Gang Leader for a Day

Sudhir’s primary research subject, JT is a mid-level manager of the Black Kings, one of the larger, predominantly African-American gangs in Chicago in the 1980s and ‘90s. JT makes a living organizing the drug trade and managing other illicit or half-legal economies, including prostitution, within projects like the Robert Taylor Homes. He is also interested in the nature of Sudhir’s research, having studied some sociology himself in college, and he hopes that Sudhir will one day write his “biography.”

JT Quotes in Gang Leader for a Day

The Gang Leader for a Day quotes below are all either spoken by JT or refer to JT. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Gang Leader for a Day published in 2008.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Go back to where you came from ... and be more careful when you walk around the city. ... You shouldn’t go around asking them silly-ass questions. ... With people like us, you should hang out, get to know what they do, how they do it. No one is going to answer questions like that. You need to understand how young people live on the streets.

Related Characters: JT (speaker), Sudhir Venkatesh
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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Beer? ... You said I should hang out with folks if I want to know what their life is like.

Related Characters: Sudhir Venkatesh (speaker), JT
Related Symbols: Beer
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

You always take the sure bet in this game. Nothing can be predicted—not supply, not anything. The [person] who tells you he’s going to have product a year from now is lying. He could be in jail or dead. So take your discount now.

Related Characters: JT (speaker), Sudhir Venkatesh
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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And we don’t just fight each other. We have basketball tournaments, softball tournaments, card games. Sometimes it’s just people in the organization who play, but sometimes we find the best people in the building ... so it’s a building thing.

Related Characters: JT (speaker), Sudhir Venkatesh
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

He [JT] had no real sense of what I would actually be writing—because, in truth, I didn’t know myself. Nor did I know if he’d be upset with me for having seen him beat up C-Note, or if perhaps he’d try to censor me.

Related Characters: Sudhir Venkatesh (speaker), JT, C-Note
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

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JT’s ambitions ran even higher. What he wanted, he told me, was to return the gang to its glory days of the 1960s, when South Side gangs worked together with residents to agitate for improvements in their neighborhoods.

Related Characters: Sudhir Venkatesh (speaker), JT
Page Number: 75-6
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

I spent the next few weeks turning the information in my notebooks into statistical tables and graphs that showed how much different hustlers made. I figured that JT would appreciate this data at least as much as my professors would...

Related Characters: Sudhir Venkatesh (speaker), JT
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

You didn’t have to get mixed up in this shit.
He must have heard that I’d helped drag Price into the lobby. I didn’t say anything. JT slapped my leg, asked if I wanted a Coke, and walked off to the fridge.

Related Characters: JT (speaker), Sudhir Venkatesh
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

...perhaps the most unconventional thing I ever did was embrace the idea that I could learn so much, absorb so many lessons, and gain so many experiences at the side of a man who was so far removed from my academic world.

Related Characters: Sudhir Venkatesh (speaker), JT
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:

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JT Character Timeline in Gang Leader for a Day

The timeline below shows where the character JT appears in Gang Leader for a Day. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 - How Does It Feel to Be Black and Poor?
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The young men do not threaten Sudhir, but they surround him until a man named JT arrives, and asks what Sudhir is doing in the Oakland projects. Sudhir repeats that he... (full context)
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...up much of the night, as the young men around him – “foot soldiers” in JT’s gang, known as the Black Kings – tell stories, smoke, and drink beer. JT comes... (full context)
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...But after showering, he buys beer and goes back to the same project. He finds JT and says that, if JT says Sudhir should observe people and their daily lives, then... (full context)
Chapter 2 – First Days on Federal Street
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Sudhir begins riding around in JT’s car and following him in some of his daily activities, although not, for the first... (full context)
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Finally, by late spring of the first year of his research, Sudhir is asked by JT to accompany him on a gang-related visit, to Curly, another member of the Black Kings.... (full context)
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Sudhir doesn’t take notes when JT and Curly meet in Curly’s mother’s apartment in Robert Taylor. But Sudhir does recall that... (full context)
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While JT is preparing to take over his new role, Sudhir researches (in the UChicago library) the... (full context)
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After a few weeks in the spring of 1990, when JT is situated in his new role as regional drug manager at Robert Taylor, he invites... (full context)
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In particular, Sudhir gets to know JT’s mother, Ms. Mae. Ms. Mae often cooks for Sudhir, and tells him about her life... (full context)
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JT also takes Sudhir on tours of the different high-rises of the Robert Taylor Homes, and... (full context)
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...Clarisse, in her thirties, who is a prostitute in Robert Taylor and a relative of JT’s, although JT does not tell Sudhir this—Clarisse does. She says that she’s a “regular” prostitute... (full context)
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...his friends, also “regular” squatters, set up an auto-repair open-air market on the basketball courts. JT comes by after some time and tells C-Note to move, that there’s a BK-run basketball... (full context)
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C-Note does not back down from JT, and refuses to move his auto-repair equipment from the courts. But JT insists and, finally,... (full context)
Chapter 3 – Someone to Watch Over Me
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...that, by the summer of 1990, after he has been observing the BKs (and especially JT) for about a year, he is shaken by the relationship between the gang’s “regulatory” function... (full context)
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Brass yells back at JT when JT accuses him of living there for free, and JT and others beat him... (full context)
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JT responds to Sudhir, however, that both Brass and C-Note had “questioned his authority,” and that... (full context)
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...1980s and early 1990s, when Sudhir was visiting the Robert Taylor Homes, gang leaders like JT were selling crack in especially competitive markets. This meant that any advantage one gang gained... (full context)
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Sudhir is especially surprised to learn from JT that the Black Kings pay off local city officials, including those on the Board of... (full context)
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...neighborhoods in the South Side—also have complex relationships with gangs like the BKs. Sudhir relates JT’s vision for a rejuvenated South Side, one in which, like during the ‘60s and ‘70s,... (full context)
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Sudhir follows other members of the Robert Taylor community, since JT is spending more and more time on political organizing efforts. Sudhir meets with Kris and... (full context)
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...Robert Taylor hope to organize as a community bonding effort. Sudhir attends and runs into JT, who walks in surrounded by other BKs. JT is surprised to see Sudhir there under... (full context)
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Sudhir argues that he is still writing JT’s biography, at least primarily, and that he wants to know “what other people think about”... (full context)
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After the meeting, JT confronts Sudhir again in private, and politely but firmly tells him that, since Sudhir is... (full context)
Chapter 4 – Gang Leader for a Day
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Times elapses, and its been three years that Sudhir has observed JT and others in the BKs and in the Robert Taylor Homes. In discussions with his... (full context)
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Sudhir listens to JT talk frequently about how he is the “CEO” of a group of people. But Sudhir... (full context)
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...on a weekly basis. Pastor Wilkins has offered a church room to the BKs, but JT and the lieutenants caution that Sudhir might not want to be indebted to Wilkins for... (full context)
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Sudhir then drives with T-Bone, Price, and JT to meet with Johnny, who owns a corner store near Robert Taylor. Johnny pays the... (full context)
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...claims he was stealing because Billy wasn’t paying him his full cut to begin with. JT and Sudhir walk away, and JT asks Sudhir what he would do to resolve the... (full context)
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...have broken the rules, their punishments should “offset,” like in the NFL—neither is then punished. JT thinks this is “smart” reasoning, as do the lieutenants, but JT also tells Sudhir that... (full context)
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To round out his day with the BKs, Sudhir rides with JT to various “street groups,” where “directors” report to JT what they’ve sold, in what quantities,... (full context)
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Sudhir is shocked to learn, during these rounds, that many people “rip off” JT to an extent in the handling of normal drug-selling. For example, “mixers” who bake the... (full context)
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...end of his day as gang leader, Sudhir is exhausted, and realizes just how much JT has to keep track of—nearly all of it in his head, as JT is worried... (full context)
Chapter 5 – Ms. Bailey’s Neighborhood
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...down and collected his thoughts, he goes back to the Homes. There, he runs into JT, who says that Ms. Bailey is angry with him. When he speaks to Ms. Bailey,... (full context)
Chapter 6 – The Hustler and the Hustled
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...him to share his notes with law enforcement, if he’s ever subpoenaed. This is because JT and others in the BKs speak to him about events like drive-by shootings, and Sudhir... (full context)
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Sudhir meets with Ms. Bailey and JT and tells them what he’s learned about the legal status of some of his research.... (full context)
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Sudhir begins interviewing pimps and prostitutes within the buildings – the interviews are arranged by JT and Ms. Bailey, and Sudhir is surprised to hear that many pimps and prostitutes are... (full context)
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...was fairly lucrative. One day, Sudhir meets with Ms. Bailey to catch up, and finds JT with her in her office. Sudhir, unthinking, shares a good deal of information with both... (full context)
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...days, Sudhir realizes that he’s angered nearly everyone he normally speaks to in the homes. JT and Ms. Bailey have gone around to tenants with boarders, to people like C-Note, and... (full context)
Chapter 7 – Black and Blue
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Sudhir describes an incident that causes him to bond more closely with JT. One day, sitting outside and enjoying the fine weather, Sudhir is talking to JT’s uncle,... (full context)
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JT allows other gang members to tend to Price upstairs once they’ve got him stabilized, and... (full context)
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Sudhir learns from T-Bone that JT has been given a new job in the BK hierarchy, and that he’ll now be... (full context)
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Shortly thereafter, Sudhir learns from JT that his new job as a higher-up in the BKs is the real thing. Sudhir... (full context)
Chapter 8 – The Stay-Together Gang
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JT invites Sudhir to several of the BKs’ large-scale “gatherings” in the suburbs of Chicago, where... (full context)
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...is interrupted by gunfire, which, though not indicative of a gang war (and instead attributable, JT thinks, to people high on drugs), is nevertheless a reminder of the constant dangers of... (full context)
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...It’s a prestigious position, and Sudhir realizes that he is pulling away from people like JT and Ms. Bailey, perhaps for good. Sudhir notes that the drug trade in Robert Taylor,... (full context)
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Sudhir meets with JT one evening in Ms. Mae’s apartment, and tells him that he’ll be moving to Cambridge... (full context)
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Sudhir recalls a meeting with JT in 1998, when they go out for dinner, and Sudhir realizes that he’s now a... (full context)
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Sudhir reports to the reader that JT eventually moved into “legitimate” business and had “some money saved” from the gang; he also... (full context)