Parkwood community leader Chad Crowley, calls himself “a gangster for the people”.
This is how he described himself when he was interviewed for the book Gangster which tells stories about life on the Cape Flats.
Mr Crowley, 24, wears many hats. He works with the youth, seniors and also helps to feed the people of Parkwood.
He promotes many of their projects on social media and that is where Jacques Pratt, a motivational speaker, of the Milnerton-based Hope Hela Foundation, came to know about Mr Crowley. He was then introduced to writer Carla Van der Spuy.
“I saw a video on Facebook about a peaceful protest in Prince George Drive. I went on to his Facebook page and saw that he was doing community work. I went to him,” said Mr Pratt, who thought Mr Crowley could share his story with his friend Ms Van der Spuy was working on about life on the Cape Flats.
Ms Van der Spuy told Southern Mail that she had interviewed gangsters who had been rehabilitated and as well as victims of gang-related crime.
The book is written in Afrikaans. “I’ve allowed them to use their own words and tell me how they became gangsters and how they got out of gangsterism,” she said. “Chad features in a chapter as a young man who has decided not to become a gangster.”
Mr Crowley said in his chapter, titled Gemeenskap help (Community assistance), he talks about his interest in helping the community as well as what it is like in a day in his life.
“I told her what we have to deal with on a daily basis, about my own life experiences as well as what I am doing in the community.”
“We’ve helped youth dropouts get back into school. Many times the parents cannot afford school fees and to save embarrassment, the children stay out of school. Lack of school fees is the main reason why they drop out, apart from the social ills,” he said.
Mr Crowley is also involved in a support group where “we motivate young gangsters and we build a relationship with the gangsters”.
He added: “’We have regular talks with them to let them know that there is life outside the gangster life.”
Mr Crowley said the biggest challenge related to living in the area was “being labelled as a gangster when they hear you come from Parkwood”.
But, he said: “Not all of us in Parkwood are gangsters. However, I call myself a gangster for the people. I confront the people who want to threaten us and I communicate with the people who want to work with us.”
Mr Crowley had been enrolled at False Bay College but dropped out in 2015 due to personal circumstances. He now works at a local construction company where he earns a stipend.
“I dropped out of college in 2015 where I was attending due to a sponsored bursary. Unfortunately my grandma had a stroke, my aunt and niece were working, so there was no one to look after her. I left college to look after her and a few weeks later she passed. I was not in a good space and for a year, I was in a tizz and just wandered around. I went back to college in 2017 but I lost the bursary and had to pay my own dues. I did not know how I was going to assemble money for tuition.
He said it has not been easy to find a job. “But I made a decision in life, that I will never stop studying.”