Gang Leader for a Day

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Shorty-Lee Character Analysis

A young member of the BKs, Shorty-Lee agrees to run a group of “registrars” through Robert Taylor, asking for official “votes” from residents. When Shorty-Lee confronts one woman at her apartment, however, it is revealed that he has confused voter registration (the woman is already officially registered with the city) with voter coercion. Shorty-Lee abandons the voting drive soon thereafter.

Shorty-Lee Quotes in Gang Leader for a Day

The Gang Leader for a Day quotes below are all either spoken by Shorty-Lee or refer to Shorty-Lee. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hustling Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin edition of Gang Leader for a Day published in 2008.
Chapter 3 Quotes

Shorty-Lee was puzzled. He looked over to the three other BKs. They were toting spiral-bound notebooks in which they “signed up” potential votes. But it seemed that neither Lenny nor JT had told them there was an actual registration form and that registrars had to be licensed.

Related Characters: Sudhir Venkatesh (speaker), JT, Lenny Duster , Shorty-Lee
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Sudhir rapidly realizes that most of the foot soldiers in the gang don’t really know what they’re “registering” people in the building for, and, as a consequence, what voter registration and voter choice entail. They know it is important for the BKs to be involved in the political process, and in some sense their work, as Sudhir notes, echoes the “Chicago machine” politics of the earlier part of the twentieth century.

Thus Shorty-Lee’s lesson in civic engagement, as delivered by this woman at her door, is both a meaningful moment in his (and in Sudhir’s) education, and a reminder of the disconnect between the “official” culture of the world outside Robert Taylor and the unofficial, or gray-market, culture that exists within these neighborhoods. Just as CHA employees and the Chicago PD have relatively circumscribed interactions with the residents of the Homes, so, too, does the political process have only a glancing impact on the lives of most people there – unless JT and others attempt to connect foot soldiers with official institutions of the state, like the voter registry board or the Democratic party.


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Shorty-Lee Character Timeline in Gang Leader for a Day

The timeline below shows where the character Shorty-Lee appears in Gang Leader for a Day. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3 – Someone to Watch Over Me
Hustling Theme Icon
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Objectivity and Empathy Theme Icon
Crime and the Police Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
...awkward moment in which one woman meets with a young and motivated gang member named Shorty-Lee, directing a “voter drive.” The woman says she doesn’t need to “register” with the BKs,... (full context)