DCP:Q&A with a former Pimp

Probably the most unique opportunity at the Demand Change Project: a Q & A with a former pimp.

Before diving into the Q & A session, Julian Sher, journalist and author of Somebody’s Daughter, started off revealing evidences of the cultural acceptance of pimps. Some examples included a cartoon about pimping, books about pimping, and music about pimping. You can also read more on pimp culture in my previous blog: Changing Culture.

John Tunipseed is the Director of the Centering for Fatherhood at Urban Ventures. But years ago, from 1974-1994, he was a gang member & pimp. His family still runs a gang in Minneapolis.

John shared that he joined his family’s gang as a protection measure. He also shared that the “women division” in the gang was important to keep up the operations of selling women. Women could go up the ranking chain by providing services- such as selling drugs or bringing in money- to the male gang members.

John also confirmed that they looked for the most vulnerable women and girls, often those who were already abused as it is easier to keep them ‘tame.’ Often the pimp would trick girl into having a “good” first time with a john. The girl may even come back all proud as she gives the pimp the money.

John had been considered a ‘thug’ & ‘gorilla pimp,’ meaning his tactects included scaring people to death. Most gangs have gorilla pimps & the gang ensures the girls stay in life.

John didn’t use the ‘daddy’ approach. He became big brother & would protect them from other criminals (but not from johns).

He also shared how they looked at the women. “Every woman is like a vintage car.” And apparently, Minnesota girls are like “the prize stallion.” They have some education, a good work ethic and are seen as “clean.” So the pimps do what’s necessary to keep them.

Pimps also focus on daily income. It’s all that matters. Women have to make quota…ether through sex or even robbery. Pimps will use cheap drugs like meth to keep women going so that they bring in more money. John had made a couple million dollars per year selling women.

He shared that he had cops and lawers who took care of him. And some of the new laws even helped the pimps because the girls moved quicker in and out of the system so the pimps could get them back on the street. He said “we’ll find a way to make your laws work for us.” [side note: this proved to me how necessary adequate safe housing is for the women and girls…so that they don’t end up back on the street after a bust and get revictimized.]

Finally, he clearly stated that there is “absolutely nothing in it for the girls, because if there was, they’d leave the pimps” once it got bad, etc.

As for John, he now shares his story with boys at an organization that works with gangs-including it’s dark, violent reality-to encourage them not to consider gang life or pimping.

And while we could be angry at him for his past life, it took A LOT of courage to sit in front of hundreds of activists and be interviewed by a survivor. And even more courage to continue sharing his story over and over with men and boys.

So, I thank God for John’s courage and pray his story can influence all stakeholders about how pimps function, and also influence men to be good fathers and boys to choose a healthier path.