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LA mother documents her daughter's gang life

February 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A unique movie premiere Thursday night in southern California.

It's a documentary about a local mom and her efforts to try and keep her daughter out of a gang.

We're all familiar with films that have focused on keeping young men from getting sucked into gangs. But this documentary focuses on a mother's struggle to keep her daughter out of the gang lifestyle. And while this is a very personal story of how one local family is dealing with this issue, the first-time filmmaker says she's hoping her documentary can help all parents.

Los Angeles is known worldwide as the gang capital of the United States. But there is a lesser known subculture the female street gangs that recruit young girls from neighborhoods all over South LA.

"We're not focused on our girls enough," said Goodloe. "Every program they have is designed for boys, and we kind of water it down to include the girls. But I think we need to find stuff specifically for girls if we are going to save them."

Valerie Goodloe said she provided her children with a typical middle class home in Leimert Park. But Goodloe says her daughter Nafeesa ended up turning to the gang lifestyle, abandoning her family and responsibilities for the streets.

"She went to juvenile hall," said Goodloe. "She ran away. It got so bad that I started writing the judge to try to keep her."

And while many mothers are faced with similar challenges, Goodloe decided to document her family's struggles. Over the course of three years, she assembled a documentary called "Gang Girl: A Mother's Journey to save her Daughter."

"I didn't come in it to be a filmmaker, or producer, or executive producer or anything like that," said Goodloe. "Those things just all of a sudden kind of happened. But I do think we have a good film. We put a lot of energy into it."

Goodloe is a professional still photographer. She worked with her husband Lemonde Goodloe and together they produced the 87 minute documentary that's already been awarded top honors at the San Diego Black Film Festival.

"It's very personal," said Lemonde Goodloe. "I think that kept us going. Knowing maybe other people who maybe lack the resources will say 'we don't have to do this.'"

"Hopefully maybe somebody will see this and say this is something that needs to be seen by everybody that has a child in America," said Valerie Goodloe.

The film includes interviews with Nafeesa, with other gang members, with relatives and lawmakers. Valerie is hoping it will provide insight for parents everywhere.

Valerie says that her daughter Nafeesa is currently living with her father and is going to West Los Angeles College. But she says her daughter still currently belongs to a gang.

Her documentary screens at the Culver Plaza Theater in Culver City.

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