A violence prevention counselor by day, Malik Spellman patrols the streets of South Central, Los Angeles at night, on a mission to bring peace and unity to the troubled neighborhoods he has lived in for 30 years.
Born in Jamaica, Queens, Spellman grew up in a poor, single-parent home. He was a restless child, and spent the majority of his younger years on the streets and running away from home. In an effort to escape the cold of New York and distance himself from the gang activity that surrounded him, Spellman took an impulsive bus ride to Los Angeles in 1980. He wound up on 73rd and Broadway in South Central – the country’s epicenter of gang activity. He was 16 years old.
Self-described as “all street and all hood,” Spellman managed to survive in South Central without a direct affiliation to any of the city’s many gangs. But he couldn’t avoid prison, and served four years of a seven-year sentence, time that allowed him to develop his interest in gang prevention. Spellman vowed that when he got out of jail, he would devote his life to stopping gang violence.
In 1992, Spellman helped organize a monumental gang truce between Los Angeles’ two main gangs, the Crips and the Bloods. Today, he likens himself to a modern-day social worker visiting schools, colleges and prisons advocating against gang violence.
Spellman hopes to one day head the Spellman Foundation, an organization he would dedicate to gang intervention, gang prevention and social responsibility. He dreams of opening a charter school designed to steer South Central’s high-risk youth away from the gang lifestyle and toward higher education.