Veteran and professional photographer Valerie Goodloe premiered her debut documentary film, “Gang Girl: A Mother’s Journey to Save Her Daughter,” at the 2011 Pan African Film Festival.
The story of “Gang Girl” is based upon Valerie Goodloe and her family’s ongoing struggle to save her daughter, Nafeesa, from the notorious gang culture that haunts Los Angeles’ inner-city streets.
Nafeesa, like many youngsters growing up in Los Angeles, decided to join a gang (Bloods) and spent the majority of her youth years running the streets, terrorizing her so-called rivals, committing crimes such as grand theft auto and God knows what else.
The “gang-bang” life as it’s called is “addicting,” in the words of Nafeesa, and in her mind, “it is what it is.” Nafeesa reveals the harsh realities of growing up without a care except to bang with the homies and get high every day. You sense the depression of her experiences and the lack of motivation behind her day-to-day life.
Part of Nafeesa’s depression is caused by her sexual confusion and her family’s struggle to accept the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender (LBGT) as a normal way of life. During the film, Nafeesa admits she prefers to hang with the male gang members as she carries herself much like a male gangster. She says that her homies from the ’hood accept her no matter what her sexual preference is and that is part of the love she doesn’t get from her family.
The film interviews fellow gang members, including older female gang members that have been “banging” for their entire lives. The film documents how gang culture can be a lifelong commitment for many people and that is why Valerie feels she must save her daughter. She refuses to allow her to become another statistic.
“Gang Girl” documents the generational culture of gangs and how kids are literally being raised from birth to become part of the “hood-life.” They call these kids “embryos.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters made an appearance at the PAFF premiere for “Gang Girl,” as she is also featured in the film. The film documents how on one occasion, Waters assisted Valerie and her family with finding Nafeesa after Nafeesaa ran away from home.
Waters and Goodloe are close friends, as Goodloe has worked many events for the congresswoman. One evening, when Valerie happened to be shooting an event for Waters, she asked Valerie, “How is your family doing?,” and Valerie answered honestly, which at the time was bad because her family was in turmoil over the disappearance of Nafeesa. Waters told Valerie that immediately after the event, they together would find Nafeesa.
Being the community leader she is, Waters literally brought a truck load of food and turkeys to the community where Nafeesa was reportedly missing and passed them out for information of Nafeesa’s whereabouts. This particular story is documented in the film and illustrates just how committed Valerie Goodloe was and is in rescuing her daughter from the mean streets of L.A. The film features interviews from family members including Nafeesa’s step-father, sister and biological father, who she currently lives with. Her biological father has been there with her and her mother Valerie, the entire way trying to save Nafeesa from becoming a statistic.
The docu-film also features star actor Glynn Turman who runs a youth camp for kids called “Camp Gid D Up.” Founded in 1992, “Camp Gid D Up,” according to their website, has been a free western style summer camp program for disenfranchised inner-city and at-risk youth ages 9 to 18. Every summer, for over 18 years, more than 100 youth and 45 staff enjoy a week on a real working ranch.
Nafeesa and some of the other gang members featured in the film spent time with Glynn at his camp and immediately during the film you can witness the transformation in not only Nafeesa but the other participating gang members. The work being done at “Camp Gid D Up,” by the Turman family proves that you have to take people out of their normal environment to grow and experience and open mind. The film also features other community members such as “Skip,” whom runs a gang intervention program to help ex-gang members and troubled youth escape the streets and find alternatives to the destructive life they have lived.
“Gang Girl,” is a must see film for all ages.
This film needs to be seen in schools all around the country, not just in Los Angeles inner city schools. The story of Nafeesa speaks to a wider audience than just gang members or affiliates. “Gang Girl” is a real-life story about a family’s struggle and more importantly a family’s will to survive their environment. Valerie Goodloe, like any loving parent, refuses to give up on her child. Her passion and love for her family led her to document her family’s struggle in its rawest sense so that all families can learn from her experience. That candid perspective and sacrifice is what makes Valerie who she is today.
Valerie and her daughter open their lives and telling the raw and vivid truth in the film. “Gang Girl” has the potential to save many lives because it doesn’t hold back from the harsh realities of life. I recommend the film be shown to all ages and hopefully be picked up by a major network for national and international distribution.
Originally published in LA Watts Times. Taken from Congresswoman, Maxine Waters page.
Is there a place i can purchase this documentary?