LA Gang Tours – Drive-By Tourism

Alfred Lomas used to be a gang-banger. He was a member of the Florencia 13 gang who ran the entire stretch of Florence Avenue from Inglewood to Santa Fe Springs. No doubt he’s seen some nasty shit in his time but now Alfred has hung up his bandanna and now spends his time packing tourists on to a bus and showing them the sights of LA. Well, down town LA that is. His LA Gang Tours runs a bi-monthly trip around the parts of LA any normal person would have to be packing some serious heat to even consider entering. But now you can take in the sights of the infamous Crips/Bloods rivalry on Florence and Normandy or just look at some rad graffiti all from the safety of a sealed tour bus. Lomas has been getting a lot of respect for his LA Gang Tours project. As a former gang member himself, he sees the tour as purely educational.

He said the area of LA was “ground zero for a lot of the bad in this city. It could be ground zero for a lot of the good too. This is true community empowerment”. According to the LA Times, Lomas pumps much of the money made from the tours back into the community (he also runs a mobile food bank providing meals for LA’s destitute working class). This guy is like an urban Robin Hood – if Robin Hood used to carry an AK47.

After handing over 65 bucks, the first stop for the nicely air-conditioned bus is the Los Angeles river, the perfect place to take in some of that rad graffiti I was talking about. The walls that run along its banks have been a favourite place for gang members to tag for years. Then it’s off to LA County Jail – the “unofficial” home of 120,000 gang members. Lomas makes no secret of the fact he has done time there, as have most of the gang members in LA. If you make it through the gridlocked LA traffic, you’ll eventually get to Compton Avenue, that’s the place referenced in nearly every NWA track, before swinging back round through a few projects.

Then BOOM – you’ve done your first LA drive-by. Lomas thought of producing t-shirts emblazoned with “I Got Shot In South Central” (something about photos, I guess) but he thought that would drive attention away from the real purpose of the tours – working towards the rebuilding a community broken apart by gang culture, drugs and poverty. So if a few loaded tourists hand over some of their cash to gawk at one of the most deprived areas of America, then so be it. A hot meal might end up going to someone who really needs it and a rich guy can go back to his golf club and say, “I hung out with some gangsters yesterday. Now pass me my nine iron.”

Gangster tips!

If you want to go to LA and hang out with the Florence 13 crew, here are some handy tips:

Bandanna colour: Blue

Recommended tattoos: F13, FX13 or SSX13 anywhere visible (preferably neck) in old English script.

Hand sign: Right hand index finger bent at the knuckle. Ring, middle and little fingers as straight as you can with thumb extended to form an down facing F. Left hand ring finger bent at the knuckle all other fingers extended. Both palms facing the body.

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