“Down for Life” explores one girl’s reality of life in a gang

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Read the audio script:

LeTania Kirkland: I understand you were chosen for this role under unusual circumstances. What were they?

Jessica Romero: I was at school. I was going to Manual Arts High School in South Central. They were having a casting call at my school. Some lady asked me if I wanted to be in a movie, and I told her, ‘No, I’m cool, no thanks.’ Another lady came up and asked me about five minutes later. She was just like, ‘It’s a really good opportunity for you, so why don’t you just go?’ So then, I was like, ‘Alright then, I’ll go.’ So then I went, and they were asking all of these girls. There were a lot of girls in the auditorium, and they were lined up on stage, and they were going into this little room for about three minutes and coming out. It was my turn to go into the room, and I went in for about 20 minutes, and in those 20 minutes, they were just asking me different questions like, am I in a gang, have I ever been in a fight, have I ever started a fight. I just answered pretty honest, you know. And here I am, three years later.

Kirkland: And the reason why they were looking at high schools, they thought it would be better to choose kids from South Central because they do relate to the story. How did you relate to this character Rascal’s story?

Romero: At the time, I was more involved in gangs and stuff. I didn’t really have my priorities straight or anything. The character Rascal, she kind of discovered herself, too, in the story. At the time, that’s what I was going through. Now I’m 18, and thanks to this movie, I’ve kind of found my way, and I know exactly what to do with myself now.

Kirkland: And you said you know exactly what you want to do with your life now. What is that?

Romero: My dream is to be a marine biologist. That’s what I want to do with my life. Before, I didn’t really look forward to anything besides the day I was in. Now, I have goals and stuff that I want to do five, 10 years from now. I think Rascal goes through that. In our story, everything takes place in one day, but what I discovered in three years, she discovers in that one day.

Kirkland: This story was based on the actual writings of a girl at Locke High School. Do you feel like you did her story justice?

Romero: I met her a couple of times. She told us herself, ‘Wow, you guys did it right.’

Kirkland: Has being a part of this film changed your mind about the power of art and the effect it can have?

Romero: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of things out there, and a lot of different books and movies and poems. But it’s different when something comes straight from the heart, when something is real. That’s how our movie is. There’s no fancy stuff, no extra stuff. It’s just plain and real, and I think that’s what touches people.


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    Statistics show that gang involvement makes one 60 percent more liable to become a victim of homicide. The sad thing is that teens who get involved in gangs never really intended to mess up their lives. They simply were looking to belong somewhere and get some security – unfortunately, they get the exact opposite. They get into danger.
    As a parent, you need not give up your career just to make sure your children don’t end up in gangs. You can get them involved in sports, art or music lessons, or anything creative and productive that is in line with their individual interests and inclinations. Our children simply need to be involved in self-fulfilling activities. When they discover their potentials and capabilities, they become secure about themselves and will not seek the need of getting involved in a gang just to know their self-worth.
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