Lita Herron didn’t always live in a war zone. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she lived in a beautiful old house across the street from a park and a church. Her husband had a stable job at Lockheed Martin, and life was good. Until one day almost 30 years ago, a bullet exploded through her stained glass window. And the shootings didn’t stop.
Becoming a witness instead of a victim was the first stage in Herron’s path to activism. “I got angry,” she said. “How dare you? You know as a mother. Who are you. I want to see you.”
Herron got involved with Cease Fire, a committee that works to end all violence in the community. She started to understand why kids in her neighborhood were joining gangs. Many felt like they had to make alliances to feel safe. For a lot of kids, joining a gang was an economic decision: selling drugs was a viable job opportunity. Herron felt like a veil had been lifted. “I learned how to respect those that have been caught up in it,” said Herron. “I had to learn to respect and understand that everybody engaged is not a murderer.”
While Herron’s neighborhood is much calmer than it used to be and the crime rate in Los Angeles has dropped significantly since the ‘80s, the murder rate in South L.A. is still higher than the rest of the city. In 2015 violent crime was up by 20 percent in L.A. from the year before.
Herron says she feels discouraged, but has no plans to leave. “I know my city is better than this,” she said. “These are my people. I love my people. I’m not running away from them because we are doing bad things. They don’t scare me because they’re making mistakes and doing stupid stuff. They strengthen me because I know they are better than that.”
Watch a short clip of Gang Talk Radio.
Lita Herron started Gang Talk Radio in 2009 with the goal of bringing people together to talk about the issues surrounding gangs and violence in the community.