Ex-gang members to pray and preach at ‘Soul City’
Former Bloods and Crips to share message of salvation on July 26 at a Daytona Beach public housing complex.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
The Crips and the Bloods are rival gangs immortalized by rap music and films for their colors, crime and street-code charisma. But two former members have agreed to stand together in a unified front at Daytona Garden Apartments, often referred to as “Soul City,” to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blood he shed for mankind’s salvation.
On Sunday, July 26 from noon to 4 p.m., Pastor Monzell Ford, a former South Central Los Angeles Crips gang member, is inviting area residents to a Kingdom Ministries outreach event and block party called “Pray 4 My Hood.”
The event’s name also is the title track from a new album by Sevin, a Christian rap artist and former Bloods member. His afternoon performance in Daytona will end a tri-city promotional tour that kicked off in Orlando and included Fort Myers.
While the Crips have historically been recognized by the color blue and the Bloods red, Ford expressed they are simply gang culture identifiers without any symbolism. In a celebrated alliance void of color or territorial warfare, Ford and Sevin will unite as “one hood” celebrating music, food, fun and most important to them – preaching the word of God.
“This is not just a concert or event, it is a hands-on movement and building block towards what we can do when a community comes together,” said Ford, who has been pastoring for 13 years and is special events coordinator of the Black Clergy Alliance.
“It’s not a charity event either, but a kick off to monthly outreach efforts to tear down strongholds.
My heart is to save souls and empower people to have their needs met,” Ford noted.
In gang at 14
Ford became a gang member before he could walk or crawl. His father, Willie “Donnie Boy” Ford was a Crips member, which established a family legacy. At the age of 7, the elder Ford was sentenced to prison on a drug charge and left his son in the care of his mother and stepfather Carol and Louis Cox.
The couple worked feverishly to save their son from a destined life of gangs, drugs, and crime.
By age 14, Monzell Ford had joined what he calls an “offset” Crips gang called the “Five Deuce Hoover Gangsters” in South Central, Los Angeles. The family moved to a West Covina suburb in an attempt to deter their son’s misguided path.
To no avail, Ford’s leadership skills further emerged: He formed his own subset Crips gang with a handful of young Black males called the West Covina Neighborhood Crips, also known as the “NHC.”
“Gang attraction was about belonging, being a part of a group of individuals who know they got each other’s back,” Ford explained. “There was a lot of racism in the 1970s and many young minorities had no direction or nothing to do. Gang membership was empowering. It gave you power, made you feel fearless.”
Drugs, money, guns
Ford also became a user and dealer of drugs at the age of 14 – mostly marijuana.
Within a year, he was earning almost $1,500 per week and professes to have always been street savvy. He refers to himself as an educated thug.
“I’m not glorifying or bragging, but I knew how to manipulate people to do things for me so I never got caught and sent to the ‘pen’” stated Ford, who admitted to multiple arrests for assault, carrying concealed weapons but was never caught with possession of drugs.
“I’ve had misdemeanors and served jail time but never got sent to the penitentiary or participated in drive-by shootings although I did carry a gun with no license. The longest I was in jail, on and off was for a couple of months but never longer than a year in county jail,” he added.
When the Daytona Times asked if he’d ever shot or killed anyone, Ford opted to “not comment.”
Bullet missed his heart
At age 17, Ford was known by the street name “Ice Capone.” While attending a Halloween party with friends, a fight broke out and gunshots followed. A crowd of startled teens ran in different directions to dodge fire but Ford was struck by a single bullet shot from a 38 hollow-tip that entered his chest and exploded. Six ribs were broken – his left lung was punctured.
“The hospital was eight miles away and upon arrival, my pupils weren’t dilated and I’d lost five pints of blood,” Ford stated. “The police immediately handcuffed me to the bed and all I could utter was ‘call my Mom, call my Mom.”
The police predicted he’d die and tried to coerce him to give names of those involved, but the pain was too intense. Ford couldn’t breathe, his lung eventually collapsed and a chest tube was inserted. He awoke from a coma three days later and learned the shooter died the same night, but felt a voice was saying, “Satan, you can’t have him (Ford) yet.”
“What caught my attention was a hospital visit from my stepfather,” said Ford. “He told me I need to understand that I was blessed and God had a plan for my life. This was no accident.”
The near-fatal shooting slowed Ford down but didn’t stop him. Gang life was all he knew.
A praying grandmother
The dichotomy surrounding Ford’s upbringing is that his paternal grandmother, “Mama Lacy” raised him to attend church because ‘that’s what Black folks did.’ She took the place of his imprisoned father and mother who worked long hours, including a stint at the U.S. Postal Service. His grandmother made sure Ford was in New Bethel Church of God in Christ every Sunday.
“I was actually raised in the church,” said Ford, who further insists New Bethel had the world’s best choir. “From ages 8 to 16, on Sundays I lifted holy hands, and Monday through Saturday I was in the streets gang-banging, having sex and selling drugs.”
Ford fathered his first son when he was 17 and dropped out of Nogales High School in West Covina, where both the principal and guidance counselor predicted he’d never live to see the age of 20. Not only did he prove them wrong, 10 years later he earned his GED.
On July 13, Ford turned 47 years old and recently graduated from Liberty Bible College & Seminary with a 4.0 grade point average and Bachelor of Science degree in biblical studies.
Called to serve
In 2001, Ford realized he could not continue on the same path. He relocated to Ft. Lauderdale and married wife Obed. Together they have a daughter, 16, and a son, 10. Ford’s two sons from previous relationships are 30 and 25.
Ford said he received salvation at age 15, but like many Christians, he didn’t declare Jesus Christ as Lord of his life until he reached the age of 32. He also worked for the postal service at one time, became a licensed security agent, and followed the proper procedure to obtain a concealed weapon license.
“I had everything a man could ever want – kids, their mother knew God’s word, but I didn’t have peace,” explained Ford. “God had been chasing me for years and other people were even telling me God called me to be a pastor.”
Daytona Beach became Ford’s home in 2009. He heeded the call to become a pastor who took to the streets versus a four-wall church became fruition. With his wife as his co-laborer, Kingdom Minded Worldwide Ministries was established. The numerous tattoos that etched his muscular forearms have since been covered with biblical messages scribed in fresh ink.
Plea for men
Ford’s new life and acquired experiences more than prepared him to understand the mentality of all human beings, but specifically incarcerated men who were sold out for street life.
A primary focus of his ministry is to deliver God’s word to those with a desperate need of love, understanding, direction and compassion to be filled with hope. He is inviting the entire community to join him at Daytona Garden Apartments on July 26, but especially wants to encourage men to step up during his street evangelism and outreach. The apartment complex is located at 437 Jean St.
“This city would be on fire if men came out and accepted change,” said Ford. “It’s time to line up and grow up. Let all that other stuff go. We are going to show Volusia County that two men who used to be enemies are not coming to shoot your hood, we’re here to heal your hood.”
For more information on Pastor Monzell Ford’s ministry, visit http://www.kmwministries.org.