Fred Williams was the founder and executive director of the Cross Colors/Common Ground Foundation, an advocacy group based in the Watts section of Los Angeles that worked with young people involved in gangs, when this interview appeared. He was co-coordinator of the Gang Summit, and he was interviewed by Jim Wallis shortly after he returned to LA from Kansas City.
- The Editors
Jim Wallis: How did the Gang Summit come about? Some people think it was precipitated by the Rodney King trial and the Los Angeles rebellion.
Fred Williams: It had absolutely nothing to do with the Rodney King case. It was an idea whose time had just come, and it swelled because the young men were actually tired of killing each other. But even more, they were tired of being victimized by law enforcement and by the same society that claimed to help them. They knew that the only way to change it was to do something for themselves.
Wallis: LA had one of the first gang truce movements, while similar movements were occurring in other cities across the country. How did it all come together?
Williams: It was a natural coming together. LA is the gang capital of the world and when the young men there went public with the gang truce movement, it gave everybody else a sigh of relief. That made some people say, "Look, let's do the same thing here."
Wallis: What was the significance of the Gang Summit to you?
Williams: This country has never had young African Americans and Hispanics come together on the premise that we are not here to shoot each other in the head. Our destinies are tied together; our future depends on each other. That's why the brothers came together. They decided to create their own economic development because our society has simply forgotten how valuable these young people are.