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The Kids from Crenshaw: Jahsan Lambey's neck tattoo, Part 2

Jahsan Lambey at Crenshaw High in 2012
Jahsan Lambey at Crenshaw High in 2012
Tanya Jo Miller

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(Reporter Tanya Jo Miller has been following students at South LA's Crenshaw High; this is her second report on  Jahsan Lambey and his neck tattoo.)

Stars like Chris Brown and P Diddy are popularizing the neck tattoo, but what it’s like for an average kid to go through life with one? That can depends on his color.

Jahsan Lambey was 17 when I met him at Crenshaw High sitting in study hall. I was interviewing various kids about their plans for the future, but I never thought to interview Jahsan. With his neck tattoo and gold chains, he looked rougher than most of his peers at Crenshaw. So without giving it much conscious thought, I avoided him.

But on my second day there, Jahsan's teacher, Aimee Cunningham, pulled me aside. She said Jahsan was one of the deeper thinkers among her students. When it came to discussing literature, he “got in,” in a way the other students didn’t. She told me I shouldn't miss interviewing him.

So I did interview Jahsan. And his teacher was spot on. In our talks, I’ve found Jahsan to be open, curious, creative and thoughtful in how he approaches life. In fact he’s one of the students I’ve been keeping up with as they go out into the adult world after high school. 

Jahsan got the tattoo when he was about 16, after years of being teased for being a geek. He remembers getting on a bus and sitting next to a Latina who started squirming, and seemed afraid. He says it made him feel a little bad, but he honestly didn't expect that reaction.

He says a white kid wouldn't draw that response. "I'd say race plays a big role. When I see a white kid with tattoos on his neck, it's skater, rocker. When you see black kids with this, you're a gangbanger, a thug."

Watch the video of Jahsan when he was at Crenshaw High during his last month of high school.