To me, it’s so weird to have a gate around a neighborhood. Seriously, are they trying to keep people out or keep people in? If somebody puts a gate around Garden Heights, it’ll be a little bit of both.

Although there isn’t a literal gate around Garden Heights, racialized poverty creates a metaphorical gate around the neighborhood. Garden Heights is not a place people go to unless they live there, as we see when Starr explains that her Williamson friends either aren’t allowed or are too afraid to visit her at home. There is also a lack of city funding, good teachers, and businesses creating job opportunities. This in turn creates a dearth of resources for the people who live in Garden Heights, keeping them trapped inside the poverty and violence within.

Even if you do have a high school diploma, so many of the schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough.

Maverick’s explanation of Tupac’s THUG LIFE lays out the mechanisms that create a cycle of racialized poverty in Garden Heights. Life cannot improve in Garden Heights because there is an entire cyclical system that makes it impossible. Because Black communities have a reputation for drugs and violence, legitimate paths for making money don’t come to the community. This reputation also affects the educational opportunities available in those communities. Without job opportunities or proper education, many young people turn to drug dealing as one of their few ways of making money.

Growing up I was pissed at my daddy for going to prison and leaving me. And there I was, in the same prison as him, missing out on my babies’ lives.

Maverick tells the story of how he managed to leave the King Lords, revealing that he fell into gang life as part of an intergenerational cycle. Maverick’s father being a King Lord meant that Maverick grew up without a father figure. Worse, the social pressures and dangers of his father being a King Lord made gang life one of his only options. As a result, he missed out on some of Seven and Starr’s formative years, becoming the kind of absentee father he never wanted to be.

With King Lords, we had a whole bunch of folks who had our backs, no matter what. They bought us clothes and shit our momma couldn’t afford and always made sure we ate.

DeVante explains why he and his brother Dalvin joined the King Lords. Because of the social forces that make Garden Heights, joining a gang provided more stability for DeVante and Dalvin than his mother could. With this entire picture of DeVante’s situation, we see how he and his brother fell into gang life because of lack of opportunities. This tragic reality demonstrates how boys in Garden Heights are forced into gang life by circumstance, which in turn will destroy their futures with violence and a criminal record.

“Look, you not responsible for your sisters,” Daddy says, “but I’m responsible for you. And I ain’t letting you pass up opportunities so you can do what two grown-ass people supposed to do.”

Maverick, as a caring father, refuses to allow Seven to go to community college in Garden Heights. One of the mechanisms that creates a cycle of poverty is the way teenagers are forced to take on adult responsibilities, sacrificing their own dreams. Because of Iesha and King’s neglect, Seven often tries to take an adult role in Kenya and Lyric’s lives. However, Seven also has Maverick and Lisa as parents, who take their responsibilities seriously. As such, they make sure that Seven takes advantage of the four-year colleges that have offered him admission, helping break the cycle.