to wear British Knights. To us the BK on the side of the shoe stood for Blood Killer. I heard somebody might come out with a new shoe called Christian Knights, so the Bloods [the Crips' archrival] will wear them. The CK would stand for Crip Killer. If kids had these shoes, went into the wrong neighborhood and were seen by a rival gang, they could get killed.
In Los Angeles, if you wore a Dallas Cowboy jacket, you were a Crip. If you wore a Washington Redskin jacket, you were a Blood. It was the same with the hats. Kids got killed over them. Now I'm seeing it's stupid, but back then, I didn't care. It was recreation.
As a teenager, you want all the girls, so you get the best. The best would be a top brand of sport shoes, Diadora and Ellesse. If we saw somebody wearing them that we didn't know, we'd beat them up, take the shoes.
Why? Kids are bored; they've got nothing else to do. All they see is guys in Maseratis. Some kids play basketball, but when their parents are poor or broken up, they don't have a lot of support.
Like me myself, I played football in high school. It upset me when I could look in the stands and...no parents there. My mom and my dad are split up. It's frustrating, so you try to find a way out. You either join a gang or sell drugs. I did both.
A lot of people say the only thing that will stop it, you know, drug dealing and gangs, is education. I don't believe that. I went almost all the way through high school. I got good grades, I was in the band—I played the drums—but I never got the attention I wanted, so I left it all and joined the gang. There I got a little attention—from the other gang members. I felt they loved me and they were a family. I'd die for them, I'd kill for them, I'd go to jail for them. I dropped out of school two months before graduation.
The shoes, the jackets and the hats are just symbols; everybody's got a symbol. I can drive down the street and point out a gang member just by the way he or she dresses.
Say we go somewhere. We see a guy in some dress slacks, a nice sweater, loafers. You couldn't convince me that he's a gang member. But then you show me a guy in, say, Levi's jeans, or, say, a Cowboy jacket or a Raider hat, or shoes, he's a gang member. You can tell, just by a dress code.
I've been locked up 2� years, and I've already lost five friends out on the street. Five. One died because he was in a shopping center and he had on all black. Bloods are red; Crips are either blue or black. Some Bloods came through there and just shot him, right there on the spot, no questions asked.