Testimony Tide To The Turf...Ben Strickland
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
My journey into gang life was different from many others. I wasn't born into it, nor was I left with no choice but to embrace it, becoming a gang member was conscious choice I made. Coming up in Northern California's East Bay Area, there were a few gangs, but banging wasn't a thing yet... you just repped whatever turf you were from. Pops left me and mom and remarried when I was five, giving me a wicked stepmother and three new siblings. Fast forward...one of my new brothers, Matt, was two years older than me. I looked up to him and pretty much followed his lead. Big bro smoke my first joint with me, gave me first real drink, and basically laced me on how to conduct myself in the streets. I committed my first burglary at age 12, quickly learned how to hustle, and I grew up fighting so win lose or draw-scuffling was nothing. Matt had a homeboy named, Bryant Francisco, who was a red rag and bro was on his way to becoming one too. We went to Franklin Junior High, in the Hillside of Vallejo, when we weren't running from the truancy officers. One morning before school, Bryant took a head up fade with a South Vallejo Crop (SVC) and was whooping on him pretty bad, when about 15 more SVCs came from everywhere and jumped him. So many of these cats were trying to get him at once, most of them weren't even getting any shots in, but he just kept throwing his hands. I looked up to Bryant after that because I respected how he handled his business. I grew to hate crippin after that day so when I made my decision to start banging I pledge my allegiance to the red flag too. A couple years later mom and I moved to Washington State and even though I wasn't from any of the local hoods, I kept banging my flag. I was rogue because I wasn't really from anywhere, I just cliqued up with homies who were on what I was on and kept soo woopin. After we came up here my mom got pretty heavy into God. I wasn't feeling her push, but she never gave up on me. I eventually got saved in 1996, at the age 19. In 2009, after a decade plus struggling with sin and not understanding who God really is, how He moves or what He expects from those claiming to be His - I finally went all in. Sitting in Pierce County Jail facing a 1st degree murder and three 1st Degree robbery charges, I made a final decision to surrender my life to God once and for all time. It's definitely been a process purging my flesh and living in the Spirit, and some days I still have to wade through the residue of the old me. What I don't do is make excuses for the process when I stumble. When God reveals something in me that needs to go, I give it to Him so the Holy Spirit and the Truth of the Word can cleanse me of it. By the grace of God my 2009 case was resolved with me receiving 21years instead of a possible life sentence or worse. I've walked of 11yrs now and can honestly say these have been my freest, most productive, and best years yet. A righteous man though he falls down seven times, will get up eight. Thank you for reading, take care and God bless. Hillside of Vallejo/ Tacoma Wa.