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Marianne Diaz was born in Santa Monica, California, and grew up in Lennox, a poor neighborhood in the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport. Surrounded by violence, Marianne became a gang member at 13 and started her own female gang soon after. Following the death of both her parents by the time she was 17, Marianne went to prison for attempted murder. She was 18 years old.

Marianne earned her high school diploma while incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in San Bernardino County.

Upon her release three years later in 1982, a Deputy Sheriff with the Los Angeles County Police Department – the officer who had put her in prison – recognized Marianne’s leadership potential and helped her get a job with L.A.’s Community Youth Gang Services, a city and county-wide agency dedicated to gang intervention and negotiating for peace. She spent over a decade there and rose to the position of deputy regional director.

Marianne has devoted her career to breaking the cycle of violence in underserved communities. In 1995, Marianne founded CleanSlate, a program to provide low-cost tattoo removal for former gang members. Since its founding, the organization has expanded to help gang members, felons, and survivors of domestic violence confront injustice in their lives through therapy, conflict resolution programs, and other services.

Since 1998, Marianne has also been the director of outreach services for Southern California Counseling Center. In recent years, Marianne has expanded her work to include LGBTQI youth in the impoverished Watts community. Starting in 2015, she launched an empowerment program with therapy sessions for LGBTQIA kids to talk about their struggles and build their self-esteem. CleanSlate also runs support groups for the children’s parents. 

OUTWORDS interviewed Marianne in Summer 2016 at the home she shares with her partner Roxanne, whom she met when they were both working with survivors of domestic violence. In person, Marianne is funny, wry, and a little world weary. Yet it’s clear that she believes fundamentally in the capacity of each person she meets to heal, change, and grow.
Goro Toshima: [00:00:00] I am recording.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor just start off by telling me you name, and spelling you first and last names.
Marianne Diaz: My name is Marianne Diaz. M.A.R.I.A.N.N.E D.I.A.Z.
Mason Funk: Where do you live?
Marianne Diaz: I live in Phillips Ranch, California.
Mason Funk: Not to be confused-
Marianne Diaz: Not to be confused with Straight Pomona. It's Phillips Ranch, a little community within Pomona.
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] The eye-line looks pretty off. You are right next to it. Can you just put your head a little closer?
Marianne Diaz: Sure.
Goro Toshima: I think that's better. It's still a little off to access. What did we decide about-
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] We decided she's going to talk to me and not the camera.
Goro Toshima: Her eye-line will be little of access instead of straight to camera?
Mason Funk: Yes.
Goro Toshima: Okay. This is good.
Mason Funk: It's a little off but we'll be alright. One thing I'm noticing is my head is not on the same level as the camera.
Goro Toshima: But it's okay and if it looks off I'll let you know.
Mason Funk: Okay. You'll just avoid looking there.
Marianne Diaz: I look at you.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You can look around as well you don't have to look at me full time. The other thing is
Mason Funk: [00:01:30] since my questions some part you might want to use ... See if you can incorporate my question in your answer. If I say where do you live, you say I live. Kind of jumping right in, tell me about your family of origin.
Marianne Diaz: [00:02:00] My family of origin, I'll tell you about my family of origin. It's hard to really explain. My family are from Mexico. My father was an immigrant. Came here looking for a better life. If you fast forward to me I guess he accomplished that for me but himself I think he dealt with a lot of hardship being in this country.
Marianne Diaz: [00:02:30] He was 12 when he came here and what would be considered undocumented person. Started to work really young as a laborer. Started working for the railroad, at some point moved us out to, I wasn't born yet but moved to the west side, I guess we can say the west side. Started out in Arizona then moved that way.
Marianne Diaz: [00:03:00] Met my mother, she was the second generation Mexican. She was born in San Bernadino and then they had me, my brother and sister. I'm a California. I was born in St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. We were all born there. We're native Los Angeles people. I don't know what else you would like to know.
Mason Funk: [00:03:30] Tell me a little bit about what you told me ... Yeah, shoot.
Goro Toshima: The fan out. That fan in the background.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Goro Toshima: Then the AC is going to turn off.
Marianne Diaz: I turned it off.
Goro Toshima: Okay. We're going to go as long as we can comfortably until we're great.
Marianne Diaz: The fan helps.
Goro Toshima: Good. I can feel it over here too.
Mason Funk: [00:04:00] I was going to ask you if you could just tell me again without saying as I told you before, kind of tell me as if it were a new story about how on the west side there was a little community of folks, Latinos and immigrants but your father made a decision to move you elsewhere. Tell me that story.
Marianne Diaz: Sure. My father he was always, he had his own bid he, he moved to I guess because the rest of his family
Marianne Diaz: [00:04:30] they had all migrated to a certain part of LA which at that point might still be called that was Palms. Palms had what you would call a little ... There we like little courts. They had the court houses. They looked exactly the same and they're like 6 or 7 of them, they were really tiny maybe one room, little places. They all lived in those courts.
Marianne Diaz: [00:05:00] The men worked on the railroads and very traditional the women stayed home and raised the kids. My father made a deliberate shift from that Mexican community to what would be considered a white community, Lennox Hawthorne area. If you go to Hawthorne now it's definitely not a white community but at that point it was and he bought a house which is really different than everybody else.
Marianne Diaz: [00:05:30] They were renters. When he went there his intention was to give us a better life, he felt the schools were better in white communities which I'm not sure he was wrong but what he didn't factor into it was that we were going to be Mexicans in a white community which before we were Mexicans in Mexican community. I didn't realize we were different until he moved us
Marianne Diaz: [00:06:00] and the reaction of the community was really unwelcoming. I'm going to start coughing. Hopefully you can cut this out.
Goro Toshima: Yeah. You have everything you need in terms of water-
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, I can probably use some water. There's a red cup, big gulp red cup.
Goro Toshima: I see it.
Marianne Diaz: I'll put it on the floor but I'll drink from it every now and then.
Goro Toshima: is that good?
Marianne Diaz: That's good. This is mine. Thank you.
Mason Funk: [00:06:30] That's a good cup. I like that.
Marianne Diaz: It might be because I'm talking about this stuff. I don't know.
Mason Funk: Oh really? This stuff brings up-
Marianne Diaz: A lot of stuff, yeah. When that move his intentions were really good to move us to that white community but we suffered in that community. I think that
Marianne Diaz: [00:07:00] we met with violence really quickly in that community when people were actually watching us move in. I was 5 at the time. I remember wondering why they were coming to our house and telling us to get the fuck out of there and how many kids do you have. Like 30? Making those kinds of comments. When's the goats going to show up and you're not going to do your mechanics on the front lawn. Just typical racist stuff.
Marianne Diaz: [00:07:30] My father tried to be non-violent as long as he could and I'm just going to be honest, he was a violent person. He was an angry man. The final straw was when this man told us ... He saw us bring cats. We brought cats to the house and the man it really clear he hated cats. Within a week our cats were dead.
Marianne Diaz: [00:08:00] I remember me and my sister were crying about these cats and my father coming in and seeing us, and saying that's it. He went across the street and he beat the hell out of the guy across the street. The whole community shifted in relationship to us. They were suddenly this, I saw it as respect, I'm absolutely sure that it was fear. They feared my father which wasn't different than us.
Marianne Diaz: [00:08:30] We feared our father too. I think that was my first taste of how you create power in a situation where all you have is violence. It's a way in a way to equalize the deficit and it worked. They continued to work for me most of my life.
Mason Funk: [00:09:00] Why do you think your father was an angry man?
Marianne Diaz: I think my father was an angry man because being an immigrant and his english wasn't perfect, really good by the time I was a teenager but he was humiliated a lot. He was humiliated by his employers.
Marianne Diaz: [00:09:30] I remember almost everywhere he went people called him Jose and looking back I can understand why that really pissed him off because his name was Ted but they're, "Hey Jose," and he would have to hold his tongue because he worked for them. He'd come home really, really angry about what he had gone through that whole day as far as the humiliation of not being able to say something back
Marianne Diaz: [00:10:00] because you have a family to feed. That's what he went through, so I think his anger ... I think he was angry anyway. Some people are just born pissed off for whatever reason but I think humiliation was a driving force for his rage. I believe in my work I do today that's a core piece of my work is dealing with the humiliation.
Mason Funk: [00:10:30] How did your mom fit into this? How did she relate to him and to you guys? What's her role?
Marianne Diaz: My moms role was like doormat. They're both dead and they were dead very young in my life but what I do remember about her is that she was in a domestic violence situation with my father.
Marianne Diaz: [00:11:00] Any attempt on her part to have her own voice just wasn't really allowed. She couldn't drive, she couldn't work, she had to be at home. What's interesting about this is my father was born in Mexico, my mother well once removed from Mexico so a lot of the traditions and values were Mexican but they had 3 kids born here
Marianne Diaz: [00:11:30] and we're like other US citizens. Kind of corky, a little bit defiant, believed in individualism, and my father and mother believed in a collective way of being so we just bumped heads all the time because their values didn't match ours. I don't think a lot of immigrant families are ready for that when they have kids here,
Marianne Diaz: [00:12:00] how different the values are. My father put me to work as soon as I hit 15. You're not just going to go to school, you go to work. I worked since I was 10 or something. He'd throw these ridiculous numbers at me and I'd say, "None of my friends are working. "Well you are because we need you to and we need your brother to work." It's just like a whole different system that didn't match.
Marianne Diaz: [00:12:30] My mother was very passive and I didn't like that about her, so I didn't strive to emulate my mother. I wanted to emulate my father. I didn't want to be that person that my mother was even though I think looking back she was the strongest of us all because she could take it and she took it for a specific reason because he brought home the paycheck.
Marianne Diaz: [00:13:00] For whatever she had in her, the strength to survive that, well she's dead so I don't know how well she survived that, but for her to stay until she could. There was always the question in my mind like why and we argued a lot, me and my mother. "You don't even love him. Do you?" And shed say, "Maybe not but I need him and you need him."
Marianne Diaz: [00:13:30] That just weird conversations. You know what I mean? My father was just brutal and loving, it's so weird. It's a weird combination. He was great at doing things that he thought we needed like moving us to a better school or buying a car at 16 which most my friends didn't have cars but I did.
Marianne Diaz: [00:14:00] He was a mechanic so it wasn't hard to get one. He was complex but I know most of it had to do with the overt racism that he dealt with every day, every day.
Mason Funk: Talk a bit more as we did earlier about how we know that in some ways these days sometimes it feels like things haven't changed
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] that much but then really have things have changed a lot. Maybe help someone watching us today to understand how overt the racism was against an immigrant in that ... Tell us it's like the 60's I would assume.
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, 60's going into the 70's-
Mason Funk: Start that off fresh. This is in the 1960's and then talk about the racism.
Marianne Diaz: In the 1960's my father dealt with neighbors trying to get us out of the neighborhood.
Marianne Diaz: [00:15:00] That's like really old school racism. Like, get out of here brownies or wet back, and for other families the N-word. Get out of here. They wanted to be an all white I guess neighborhood. That was really intense. Threatening my father with deportation and things like that even though at some point he became a citizen and they still used that same thing. "I'm going to send you back to Mexico," and he's be like, "Yeah. Whatever."
Marianne Diaz: [00:15:30] He wasn't worried about it anymore but they still said it. "Go home." As far I knew I was home. Then we get into 70's and 70's is a trip because I remember in '75, '76 we were in this ... It's kind of like the Celandine Valley school district or something and they're 4 high schools,
Marianne Diaz: [00:16:00] and the high school that had the most people of color was Lennox High. I was going to Hawthorne High because I lived on the other side of El Segundo. I was in Hawthorne High which was the home of the Beach Boys, so it was a very white school. When Lennox shut down and all those Mexicans, Blacks and South Pacific Islanders came in, to me this is so amazing that this happened in my time
Marianne Diaz: [00:16:30] but the school newspaper, the Cougar, actually wrote an article about how their school has been going down since all the people from Lennon High came and we knew what they meant, people of color. We had a riot on campus and at that time Latinos, African Americans, South Pacific islanders, Central Americans, everybody came together and
Marianne Diaz: [00:17:00] we didn't know what else to do but get violent about it because it hurt. It hurt to be told that the school is going down because of us. I was already there but when I was there as like 1 of maybe 30 people of color, I just kind of stayed under the radar and tried to manage. Then all these people of color come in, Latinos and stuff and gangsters. A lot of gangsters came in and it's to understand
Marianne Diaz: [00:17:30] why gang members ... I wasnt in a gang member at the time. I did a little cliques and stuff but I wasn't hardcore until high school when that incident happened. When that incident happened I said, "Oh yeah. Now it's on. It's on." The way that you push back is you join a group and our group just happened to be a very violent gang. It's so interesting because
Marianne Diaz: [00:18:00] I remember, this is clear in my mind, one day I'm walking down through the school as a civilian walking through and people could care less that I existed or bumped me or whatever, talk shit. Join the gang and it was as if they were parting the Red Sea for me when I was coming through the halls. What do you do with that? How do you not want that
Marianne Diaz: [00:18:30] when for most of your life you've been oppressed or you're a victim of racism and then suddenly this power shift happens? For right or wrong, it feels very good at 15, 14 to suddenly have these-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Just start, it feels very good at 14.
Marianne Diaz: [00:19:00] It feels very good at 14, 15 years old to have people acknowledge your presence. I don't care how but they sure acknowledge ... I remember the lunch line, to me this was like amazing. I was on free lunch and most people of color are on free lunch, it was embarrassing to be on free lunch. It was humiliating to get in line because there was a free lunch line and a paid line. What we would do is we would say, "Fuck the free lunch line, we're going to get in front of this line
Marianne Diaz: [00:19:30] and you're going to buy our food." They would do it. What are they going to do? I go, "Hey, buy me lunch." "Okay." I knew it wasn't right but I felt like an empowerment that I hadn't felt before. "I'm going to do what I want and you're going to support me in this because if not you're going to get hurt." It was weird.
Marianne Diaz: [00:20:00] It's intoxicating and I just grew in the gang thing so much. I always felt like I could lead something and at the time and the resources there were the gangs for people of color. I couldn't see myself growing up being in the girls scouts or something or any of those like other institutions that had been developed for different type of person,
Marianne Diaz: [00:20:30] so we kind of create our own way of being acknowledged, seen and heard. We became visible. It was really a trip.
Mason Funk: This is awesome stuff. It's so interesting when you set out your manifesto like, "This is who we are now and you're going to do what I ask you to do," I go, "Wow! That stuff is really good."
Mason Funk: [00:21:00] I'm a privileged white male but even still that sounds like a level of authority that I probably feel I've never have which is basically command people out of fear.
Marianne Diaz: Out of fear and at that age I can honestly tell you I didn't know the difference between someone fearing me and respecting me. I thought people respected my dad but they feared him. My whole family feared him. Extended family, uncles, everybody because he was a boxer.
Marianne Diaz: [00:21:30] That's what he was, he was a golden gloves guy. He fought in the navy as a boxer. Everything was about fighting for him and so it rubbed off. He had me on a speed bag like 5, a body bag at 8. Even when people tried to challenge me, they didn't win, men and women. It was just weird. They were just like knock them out and I did it on campus so many times on ...
Marianne Diaz: [00:22:00] It's so weird because it was on purpose. If nobody sees this happen, then it doesn't happen. I did things in front of people because that kept them from challenging me. Do you know what I mean? It has to be seen, it just can't be talked about. You have to do some stuff in front of people to have the effect and I just kind of knew that. I felt it.
Marianne Diaz: [00:22:30] The rage in me I didn't make it up, I was rageful all the time. It's very useful in a gang. Being rageful is very useful in a gang, not so useful when you don't want to be in trouble anymore but it was useful at the time.
Mason Funk: And it obviously makes you that much more valuable to the gang if you've got lot rage?
Marianne Diaz: [00:23:00] Yeah. The gang is such an interesting thing in itself because everything that people talk about in, I'll say, traditional society, whatever that is, it's turned on its head. The crazier you are, the better. Not giving a fuck about what you lose, who cares. Risking it all, great. Consequences, don't even think about it. It doesn't matter. Living is it that important? You know what I mean?
Marianne Diaz: [00:23:30] Is living that important when you're on the receiving end of oppression? Not really. It's not that important. It's more important to make your point, whatever that is. I see it like I see it today. It's about why continue living ... This is my thing. When I started talking to the home girls and home boys about stuff, I said, "Look, if you die in this thing we're doing,
Marianne Diaz: [00:24:00] you'll be remembered, you'll be somebody because right now is really unlivable. We're poor, we're of color, we're marginalized, we're hated by the police, we're hated by the community, our parents don't listen ...
Marianne Diaz: [00:24:30] There's all these things all teenagers go through and on top of it the racism part. Then some of us the sexuality part. All these things, these layers of oppression and it's like assisted suicide makes sense. When your banging, when you're in a gang that's how you're going to go out. You're not going to take yourself out, someone is going to take you out and that's okay. It's better than the daily grind.
Mason Funk: [00:25:00] As Neil Young said, its better to burn out than fade away?
Marianne Diaz: Exactly, its all our mentality. We didnt verbalize it but we knew it. We had planned our funerals and stuff, it was a trip.
Mason Funk: Thats interesting because that illuminates me too like when I drive on the freeway, and I see a truck thats obviously from the Latino family but has the rest in peace, it makes me realize thats almost like a status thing.
Marianne Diaz: [00:25:30] It is. When I think about it in those days, we didnt have mental health in our lives like mental health services. Back then both my parents died by the time I was 18. I went to prison at 18 too. Thats a trip. Parents both dead by 18 and nobody thought I needed to see a therapist. The rage was just
Marianne Diaz: [00:26:00] By that age, it had already been beaten out of me that you dont cry about stuff. You just fume about it. At both funerals, I didnt cry, I was angry. I was angry and so I ended up in prison shortly after. My father was buried in the late part of 1 year and I was in prison by November of the next year. Because I was on and I was just doing stuff and I didnt care.
Marianne Diaz: [00:26:30] I didnt care anymore. Whatever stop gaps that I had because I had parents were gone.
Mason Funk: Tell me about how your parents died.
Marianne Diaz: My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 12, 13, somewhere there. Its really weird because that whole trauma is a trip. Trauma blurs time.
Marianne Diaz: [00:27:00] Nothing seemed to fit in chronological order for me. I know I was around 13 when I got the news that my mother had lung cancer and I was told then that she was not going to survive this and we can prolong it. Well remove a lung and all this stuff but she was basically not my mother anymore. She was a patient. She couldnt do the mother thing anymore. From 13, my sister was 11,
Marianne Diaz: [00:27:30] my brother was like 18 somewhere there. Then my father, its really interesting because we were left with our father to do stuff. He wasnt good at it. He was terrible at it. He wasnt a nurturing kind of person so we didnt get any nurturing at all from 13 on. To me,
Marianne Diaz: [00:28:00] its interesting because my sister became very much stuck in my mothers illness. She was with her 24/7 when she wasnt in school she was there. I on the other hand got as far as I could. I was in the hood, I was never coming home, I wouldnt come home all night. My father didnt even seem to notice because he was captured in my mothers illness too. He loved her.
Marianne Diaz: [00:28:30] They were going to Mexico back and forth for something like trial type medications and sneaking them across the border to use them. They were never really, its like we didnt have parents. So I raised myself and the people that raised me was the neighborhood, they were there. They fed me, they partied me, they kept me high, they kept me drunk which was nice when you are dealing with a lot of pain.
Marianne Diaz: [00:29:00] My father died a year later, heart attack. I remember when he died, this is when I started thinking about my own life and my rage and how I needed to start to understand where it came from and get some mental health support. I was 17 and me and my sister, she was with a homeboy at the time too.
Marianne Diaz: [00:29:30] We all went out and got fucked up like we always did, came home and my father thought that we were in the room but we had jumped out the window and taken off. He figured it out and locked the windows so we couldnt get back in. Knock on the door, he opens it and he is pissed. Hes like, What are you doing out here? You are supposed to be in your room. One of the home boys when my dad started talking to us in a derogatory way,
Marianne Diaz: [00:30:00] this home boy said, You cant talk to them that way. They are from the hood. You are not going to talk to my home girls like that. My dad was probably in his 60s at the time, tried to stand up to this guy who was in his 20s. The guy just pushed him on the couch and put his hand on him and said, Stay down old man, stay down. I could just see my dads life like
Marianne Diaz: [00:30:30] I cant even explain the look on his face. Me being the good daughter, I I went and got my gun and told my home boy to get the fuck out of my house and get his hands off my dad. He left and the next day my dad died. I think it was just too much. I am not making this up, it was too much for him to be humiliated in his house in front of his daughters and that his daughter defended him. That whole It was humiliating. I dont think he wanted to face anybody anymore. I dont think you can make yourself have a heart attack
Marianne Diaz: [00:31:00] but Im sure there were things going on that led to that and he died the next day. It was a year apart. It was interesting thinking how much I hated this person and thinking how much Im going to have a void in my life without him. He taught me to survive. Everything I had to survive. Im kind of emotional right now thinking about him. I hope thats okay.
Marianne Diaz: [00:31:30] He didnt find peace like I have. He didnt have, well I work in a mental health agency, how can I not find peace? Im talking to people all the time but he had no one to talk to. He was a macho guy. Macho guys dont talk to people, they keep it in, they get drunk and they party and they do other things to deal with their hurt. My dad fucked around, had sex with other women that kind of stuff. Its sad.
Mason Funk: [00:32:00] Especially for someone who is a macho guy who had to live the life he lived, even less likelihood that he is going to find a way to talk about it.
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, I remember a couple times my dad he smoked a joint once, it was a trip. After my mom died, I came home and I said, Man, you are really stressed.
Marianne Diaz: [00:32:30] You should smoke a joint. He said, Do you have one? I said, Do you really want to try it dad? You are tripping. He said, Yeah let me try it. He smoked it and for those few minutes, we could really have a talk. I dont want to be called pot head or so but it was interesting to see how different he could be if he could just relax. He didnt know how.
Mason Funk: How powerful a portrait of your dad.
Marianne Diaz: [00:33:00] Yeah, I hope it is.
Mason Funk: Where was he buried? Where did he pass away?
Marianne Diaz: They are both buried in Culver City.
Mason Funk: You could say my parents are buried.
Marianne Diaz: Both of my parents are buried in Culver City at Holy Cross Cemetery. I dont go. Im just not a big Religion is really a problem for me. I dont think they are there so it doesnt matter.
Mason Funk: [00:33:30] Tell us a bit more, again for those of us, I love when you said it for comparing 2 values of mainstream society with the values of say being in the gang or just all up side down, that was super illuminating, what was the process whereby you were brought into the gang?
Marianne Diaz: [00:34:00] The process of getting into a gang initiation, theres a courting period just like recruiting for college. If you are like a top performer in college, recruiters come out to look for you. I was a top performer on the streets and several gangs came out to try to recruit me, Lawnsdale, Lennox, Compadres which is the one I eventually joined. Its interesting why I chose them too, tell you about that in a minute.
Marianne Diaz: [00:34:30] They come and they recruit, they say what they have to offer, same thing. This is what we have to offer, we have a crib, we have a nice place, that pool hall, a lot of imperial and that boulevard, its owned by homies, we get to stay as long as we want, free beer, whatever they could use, they make this much money selling stuff. You get to decide.
Marianne Diaz: [00:35:00] For me, Lawndale or the gang Lawndale was all Lonsdale people, they all lived in Lawndale. All the Lennox people lived in Lennon. Compadres pulled from different communities and pulled like Colombians, Mexicans, blacks, whites, Asians, South Pacific, everything was in that gang, mostly Latinos. We had everything, every culture that you could think of and I liked that.
Marianne Diaz: [00:35:30] I was drawn to it. I was like this is cool. It isnt like you get to be in the hood because you live here, you get to be in the hood because we chose you and you chose us. Its like making your own family. Thats where I went. I had my own little click in junior high and the first year of high school which was made up of Latinos and white girls and everything. I had the same idea like I dont care what culture you are, I care who you are loyal to.
Marianne Diaz: [00:36:00] So we just merged with the existing gang and they got my 30 girls on top of their 60 that already existed. We got really big, it was really a trip. You look at values and I liked the values of this gang. They really believed that you dont have to be born into the neighborhood, you dont have to live in a certain
Marianne Diaz: [00:36:30] If we see something in you that we like and you see something in us that you like and you can get through the initiation process, its not like when you have a traditional family and you are born into it and it isnt like you like it necessarily. This one you get its like I chose what I liked and everyone in there is assumed to have the same idea. Like someone from Gardina who is in our gang said, I dont like Gardena.
Marianne Diaz: [00:37:00] I like that I live in Gardena but I dont like the gang Gardena. I like this. We are more mobile, more spread out, bigger as far as like territory went. The recruitment process was like, You want to be in the hood? Im like, Yeah, who is going to jump me in? They are like, Shit, Im not. Im not jumping you in. Some girls tried to jump me in because there is a jump in process. It didnt go well for them fighting me.
Marianne Diaz: [00:37:30] They fought like they fight and I fought like my dad trained me. It was simple.
Mason Funk: They thought they were going to jump you in by beating you up?
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, instead they ended up -- one ran, one I had under me, they were like, Oh shit, we are done. You are in. It was simple for me and then my sister I just walked her in. I said nobody is going to jump my sister, thats just not going to happen. Ill be her surrogate or whatever you need but nobody is touching my sister.
Marianne Diaz: [00:38:00] We were both in the hood but different parts of the hood. I was in the soldiers part of the hood which is more male. I was one of the few females accepted into the male parts of the neighborhood. My sister was into the female like supporting cast. It was different, we were in different segments, different jobs in the gang.
Marianne Diaz: [00:38:30] I still love everybody who was a part of that neighborhood. I cant participate in what some of them still do and some of their kids come to get counseling from me. Its interesting.
Mason Funk: What was the initiation process? What happened? How did they initiate you, the Compadres?
Marianne Diaz: First they wanted you to hang out.
Mason Funk: Who are they? Just say Compadres for initiation, tell me about it.
Marianne Diaz: [00:39:00] For Compadres the gang that I joined, there was like a hanging out period. They wanted to see how you are, are you a match. Do you know how to act under pressure? Are you silly? You cant be silly unless your name is going to be silly in the gang. Are you serious, are you smart? They check you out.
Marianne Diaz: [00:39:30] What can you bring to the table. Thats about a 6 month process when you start hanging out then they finally just say, So you want to get in? Weve all agreed that you should be with us and do you want to be with us? If you say yes then they set up the time, date and place and they either call it courting you in or jumping you in
Marianne Diaz: [00:40:00] and if you are African American, its called putting you on the set. Theres different names for different, but its all the same. Its all like a test of loyalty. Who goes willingly to get your ass kicked? Like, Im going to get my ass kicked so that I can be with you. Thats like a test. Roxanne, you are in the camera thing.
Roxanne: [00:40:30] Sorry guys.
Mason Funk: Hi Roxanne.
Marianne Diaz: I can be right there I think. Sorry, that was Roxanne, thats my partner.
Mason Funk: You said no one goes willingly to get their ass kicked. Thats the exact kind of-
Marianne Diaz: [00:41:00] In regular world, in traditional culture and stuff, youll just go, Oh, Im going to go and get my ass kicked because I like you so much. Hazing maybe in fraternities and stuff. Im sure there are certain parts of society that do that but this is like you are going to get beat and you volunteered to do it. You request it. I want to be with you so kick my ass basically is what you are doing.
Marianne Diaz: [00:41:30] Its about like the way I described it when I was recruiting people because I became a really good recruiter, was that weve got to know in a pinch that you are not going to run. If shit comes down, we cant have a bunch of homies who are going to take off on us. If you go into this, there is more of a chance that you will stay. That youve got what we need, thats really all it is. You cant really know.
Marianne Diaz: [00:42:00] If some stuff comes down, someone might still run even after theyve been jumped in but youve got to try to Its like an employer, you hope they are going to be a good employee but you dont know that. Their resume might be great but they start working for you and you are like what the hell is this. They are on paper great but the reality is they are not so great. You run into that.
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] The noise, the mic is really really sensitive so can we ask Roxanne to kind of like move around is fine but just to me sensitive that even small noises like opening and closing doors-
Marianne Diaz: Yeah the mics really strong, its picking up a lot of stuff. Thats good, Ill make up for it.
Mason Funk: When this beating comes down, are you allowed to fight back?
Marianne Diaz: You are supposed to.
Mason Funk: You are supposed to fight back as hard as you can, but they are going to take you down right?
Marianne Diaz: [00:43:00] They think they will. I remember when my best friend got jumped in, he got really hurt. He knew he was going to. He was like, I dont really fight that well. He got his ass kicked. Mostly girls got their ass kicked pretty well. I didnt but I was prepared for fighting from a very young age. I just didnt understand why they were fighting the way they were. It didnt make sense to me. This doesnt make sense,
Marianne Diaz: [00:43:30] why are you swinging your arms all crazy and stuff? Dont scratch me. It was really weird but that was me and most people werent trained like that, like I was. People get hurt but they hug after. You are like you are loved.
Mason Funk: Even though I can kind of get it. Its like this trial by fire. When you come out of it, you form this bond for better or for worse.
Marianne Diaz: [00:44:00] Yes, exactly. Youd spill blood for each other in some way and thats Right now talking about it is kind of weird to me now but at the time it made perfect sense.
Mason Funk: Lets jump to going to jail, how did that happen?
Marianne Diaz: [00:44:30] Going to jail, how did that happen? That was like right after my father died, a few months after that. I was on a binge, a drinking binge. I was even fighting with my own homies and stuff. They knew I was out of control. Even they knew that, Oh my God, she is out of control. When I showed up to a party or something, theyd go, Oh shit, somebody is going to get their ass kicked today. They just knew it. I was going to beat somebody up. It was my way of dealing with it.
Marianne Diaz: [00:45:00] This particular night I decided that me and some of the home girls were going to go to a wedding reception that I knew we shouldnt go to. It was at the Veterans hall on Overland and somewhere in Culver City. The problem was that the girl who was getting married, the woman, was from a friendly gang like an ally from Culver City with us but the groom was not. He was from a rival.
Marianne Diaz: [00:45:30] They got along but we didnt get along. Gangs have like their united nations. You have your allies and your enemies and sometimes you are friends with people who arent friends with your other friends. Its kind of weird but I wanted to go. I wanted to go because maybe I was looking for a problem, Im not sure. Me and a few of the home girls went including my sister. We went to the reception, things were cool,
Marianne Diaz: [00:46:00] she let her new husband know that she had invited us and that she gets along with our neighborhood. He was okay at first and then started drinking, we all started drinking. At some point he started like saying fuck my neighborhood and loud, like really talking shit. I remember walking up to him and saying, You cant be disrespectful to me here and my home girls.
Marianne Diaz: [00:46:30] He pulled out a 22 and hit me across the face with it and as soon as he did it because he did it in front of everybody, humiliation is not something that Im good at dealing with. I think most people cant deal with humiliation. My reaction to that was, Youd better kill me because Ill be back. He laughed, that was even worse he laughed.
Marianne Diaz: [00:47:00] Me and my home girls left, he shot a couple of shots in the air and I just kept walking to my car and I got in and I said, You should aim one at me because I will be back. I left with the home girls and we went to the hood and I told the guys what happened and the guys first had to scold me. We told you not to go to that fucking party. We knew thered be problems. They werent going to let us be disrespected
Marianne Diaz: [00:47:30] so they loaded up the cars with guns and we went back to the event and they were gone. It was empty. On the way there, Im drinking like Bacardi 5150, probably one of the strongest liquors you can drink. At some point, I sobered up a little bit and I remembered, we dont got to do this. I remember saying this in the backseat with the homeboys, We dont got to do this. Its not that big a deal. They said,
Marianne Diaz: [00:48:00] You started it, we are going to finish it. Im like, Okay great. They go, Drink some more. My courage came back and we went and they said, You know her, yeah I know her, you know where she lives? I go, I do, they go we are going there. Im like, Fuck. We went there and basically did a home invasion and shot a few people inside.
Marianne Diaz: [00:48:30] Not her though because before we went in, I knocked on the window and she opened, she saw me and she was, Oh fuck, she saw us all. She goes, What the fuck are we going to do? He might die tonight so get in the closet with your baby and hide. You wont be hurt. She did it. He got shot but he didnt die. Another one of his homeboys got shot but he didnt, nobody died but they were shot and thats what I got arrested for.
Marianne Diaz: [00:49:00] Simple and complicated because when I think back, how could we not know that wed get arrested. We went there for the purpose of making a point. We told them, the home boys were saying, Compadres, dont forget, just yelling out and stuff and he recognized me because I was right in front of him when he got shot. I got arrested the next morning at my house.
Marianne Diaz: [00:49:30] Here is an interesting turning point in my life. Through my whole gang life, this deputy named sheriff Ken Bell, he was with operation safe streets, the sheriff departments gang unit. Always treated us like human beings, always. I dont care if he was arresting us, he was still talking to us by our first name, not by our gang name, our name. Just being human with us.
Marianne Diaz: [00:50:00] When I got arrested, SWAT or LA Crash came into my house and hogtied me, had guns on my family, what was left of it, my sister, my brother, his wife, guns on them and he had me on the floor tied up and we lived in sheriff jurisdiction but the crime happened in LAPDs jurisdiction. When the sheriff department showed up Ken Bell showed up,
Marianne Diaz: [00:50:30] he walked in. Im on the floor, hogtied, he told him, Untie her, untie her and stand her up. He was really upset at how they had treated me. Some guy called me a butcher, they were going back and forth and finally he said, You are in my jurisdiction so you need to leave. Tell LAPD.
Marianne Diaz: [00:51:00] They left and he stood me up and he untied me and cuffed me, walked me to his car, sat me in the back seat and said, You did it, heres youre going to prison. I said, Yeah. Is this is what you wanted? And I go, Yeah this is how you become somebody in the hood. He said okay, he didnt even cuff me drove all the way whatever talking to me and he said,
Marianne Diaz: [00:51:30] Im going to come talk to you after your process and everything, Im going to come talk to you because I know why this happened. He felt its my parents death and all that stuff. He was like, I think when you get out and someday you will get out, Ill be here. It really did happen. I did like a total of about 4 years total.
Mason Funk: For that crime?
Marianne Diaz: For that crime. Id also done 6 months for some I didnt do before that.
Mason Funk: [00:52:00] Just a valid sentence?
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, when I did the time for something I didnt do, thats when I really started thinking about social justice. I go, How can I be convicted for something I didnt do? I look around and I go, I know why because nobody on that jury is a person of color. Everyone on the jury is white because people of color unfortunately sometimes get arrested and they cant serve on juries anymore.
Marianne Diaz: [00:52:30] Then you are never really judged by your peers. You are judged by people whove never been in trouble who see you as really weird for doing this weird shit. I was all tattooed. I had tattoos everywhere at that time. Soon as I walked into that Torrance court for the thing I didnt do, I knew I was convicted. I knew they were going to convict me. Its just the way I look, its who I am, its who I represent, its what they are afraid of. The judge when they said guilty,
Marianne Diaz: [00:53:00] the judge looked at them and said, How could you find her guilty? There is no evidence. He said, But I cant change your decision but I can minimize the time, so he gave me 6 months. I was really angry about that. I dont think it made me do the next thing but it reminded me that justice doesnt exist, not for people of color and people without money. Those 2 factors are really important.
Mason Funk: [00:53:30] Its kind like dumb light bulb moment when I realized, of course I know about people getting convicted and not being able to serve on jury but it never occurred to me that the more people you convict the fewer people can serve on the juries that can continue to convict the other people. Its a perfect formula-
Marianne Diaz: Thats systemic just like voting rights. If youre a felon, you cant vote and thats lot of people of color.
Marianne Diaz: [00:54:00] There is a lot of white people who are felon there is no doubt, but I think in this county, in this city in LA the majority of people in prison are people of color. I dont know how it is in the midwest or whatever but I venture to think there are a lot of people of color mostly because they are the people with the less resources, more resources, more get out of jail cards.
Mason Funk: [00:54:30] Or get your charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor?
Marianne Diaz: Also know that the smartest thing I learned from my hood was when I was going to trial on this big crime, the 1st call I made was to the neighborhood. 1st call I made was to the homeboy, he said, Keep your mouth shut and wave your right to a speedy trial. He goes asked for a court appointed attorney dont take the, what are they called, the ones they just give you?
Mason Funk: [00:55:00] The public defender.
Marianne Diaz: Public defender, dont take a public defender. Tell them this crime is serious enough you need a court appointed attorney, wave your right to speedy a trial, youll sit for a year. I did I sat in the county for year waiting for my trial. The rest of my homies went, took their did 10-15-20 years. I waited for the court appointed attorney whos an attorney right out of Wilshire, big time guy,
Marianne Diaz: [00:55:30] Irish dude, really cool. He walked into where they pull you out of your cell and you and lawyer get to meet. Then he said, You wont do more than 5. He said, Dont worry. I know this judge, he was like, we play golf. He walked in there and him and the judge were like, Hey how are you doing? All this stuff and everything and the way the attorney talked about it, he went and got all of my school records I was an A student.
Marianne Diaz: [00:56:00] Got all my school records, brought in the whole thing about my parents dying, the cancer thing not getting any mental health services after that happened but the school let me down. All this stuff the racism piece, he brought in all that stuff. I did a trial by judge I never trusted a jury again after that. The judge said, This is going to be very interesting because I cant let you go
Marianne Diaz: [00:56:30] but I dont want you to become a bitter person and prison will make you a better criminal. He said, Youre going to do like 2 _ years because youve already done a year and a half. It was the right decision I think because I hated it enough not to want to be there. I didnt get institutionalized because I wasnt there long enough. Deputy Bell got me a job as soon as I came out working for the county as a gang intervention worker.
Marianne Diaz: [00:57:00] Thats when my career started for like peace working for peace started after I came out. I saw what was going on in the county. Its like they were putting people together who of course they were going to fight hoods that didnt get along with each other and I told them, You like this? You like us getting in trouble being put in the hole and getting more time. The Lieutenant said, No not really what are we doing wrong? I said, Youre putting the wrong people together. I can help you with that, kind of how my career started I guess.
Mason Funk: [00:57:30] Is this detective Bell still around?
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, I talk to him all the time.
Mason Funk: Is he really wow.
Marianne Diaz: He is on the school board for Duarte school district.
Mason Funk: Is he really, wow?
Marianne Diaz: He went from being a deputy sheriff to becoming on the citys hard core unit for the city attorney, then went on to become a board member for the school board,
Marianne Diaz: [00:58:00] yeah we talk we send each other emails all the time. Hes really proud of me. If you go to the clean slate site for my nonprofit, he is in that little movie that we made there he is in it hes cool.
Mason Funk: I have 1 question by the way weve been going on for about an hour the time is flying. Would you like to go on a break, stand up, drink some water?
Marianne Diaz: Im fine and you?
Mason Funk: Im fine how are you Roy?
Goro Toshima: Im good.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] Everybody probably all right. Well probably go for about an hour or longer. If its good for you but if at any point you want to take a break then-
Marianne Diaz: Okay.
Goro Toshima: Im going to try to have a seat in here a little chair thats going to be a tight squeeze. How are you going to do that?
Mason Funk: Maybe its easier if I-
Marianne Diaz: Do you want me to move the table this way?
Mason Funk: No Ill do it I think I can just squeeze this in and probably this way.
Marianne Diaz: Its the cats?
Mason Funk: [00:59:00] I hear the cats a little bit but they are okay.
Roxanne: They are like banging on the door so when youre hearing the door its not us its the cats. If I get them out, they wont be terrible.
Mason Funk: Right I know I saw 1 coming through here I was like, Oh here come the cats. I was kind of happy, I was happy at the same time 1 came through.
Marianne Diaz: You know what I have a feeling they will all run in the back so its a party of 3.
Roxanne: I dont want to take a chance of this trying to.
Marianne Diaz: [00:59:30] They love that here. Is it Niner? Did Niner get up?
Roxanne: No Cooney.
Marianne Diaz: I have a cat named Niner of course.
Roxanne: Do you have one named Trojan?
Marianne Diaz: No that wouldve been too weird. They are named after condoms or something.
Mason Funk: Yeah exactly. Thats the first name I thought of when you said you have a cat named Trojan and Im like thats not going to fly.
Marianne Diaz: That didnt fit.
Mason Funk: Are you good there?
Goro Toshima: Hmm.
Mason Funk: [01:00:00] We already tied all this back somewhere to the reason why were interviewing you. How was your sexuality kind of where were you at this time with awareness of your sexuality? I know you eventually got married but maybe kind of fit that piece of the story, weave that into-
Marianne Diaz: My sexuality is really complex. I remember one day being at my cousins house and I was probably 9 or 10 years old,
Marianne Diaz: [01:00:30] and I remember my older cousin must have kept some of his girly magazines and some cupboard in there. I remember being nosy and finding them and looking at them and feeling something. Something like this is weird it kind of made me nervous. I would go in there often and look at these pictures and Ill be like, Wow something is happening to me. I was only 9 or 10 I didnt know what it was at all.
Marianne Diaz: [01:01:00] Then as I grew older I started like knowing this is typical like knowing there was something different about me. It was kind of reinforced in some of the things that I was interested in. I would help my dad change brakes or help him do the yard. I wasnt into like hanging out with my mom like my sister was. They would buy me dolls for Christmas or something
Marianne Diaz: [01:01:30] and I would re-gift them to my sister and say I dont want this like I wanted a truck or I wanted this. I didnt fit in with what is gender. I didnt gender conform very well. My dad didnt mind at all it was weird. My brother was more like he wasnt my dads son he was my moms so he was more of like a disappointment to my dad because he was not tough, he was small,
Marianne Diaz: [01:02:00] he liked ironing and I dont know if he was gay or not but he definitely wasnt a tough guy. I was a tough girl and my dad could identify with that I think. My mum at some point she asked me the question because I used to hang out with my home girl a lot and she was my girlfriend in junior high
Marianne Diaz: [01:02:30] but I had boyfriends too. I think a lot of people go through that. They know something but they dont know, they are not sure this is how things are supposed to be so you try to make it work. My home boys always told me they thought it was really strange that I could like sleep with one of them and never call them or never follow them or try to hook up with them again.
Marianne Diaz: [01:03:00] I said it just wasnt that great. You arent all that homey. I always had those kinds of comments for them but it was something else it wasnt me it wasnt what I was comfortable with. I didnt hate it but it wasnt something I wanted to pursue until I got with my boyfriend John who for some reason I think he was kind of effeminate when he was younger. He looked smooth and had long hair he was pretty.
Marianne Diaz: [01:03:30] That worked for me until a few years later and he started getting hair everywhere and stuff and turned into a man I just couldnt do it anymore. I kind of knew I cant do this anymore. It doesnt feel right, theres something wrong with this. Within the neighborhood the interesting part is that the less feminine you are the more respected you are.
Marianne Diaz: [01:04:00] They saw like, and this sounds terrible but girls like my sister who were really pretty and cute and tiny and feminine and stuff were seen as toys or relationships. I wasnt alone in being a woman who was acknowledged for being a soldier. There was a different kind of respect.
Marianne Diaz: [01:04:30] It was like a respect that I guess men might feel for each other I dont know. Im not a man but I guess that kind of bro thing. Wed go out and hang out and theyd say, Hey you like that girl? Shes cute right? Ill get her, dont trip. It was like a play they didnt have any problem but if a guy were to come out different story, different story.
Marianne Diaz: [01:05:00] I think because a gang is so macho that they can relate to macho women and theyd rather deal with macho women than an effeminate guy who I think really scares them. Ill take a drink of water.
Mason Funk: [01:05:30] Im wondering, kind of go on a tangent for a second, what was the culture youve already alluded to? What would happen to a guy who was suspected to be gay or was gay what would happen in the gang?
Marianne Diaz: I think if a guy were to, in the gang in our neighborhood anyway, if he were to come out or like he could probably come out to one of the guys.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, just a kind of fresh start, in our gang, in our neighborhood, if a guy were coming out-
Marianne Diaz: [01:06:00] In our gang in our neighbourhood if a guy were to come out as being gay or bisexual or something not traditional, depends on who they talk to because I know they were, I know a few of my home boys who was gay but they are very careful about who they talk to they are very careful about where they went and who they hang out with because you couldnt be open about it there is no way. That was impossible. Thered be some homophobic guy which was a majority of the gang members because its
Marianne Diaz: [01:06:30] This has always been interesting to me. There is this idea that if you are a gay man youre not tough. I hear thats so ridiculous because being gay doesnt make you any less tough but its hard with all the things that media has done and stuff to portray gay men, theyre usually not very tough. Theyre usually the real nice soft women like person
Marianne Diaz: [01:07:00] which none of my home boys were like that. Some of them were gay or bisexual but they couldnt say that to anybody. The women could and it was almost like, cool. They felt that this is all such weird stuff but they felt that a woman who was gay who was on kind of the more of the masculine side was less emotional. Less emotional and more linear thinking more like a guy,
Marianne Diaz: [01:07:30] like we can trust you with the secrets those kinds of things. I think they would think the complete opposite of a gay man, they would think they have all traits of a woman. You cant trust him, theyre too emotional and they dont know because they only got fed information by maybe their parents and society at large about gay men and so a few of my home boys now theyre out.
Marianne Diaz: [01:08:00] They could care less what anybody has to say. A couple of times Id go to a tea party where transsexual and transgender go to and generally the gay community would go to this party and thered be a few homeboys and Id be like theyd see me and theyd go, Oh fuck you are not going to tell anybody? I d be like, Im not stupid of course not I like you. If I didnt like you if I told somebody then some shit would happen but yeah its still very closeted.
Mason Funk: [01:08:30] Would people get beaten? Imagine, you said you had to be very careful about who you told. What happens if you violate or if you violated these rules? You probably knew what the rules were or what happened if you then broke the rules? If you were a gay man in the gang?
Marianne Diaz: Ive seen it happen. I saw a couple of the homeboys just for the suspicion of it, it wasnt even confirmed just the suspicion of it they got their asses kicked in public in front of us.
Marianne Diaz: [01:09:00] It had to be in public it had to be at a gathering for it to mean something. Then one of the homeboys got he just got ostracized out of the hood and then what does he do? Not only did he Whether or not he was or not they assumed he was, they kick his ass and then banish him,
Marianne Diaz: [01:09:30] and then what does he have? He kind of gave everything for the hood. I know a few homeboys who were so like violent and crazy and they are gay theyre violent and crazy because they had to hide. They didnt know how else to deal with their truth and they are in prison.
Marianne Diaz: [01:10:00] It isnt just that you have to hide, your own humanity is gone, the human part of you has to be shut down in order to survive. Its true and I think it still true in the greater community and society at some point theres pockets of freedom I guess but in the gang right now not so much.
Marianne Diaz: [01:10:30] They are behind the times a little bit but its better than it was. I have an LGBTQI group that I run in Watts which is the 1st one theyve ever had. I run it there with men who are in there like from more men and women from 18 to like 24 in that age range, some are transgendered, some are just crossdressers, they call themselves queens.
Marianne Diaz: [01:11:00] Theyve survived that community being who they are and lot of the homies know them and theyre cool with them but theyve been beat up a lot on the way. Were trying to open up dialogue about that in Watts which hasnt been easy. I think oppressed communities just find
Marianne Diaz: [01:11:30] I hear this one guy tell me why do you tell people youre a lesbian? He is an African American guy. He was like, Why do you tell people youre lesbian? You would know? I go, I know. He goes, Youre already brown, Im black if Im gay I aint telling anybody because I got enough shit. I said, Me too but I cant live my life pretending Im something Im not. I cant pretend Im not brown there is no way I can do that. You cant pretend youre not black.
Marianne Diaz: [01:12:00] I dont like pretending Im something else that Im not. Thats important to the people coming up after me, the kids because theres been so many times in groups where I do a lot of teens where Ill say, Im a lesbian, then somebody in there would say I think Im bisexual but they wouldnt have said that in any other point if they didnt feel safe. They know Im going to take care of them in that group.
Marianne Diaz: [01:12:30] Its a very homophobic place to be in a gang but just like in the greater society in the 50s we were still there just very careful. Thats kind of the way it is.
Mason Funk: Those guys you mentioned that you run and you saw your old homies like some kind of gathering, they are like, Oh shit youre not going to tell anybody,
Mason Funk: [01:13:00] describe what kind of life are they leading? How are they managing their life to be out here but not out there like what does it look like?
Marianne Diaz: Married, kids, sneaking out sneaking around with other homies from other hoods just kind of making it clear
Marianne Diaz: [01:13:30] that I have a family and this is how it has to be. Some of my friends whove come out completely and lost their family. They didnt necessarily lose the gang but they lost their biological family because they came out and the gang supported them. Today the gang kind of can support you a little bit more than it used to its moving
Marianne Diaz: [01:14:00] but I dont think were going to see in the next 20-30 years openly the gay men in gangs. I think its still going to always feel disrespectful like we know but we dont talk about it. They are in that like the military was.
Mason Funk: Its seen as disrespectful?
Marianne Diaz: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Explain that.
Marianne Diaz: If you come from a position of power, you think you have power
Marianne Diaz: [01:14:30] and men have the power like theyre the top of the food chain. Black and brown men have had to deal with racism and oppression and all that stuff and poverty. To bring gayness into the community, into the gang brings weakness an assumed weakness because there is the assumption that gay men are weak,
Marianne Diaz: [01:15:00] or why would you be gay? You are closer to feminine so then that would be disrespectful and humiliating like the military felt and they still do. They just cant say nothing about it but they feel like for some reason like gay men are in inferior in battle. I think thats a stigma thats in the gang. Even though Ive known some really crazy guys who are gay
Marianne Diaz: [01:15:30] and they have proven themselves they still wont come out. It would be a big loss to them. Like the world its changing much slower. Its like the womens movement in the 60s and 70s or whatever the womens movement started, to have a female gang without a male counterpart was unheard of then I had mine and I was like a trend setter.
Marianne Diaz: [01:16:00] I said, We dont need guys. What do we need guys for? Me in particular I really felt that way what would I need guys for? We can fight our own battles but it wasnt something that was normally done. Women were always an offshoot of the men luxiliary, they were like auxiliary unit.
Mason Funk: A guild.
Marianne Diaz: And then when I had my own gang which obviously I was the head of the women movement in the gang life there is other female gang that stand alone it took a long time.
Mason Funk: [01:16:30] Tell me about that part, when did you kind of split off? I guess you could say form your own gang that was all women?
Marianne Diaz: The all women gangs started before I joined the Compadres. It was Cardinales, we started junior high and that happened kind of organically. It was weird because it was a feeder school like in elementary school its all white then you go to junior high and there are some more people of color like there were probably 30, 40 of us.
Marianne Diaz: [01:17:00] The Latina women were all kind of like Pendleton wearing, khaki wearing gangster looking without a home and we just all got together and formed a click. All female and people would say so who are your homeboys, we didnt have any, we dont need them. Then by high school I caved in to the tradition. To be honest I caved in
Marianne Diaz: [01:17:30] because we had started some shit with a gang we couldnt handle. We had done something really stupid and I didnt do it but one of my home girls did something really, really disrespectful. Gangs were coming at us from all over and we merged with a bigger gang that had men that could help us. Some of my home girls said, That was the worst decision you ever made, and I said,
Marianne Diaz: [01:18:00] well I wanted us to survive because people are going to like One of my home girls had gone into a school and it was on purpose we were going to hurt some girls from a different gang. We went in there but she stabbed a girl who was pregnant. She survived but its distasteful. No gang would accept that so we became enemy number one and we couldnt handle some of the gangs who were coming at us.
Marianne Diaz: [01:18:30] They had wanted to recruit us into this Compadre gang so we merged and we survived.
Mason Funk: 5 minutes, lets take a little break. Thats interesting. Is this one of our 480 day cards...? Yeah its an hour and a half, good to know. I think in general terms what I want to talk about for last half an hour is the work youve done in the community.
Mason Funk: [01:19:00] Lets start with, tell us about, this light the same as before? Up a little bit, I guess its all the same. Introduce us to, would you say the Clean Slate has been like the heart of your work?
Marianne Diaz: No.
Mason Funk: [01:19:30] No? Give us a general overview of the work youve done, thats great.
Marianne Diaz: The work Ive done since I would say getting out of prison of course I had to get a job. I got a job with the county as a gang intervention worker and I was there for 15 years. I became a regional a director of $8,000,000 program I was responsible for $4,000,000 of that program,
Marianne Diaz: [01:20:00] staffing it, running it training people everything, every aspect of it. What we were trying to do is reduce crime homicides gang homicides save lives that was our thing. I was happy there. I came out of prison in 1982, everything is kind of blurry.
Marianne Diaz: [01:20:30] They started paying me 1800 a month that was livable at that time. Quickly I moved up the ladder. Im smart, I know Im articulate, Im smart, being a gang member prepared me to strategize and figure out reporting statistics and all that was part of my training in the gang,
Marianne Diaz: [01:21:00] like weighing out loses and benefits. They loved me at the Deputy Bell told them when I went to my interview that if I didnt turn out to be one of their success stories that he would turn in his badge, that he would stop being a cop. Thats a lot of pressure for me because he was nice.
Marianne Diaz: [01:21:30] He was a nice guy he treated me like a human and I didnt want to let him down and I didnt. They gave me a company car and a pager that was about the size of the house real pager and to be acknowledged for what I knew about gangs was a great idea. Peace Dev intervention workers for the city of LA, at some point 94,95
Marianne Diaz: [01:22:00] I started being tired of chasing number because it became a numbers thing. It wasnt quality it was quantity. I was feeling like were orchestrating peace, were not really making it were orchestrating it. We are putting together peace agreements between gangs and inevitably fall apart because we havent dealt with whats hurting the individual. An individual in the gang who is hurting is going to mess up. They are going to kill somebody,
Marianne Diaz: [01:22:30] they are going to shoot somebody they going to hurt somebody because they tolerate that feeling of disrespect or hurt long enough to talk about it or deal with it process it. I wanted to do something different. I had a lot of tattoos at the time and I said this has really been a problem for me because regardless of how different I tried to be, people saw me a certain way. I would go into the supermarket or something
Marianne Diaz: [01:23:00] and people would again like part the red sea for me when Id walk up and it started to offend me after a while. This is no longer cool, now youre judging me based on my exterior and you know nothing about the journey Ive taken to try to become a person who promotes peace. I started thinking I got to get these things off. I went and I did some quotes, the Ruby Laser had just come out,
Marianne Diaz: [01:23:30] then it was called Ruby Laser, had just come out and I removed tattoos and I got a quote of $10,000. I said, Okay I work but I cant afford $10,000. I have a family Im supporting. Then I was lucky enough to be told by another friend of mine that she knows this doctor at San Pedro who was charged with tax evasion and has to do community service, and he has a Ruby Laser. Go talk to him.
Marianne Diaz: [01:24:00] I went. I went and talked to him. I talked to him about my situation, I said, Look this is what I do, this is how much I make, this is what I need removed, and he said, Ill do the whole thing for $2,000, you pay me as you come. 100 bucks every time you come. Its going to take 2 years to finish you. I said okay. I did that and I thought, I never wanted anybody to give me anything. That was not my way of being.
Marianne Diaz: [01:24:30] My father taught us to earn whatever. I said, I wonder if this could be something that people would be into. Like tattoo removal at a reasonable price that you get to be the empowered one by it. Nobody gave it to you, nobody said here Im helping you. Youre helping yourself. I went to White Memorial Medical Center and talked to a doctor there
Marianne Diaz: [01:25:00] who also had a laser and I said, Can we do a program? and he said, What are you thinking? and I told him. He said, I cant get the clients. I go, I can. Ill get you the clients, charge them between $50 and $100 a treatment, lets start a program and they have to get into counseling. Thats part of the deal. and he said, Okay. The White Memorial Foundation helped me write a grant to Disney and we got our first $25,000, and thats when Clean Slate started in 95.
Marianne Diaz: [01:25:30] Me and that doctor parted ways because he started getting kind of greedy and said he wanted all of the money to come in. I said, No. The money has to go back into the program. Has to go back to the program, we have to fund other stuff like youth groups, and bottom-line he wasnt feeling that so I said, Im on my own. He said to me, this is a trip, he said, A felon will never get their own non-profit, and I said, Watch me, and I did.
Marianne Diaz: [01:26:00] I had in 95, started this in 98. Southern California Counseling Center hired me and I met a bunch of people who knew a bunch of people, who liked who I was, who liked who I represented, who liked the way I spoke about things and they put me in touch with attorneys that theyd write me the stuff I needed to be a non-profit at a low cost. It was generally like 4, 5 grand, this guy charged me $500. He wrote up all my IRS paperwork and Ive had Clean Slate ever since.
Marianne Diaz: [01:26:30] Clean Slate is contracted by children institute to do youth groups, LGBTQI groups, financial literacies and we do tattoo removal to help fund all that too. My heart is on Southern California Counseling Center. The reason why I say that is like Clean Slate is mine and you always love your baby. There is no way around it, youre going to love your baby but the counseling center saved my life. So, who do you love more?
Marianne Diaz: [01:27:00] I dont know. They saved my life because what happened was, they hired a bully basically. I was a bully. I was a bully because thats how I learned to survive. They hired me knowing my criminal background, knowing everything Mercy Jacobs was the executive director at the time and we had immediate connection even though she was a Jewish rich white woman out of Beverly Hills
Marianne Diaz: [01:27:30] and I was an ex-con gangster thug, brown person who was poor out of Lennox Hawthorne area but there was some kind of magic between us. She wanted what I knew and I wanted the resources she could give me to make what I believed was necessary. They hired me for 15 hours a week to start
Marianne Diaz: [01:28:00] and I quickly started telling them, This is what we need to do. You have nothing for people like me. Yeah youre low cost and yeah you bring in people from around here. The intermittently poor like actors and stuff, mandated people but weve got to do something else.
Marianne Diaz: [01:28:30] I started talking to her about rage and the first group I created was the rage resolution group because I felt that theres difference between anger and rage. Anger is what you feel right now, rage is like boiling.
Mason Funk: Start with theres anger and rage.
Marianne Diaz: [01:29:00] Theres a difference between anger and rage, and this is not truth this is what I believe because I dont know what the truth is. I feel that anger is now. Something angers you, you get upset and rage is like simmering all the time. Its layers and layers and layers of disrespect and humiliation. For people of color thats been ongoing. Its simmering, it comes to a boil then it explodes. A lot of the explosions happen because of injustice.
Marianne Diaz: [01:29:30] There is a hyper awareness of injustice no matter if its this big. Do you know what I mean? Its like fairness is really important to raggers and I want you to be as outraged as I am about whatever that incident was and if youre not, then Im raging out. I told her this and she was like, This is amazing. Do you think theres people who feel that way? and I go, Yeah, I do.
Marianne Diaz: [01:30:00] The rage movement has been going since 2000. Its never stopped and were always full. Weve had 20 some people in there and this little 7 but were always there and people have said that something significantly changes when you talk about their rage being response to injustice. Youre not a bad person, its just youre not going to deal with unfairness.
Marianne Diaz: [01:30:30] What you got to learn is not everybody feels the same and when you can understand that not everybody has the same investment in this, then you dont need to convince them to have it. Thats where the problems happen. Anyway she said that was great and then I started the Teen Violence Prevention Group and things just kept growing. Now Ive got my own department there, the outreach were now in Watts, providing therapy there for mandated
Marianne Diaz: [01:31:00] and for the first time in their history people who have finished the mandate keep coming back. I think the center as a whole, Clean Slate, the philosophies are similar in that we believe that people should be invested in their own recovery, in their own mental health. It shouldnt be youre a bad person or you did something wrong, lets look at the whole picture and the history behind the way you respond to things.
Marianne Diaz: [01:31:30] Most of it has to do with trauma. Theres been trauma happening to people. When somebody who gets into a car accident and theyre forever changed because of that car accident, thats a trauma. A community or a culture that has been historically marginalized and oppressed, I just want to say, I dont know if I should say this but have been attacked
Marianne Diaz: [01:32:00] for who they are and that includes blacks, browns, Asians, middle eastern for sure right now, Muslims, LGBTQI, the poor, all the people who are like not in that center, need to be heard. They need to be heard and acknowledged in that truth, not talked out of it,
Marianne Diaz: [01:32:30] not said you should do something different. Its be where theyre at and something happens with that. People feel like they can breathe when somebody is sitting there saying, I know. I believe you. I believe thats what happened to you, instead of, Maybe you did this or you did that or maybe you caused your own victimization, which is often what we get.
Marianne Diaz: [01:33:00] My heart is with the center because it gives me the ability to try my stuff out. I get to try things that havent been This is my phone. Do you want me to-
Mason Funk: I think thats mine.
Marianne Diaz: No its mine. Its both of ours.
Mason Funk: How crazy is that.
Marianne Diaz: Im going to turn this off.
Mason Funk: Let me answer real quick because Im getting calls from my next interview subject. Hello. Hi Erica.
Mason Funk: [01:33:30] I recognize the number. Yes okay. Its really wonderful thank you so much, alright, we should be there right around like between 1 and 1.30 the latest.
Mason Funk: [01:34:00] Thanks you so much. Bye bye. Remember the other day when I had to probably switch it? I had to switch us to Thursday and I was like, Oh no, and I started to switch everything. Then they call back, No we can work it out. That will be nice.
Marianne Diaz: Where was I?
Mason Funk: The rage and where people are finally told I believe you.
Marianne Diaz: [01:34:30] When people are finally told that I believe you, that your experience is valid, I think something changes for them. I believe that when Im given plenty of court mandated people, to see individually or in a group or whatever, I think that whats important for me to do is to leave the file on the side and hear their side of the story. There is what the system says about you
Marianne Diaz: [01:35:00] and there is what you say about you, and Im really interested in what you say about you. We have to deal with the system, theres no getting around it. Theyre there, theyre the mandators, theyve decided youve done a crime, let me get to know you first as a human being because thats important and the center lets me do that. They let me do stuff that I think all good therapy should be done that way
Marianne Diaz: [01:35:30] to like take the expertise out of therapist and put it back into the client. Thats my work and peace happens that way. When you have peace within, like I had peace within, I still get angry and upset with whatever but Im not going to go hurt anybody anymore but when you have peace within you can imagine other outcomes. When you dont have peace within,
Marianne Diaz: [01:36:00] theres only one outcome and thats vengeance or violence. Unfortunately thats what oppressed people learn to do is to lash out, defend and not let the emotions that really are human, sadness, empathy and all that just get wiped out from years of racism,
Marianne Diaz: [01:36:30] poverty and survival it requires a different mindset.
Mason Funk: I thought it was really interesting when you were talking about that African American guy you were talking with and he was saying, why would you be out as a lesbian in New York in different color because this is one of those distinctions where passing is possible if youre LGBT, if youre gay and lesbian basically or if youre bisexual but passing as a person of color pretty much that also exists.
Marianne Diaz: [01:37:00] Its pretty hard. Its happened but yeah you can.
Mason Funk: I guess I just want because youve got so much accumulated insight into these 2 fields of oppression I guess you could say. I guess I just want to hear you talk more about the oppression and the humiliation that people of color experience and the oppression that the LGBTQ people experience. The difference and the similarities I would say that you see,
Mason Funk: [01:37:30] not so that you can say, my situation is worse than yours but just to build understanding.
Marianne Diaz: I think the way that LGBTQI community and people of color, theres similarities in the way that they have been oppressed. What is different is that a person of color cannot hide that theyre a person of color
Marianne Diaz: [01:38:00] but I know Latinos who pass as white, I know African Americans who pass as white, its just easier that way to get the things that you think you should get but not often. It isnt something thats easy. LGBT people I guess you can hide
Marianne Diaz: [01:38:30] and you cannot be seen with the person you love, you cannot be at places where gay and lesbian transgender people frequent. You can find a way to evade that and if you want to appear straight or the norm whatever you want to call it.
Marianne Diaz: [01:39:00] Whats difficult is that when you have a person in the closet, then its dark, its a dark place, growth is really hard in a dark place. I think people they still think that its a choice and thats where the rub is.
Marianne Diaz: [01:39:30] They think being gay, lesbian or transgender is a choice and I hear it all the time like, If thats their choice, Im fine with it, and I say, Is it a choice. It might be a choice to be out but its not a choice to be gay or lesbian or transgendered or any of the other variants on sexuality. Thats the choice. Being out, in, when youre out, when youre in
Marianne Diaz: [01:40:00] and Im making that calculated thing all the time. When do I come out, when do I not. The coming out process for gay people never ends, it just never ends because theres an assumption that everyone's straight. Whats that called?
Mason Funk: The baseline.
Marianne Diaz: Yeah. There you go. The baseline, straight and everything else is like somewhere off track.
Marianne Diaz: [01:40:30] I really understood what that African American man told me because he was trying to take care of me. It was interesting because hes like, You got enough. Youre a felon that people can find out when you apply for a job. Youre Latino, you cant get around that but do you have to let them know youre a lesbian? Why? Ive heard this from someone, You dont look like a lesbian, and Im like, What does a lesbian look like? I dont know. Its kind of like what does a felon look like?
Marianne Diaz: [01:41:00] Theres things about people that have been set up by media and stereotypes of people, theyre not true. There might be some truth in it but its not all true. This man was just trying to tell me, Youve got enough oppression working on you, can you just let it go and be a lesbian, but I cant be that person. Its not me.
Marianne Diaz: [01:41:30] I was that person as a kid. I think whats different about it is that if youre a person of color Im a person of color and I can go to any other person of color, extended family or whatever and I would say somebody said something really negative about me being brown and they will say,
Marianne Diaz: [01:42:00] Were brown too and we love you. Stand together. But a kid who is growing up as a gay person in their house can often be turned away from their own family. Theres not that universal kind of, were all in this together. Its like, What the fuck went wrong? Do you know what I mean Which is very different than a brown or a black person or an Asian person, theyre going to defend them. A kid coming home and saying Ive been attacked because they said I was a fag, what are you doing?
Marianne Diaz: [01:42:30] Why are you acting like that? Why would they say it? Its like a condemnation by your family on top of it and I hated that. Thats the part thats really hurtful. Is as if you cant even go home and find comfort, and thats the difference and the similarity. Theres similarities and differences but its all about I think once the world gets past thinking its a choice,
Marianne Diaz: [01:43:00] I didnt choose to be born Mexican. I dont think Id want it any other way, this is whom I am. I also didnt choose to be a lesbian, its who I am. Its how the genes or whatever lined up and I didnt have any say so in it but Im not going to be silenced about it.
Marianne Diaz: [01:43:30] The more people can say I am this and this is also who I am, its a part of me but it isnt all of me. Just like being brown, thats not all of me. Im a woman too whove been oppressed. Women have been oppressed. Theres all this stuff and I think the truth is that until we start to recognize each other as about what weve had to deal with and not try to talk us out of it and say you asked for it,
Marianne Diaz: [01:44:00] I dont think thats true. I dont think anybody asked to be hurt.
Mason Funk: Ive 3, maybe 2 final questions because I just ask everybody this question. Im going to ask it without even looking at the computer. 1 is, what advice would you have to the young LGBTQI person say teenager right now? What advice would you give that person?
Marianne Diaz: [01:44:30] The first thing is that I dont give advice to people, I dont believe in it. If you ask me what advice Id give to a coming out LGBTQI person, Id say I wouldnt give any advice but I would talk about my path, my road, what worked She might some.
Mason Funk: [01:45:00] Even if she has a few and then I have a person whos kind of coordinating that for me, what I would like that person to get in touch with you.
Marianne Diaz: Okay. Im cool.
Mason Funk: If I asked you what advice would you give?
Marianne Diaz: What advice would I give? I dont do advice, thats a little hard.
Marianne Diaz: [01:45:30] Shes just now. She was all quiet and stuff, and just said where she was now. Shes gone in the room which shes not going to be happy about it.
Mason Funk: I dont think shes going to come out.
Marianne Diaz: See what happens? Were almost there you guys.
Mason Funk: Yeah, were really close. Okay take care.
Marianne Diaz: [01:46:00] Thats the bathroom. Its that powerful water, fills up fast.
Mason Funk: Fills up fast, thats good.
Marianne Diaz: Yeah, there it is. See. As far as giving advice to a young person coming out LGBTQ, I dont give advice. I think thats dis-empowering to people.
Marianne Diaz: [01:46:30] Im just going to throw this out because I think they know what to do. I know more than you know and I think thats I will say that theres going to be something youre going to be up against. Coming out to parents, youve got to expect them to be really at first possibly disappointed because they had this idea of what their kid is going to be. Its been said he likes girls, you have girl she likes guys and thats all we know.
Marianne Diaz: [01:47:00] Very few or raised by non-heterosexual people. Thats what they think that theyre bring into the world. First disappointment I think, sadness, surprise, loss all those things are going to happen to your parents and I think parents they love you, youre their child but the world doesnt have to. The world doesnt have to love you. They dont have to nurture you or be with you through all your struggles.
Marianne Diaz: [01:47:30] I would to find people who will support them and theyre out there. You just have to be careful because some people will exploit that or use that against you at some point. To be emotional and youre a boy, theyre going to try to talk you out of it. Just know that emotion that you have is really going to be useful at some point in your life.
Marianne Diaz: [01:48:00] Just know that you are who you are. If you [inaudible 01:48:05] the same way. Theyre going to be defensive. I didnt know that the world is trying to change outward because people are reacting to it but its change I can marry my partner.
Marianne Diaz: [01:48:30] I think the more of us that they see in the world, just a lot of us just arent out because its too scary. I think that if we start to speak in a way thats supportive, I understand youre uncomfortable with this and thats okay. Make people accept you. Just be you. Dont think youre going to change people, their mind about us overnight. My actions have proven that Im not a different person because Im just a lesbian. I love a woman,
Marianne Diaz: [01:49:00] she loves me back and were not hurting anybody, were a family. Its really what I can say. I remember clearly when I came right out of prison because in prison Ive got to tell you it was okay. Theres some women who are lesbians and when I came out I came out really intense,
Marianne Diaz: [01:49:30] hard with the pink triangle and everything, and be really militant about the whole thing. I think its okay. I think that i turned some people off that way though. I frightened some of my family. They were different I dont think. But I just think its a different time and I think you can be more conversational about it. Counseling center where you can find people who are going through the same thing and troubles.
Marianne Diaz: [01:50:00] Most people in my LGBTQI in Watts we have a lot of transgender youth and its kind of a harder thing for people to get now. Thats all that stuff, we know that but the transgendered is really compute and its going to take time. I think gay and lesbian people need to advocate for them, the transgendered.
Mason Funk: [01:50:30] Great. What is your hope for the future?
Marianne Diaz: The future, peace. Just peace. Imposing your own ideas on, right. Imposing what the world says as normal, imposing. We spend a lot of time defending, oppressing, defending its like people are not happy control something.
Marianne Diaz: [01:51:00] This country in particular a lot of violence. This country is built on violence. We have to take a really good look at that and how weve treated people, how we treated those that were here before us, those that have come after. You ... always try to make somebody feel like shit. Other countries are certainly dont appreciate us, for our arrogance, compassion its interesting.
Marianne Diaz: [01:51:30] Our full nation we havent gotten to compassion and I think self-compassion is little. We got self-compassion for ourselves for making mistakes, being not so PC sometimes and being racist. I think everybody is We try not to be but theres ... we work against it. As long as you know youre a racist,
Marianne Diaz: [01:52:00] I worry because then you dont even know what youre doing.
Mason Funk: Something would be especially what do you see as the importance of a project like OUTWORDS which is what this project is called? If you can mention OUTWORDS in your answer.
Marianne Diaz: I think projects and projects in particular like OUTWORDS help to bring awareness to people.
Marianne Diaz: [01:52:30] I mean awareness about peoples journey, about what people have to deal with, how it isnt the same for everybody. Some people are able to overcome certain things even with a lot of obstacles in the way. People need to see us. They need to see who we are. How diverse we are, how different, how resilient we are as people. I think it is important.
Mason Funk: [01:53:00] Great. Thats awesome.
Marianne Diaz: Thank you.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Goro Toshima
Date: July 13, 2016
Location: Home of Marianne, Diaz, Phillips Ranch, CA