Kaprice grew up in East Oakland during the 1980s, “when crack cocaine was just hitting the streets.” At fourteen, she fell in love with Lil’ Jerry, a neighborhood kid who “claimed” the 96vill gang of East Oakland. After the gang’s leader was killed in the mid ‘80s, crime in the area “skyrocketed,” and Kaprice spent most of her time running around with Lil’ Jerry.
Kaprice works well with the students at Oakland High because she has lived their life. She knows firsthand the obstacles that the students face daily, and she is well suited to help overcome them. Kaprice is proof that Oakland’s cycle of crime and poverty can be broken.
After high school, Kaprice’s brother filled out a college application for Clark Atlanta University on her behalf, and she was accepted. Kaprice, however, had little interest in college and preferred to stay close to Lil’ Jerry. She wanted to get pregnant and “go on welfare,” since “that’s what all the girls she knew did.” Lil’ Jerry refused, and he refused to have sex with her after that too. He insisted she go to college, and he refused to let her to see other boys. “You’re not messing with nobody else either,” Lil’ Jerry said. “Try somebody else, I’ll kill them and I’ll kill you first.”
Lil’ Jerry’s behavior disrupts common stereotypes of criminals as heartless sociopaths who lack the capacity for good. Clearly, Lil’ Jerry has done some very bad things (like threatening to kill Kaprice), but he still cares about Kaprice and wants to see her get out of Oakland. This implies that Lil’ Jerry is not all bad and perhaps his criminal behavior is more indicative of his social surroundings than an innate criminal quality.
So Kaprice went to college, and Lil’ Jerry was later killed by a drug dealer. The random dealer had trampled an old lady’s flowers, and when Lil’ Jerry demanded he stop, the dealer shot him dead. The case remains unsolved, but Kaprice finished college and landed the job at O High. She feels connected to the kids and “she knows how to work with them. They are her children.”
Lil’ Jerry’s behavior implies that, like Richard, he is not an inherent criminal and instead is a complex human being. He cares about the old lady, which is a quality that a truly depraved person would lack. Lil’ Jerry challenges popular stereotypes of young black men as dangerous felons.