After Bouncing from California Foster Care System to the Correctional System, One Compton Native is Doing Things Differently
Special to Sentinel by Jasmyne A. Cannick
It’s been eight months since Kevon Gulley walked out of Kern Valley State Prison after serving 80% of an eight-year sentence for fraud. Before that, he put in 10 and a half years. He’s only 34.
As a former foster child, Kevon, a Compton native has spent the majority of his in life in and out of one system or another.
But this time, things are going to be different for Kevon.
He made a promise to God that he wasn’t going back.
So in February 2009, just over a year before his release, Kevon put a plan into motion.
It wasn’t easy, but with the assistance of his fellow block mates, who passed Kevon their writing paper in return for his magazines and the chance to read what he was writing, it took Kevon just 93 days to complete the first installment in his new gritty urban series about life on the streets of Los Angeles.
In ‘Just Like Compton’, Kevon Gulley says he’s trying to write his way out of becoming another California statistic.
“I don’t want to go back,” explains Kevon. “But the system is set up to where it almost ensures that people like myself do. When we get out, no one will hire us. Like everyone one, we’ve got bills to pay, children to take care of. So many of us have to make money the only way we know how and that’s what sends us back.”
The middle of three children, Kevon was left alone for almost three months by his heroin addicted mother in Watts’ Imperial Courts housing projects. With only a neighbor by the name of Mrs. Biddle to care for him the best she could when she could, it wasn’t until his grandmother found out about his situation moved him in with her in Compton that he finally felt like he was wanted.
But that feeling soon faded when his grandmother passed away and he became a ward of the State of California was placed in numerous group homes and foster homes until he was finally emancipated.
Since Kevon’s been out of prison, he’s applied for numerous jobs. To his benefit, he’s trilingual-in addition to English, Kevon speaks both Spanish and French fluently having learned Spanish while in prison and French from his Haitian heritage. And even though he has a high school diploma and a Liberal Arts degree, Kevon has had no success in finding a job. When he applied to work for the Compton Unified School District as a Cafeteria Worker, where he was actually hired for the job, when his background check came back it was the same story-no thank you.
“I just wish people would judge me for the person that I am today and not the juvenile that I was,” explains Kevon. “Today I am trying to do things differently. The community needs to understand that a large part of making sure that people like myself don’t end up back in the system is to give us a chance to prove we’ve changed, to hire us.”
Until he finds a job, Kevon is going to continue pushing sales of his novel ‘Just Like Compton’, which is currently available on Amazon.com and at local African-American bookstores including Eso Won, Smiley’s, and Zahra’s.
A fictional novel where the names have been changed to protect the guilty, ‘Just Like Compton’ has been billed as having the grit of Monster Kody’s Monster, the intrigue and mystery of a James Patterson novel, complete with the kind of Black romance that rivals acclaimed author Zane.
For those who have ever wondered about what goes on in the head in those who bang or what it’s like to do time in a California prison as a Black man today, Just Like Compton does an incredible job of breaking down the inexplicable violence, revenge, betrayal, racism, drugs, love and loyalty to a color, neighborhood block, and gang family that many have a hard time understanding. ‘Just Like Compton’ is the perfect blend of real life-straight up with no chaser complete with baby mama drama, a chick on the side drama, hood drama, and the drama behind the walls.
The novel gives readers a strikingly real portrayal of gang life in Los Angeles. Nothing is off limits or too graphic when it comes to telling it like it is for this first time author who admits that for his first novel he drew a lot from his personal life.
“I love Compton,” Kevon says. “I didn’t always do right and I paid the price for it. I’ve seen a lot in these streets and today I just think that if there’s anything that I can do to help make a difference, then I’m going to do it. No one wants to be locked up. Prison is no joke, believe me.”
Self-published, self-edited, and self-promoted, Kevon hopes that sales of his book and a full-time job will help keep him and his family afloat and afford him the opportunity to start writing the second novel in his street lit series where he wants to create more characters that feel like real people, going through real life situations, right here in Los Angeles.
Just Like Compton is currently available online at Amazon.com, local bookstores, including Eso Won in Leimert Park, Smiley’s in Carson, Zahra’s Books N Things in Inglewood, Shades of Afrika in Long Beach and keeping it real Kevon says, at the Slauson Swapmeet in Amina’s. The book can also be ordered directly through his website at www.justlikecompton.com.