Rickey and Lafeyette have begun to spend more time together, and Rickey has included him in his group, the Four Corner Hustlers, which is not a real gang because they do not sell drugs but is meant to control their territory: Rickey and Lafeyette’s building. The group, then, appears to be a gang in preparation.
LaJoe’s fears for Lafeyette prove well founded, as Lafeyette joins a group that professedly aims to imitate gangs. Such a decision is puzzling, given that gangs are so often the cause of the young boys’ unhappiness and pain.
In the meantime, LaJoe has begun to feel more distant from Lafeyette. Her son has started dating a girl but is adamant that he does not want to have children before a long while. LaJoe wants to make sure her son does not get anyone pregnant but, more importantly, is worried about his relationship with Rickey, especially since she has seen the young boy break a car window and steal the driver’s necklace in broad daylight. She is worried that Lafeyette might fall in with the wrong crowd and end up like Terence.
In the same way that she knows her son Terence is not a bad person, LaJoe feels that the greatest dangers in Lafeyette’s life do not necessarily come from him, but from the negative influences in his environment—for example, his grief for Craig’s death and, through Rickey, his potential subjection to peer pressure to participate in illegal, violent activities.
At the same time, even though Rickey is turning into a tough, reckless and seemingly uncontrollable youngster, using a gun to shoot at the Disciples who dare cross the Four Corner Hustlers’ territory, he is also conflicted about his behavior. He tells Lafeyette that he wishes to return to his childhood and make different choices. The two boys enjoy their conversations and, when Rickey talks about dying, he admits that he feels as though he might die at any point and that he is afraid to go to sleep, thinking he might die. Neither boy thinks about the future, focusing instead on the present.
Even Rickey cannot be neatly categorized as a “bad” person, since he does not seem to enjoy causing harm but, rather, feels that something in his life has constrained him to take this path. The regrets he feels about his childhood shows that preserving the innocence of that period in life—as Pharoah so often strives to do—is crucial to a person’s development, as it can give one the time and hope necessary to build self-confidence, ambitions, and an optimistic trust in the future.
While Lafeyette enjoys Rickey’s company, he does not appreciate his group of friends and hopes that he can be a good influence for Rickey, encouraging him to stay out of trouble. In an environment where adults categorize children early on to figure out who belongs to a gang and who doesn’t, Rickey feels that people expect him to behave badly—and that, as a result, he will behave exactly as they expect him to. Lafeyette, too, has become cynical, trusting that everyone has let him down: school, Public Aid, his older brother, his father, the police, and even himself.
Unlike what observers such as his mother might think, Lafeyette is aware and highly critical of Rickey’s more violent behavior. The two boys’ past shoplifting incident might have given Lafeyette the confidence to know when to say no to Rickey. Lafeyette understands that Rickey is not inherently mean, but that he is reacting to what he perceives as an oppressive environment.
In contrast to his brother, Pharoah becomes interested in politics even though his mother, whose own mother had played an important role in the local management of the Democratic Party, has given up on politics a long time ago, since she has felt abandoned by local representatives, who have not helped improve life at Horner. Pharoah, however, becomes interested in the mayoral elections and begins to dream about becoming a politician.
Unlike his brother’s loss of hope, Pharoah’s interest in politics reveals his hope that life can change. His interest is a form of action, as it allows him to take intellectual control over what is happening in his life, instead of accepting that he is simply bound to suffer from injustice.
In the meantime, the violence continues, as usual, continually harming Horner residents. When LaJoe hears running by the apartment, she sees a group of young boys, including Lafeyette, hit an old man who had apparently molested one of the boy’s cousins in a parking lot. Instead of calling the police, the young boys decided to enforce justice themselves, to LaJoe’s consternation.
This particular incident is not typical of the violence at Horner, since it does not involve gangs or the police. However, its underlying mentality reflects Horner residents’ distrust of authority, as these boys have given up on the law, deciding instead that pure retribution might be more effective at solving the problem at hand.