Hello, my name is Kenny Gallo, aka. Kenji, and I am what most people would call a very bad person. As a criminal, I committed sins for which no punishment could ever suffice and no penance could ever atone. If an enemy from years ago were to kill me, it would be the just desserts of the life I lived for two decades. After the crimes I've committed, it would be a lie to say that I don't deserve the ultimate punishment.
There's a reason I'm telling my story on DailyKos, however. Over the past decade, I've transformed myself from a car-bombing drug smuggler and mafioso into a committed father, law-abiding white-collar professional, and a gay rights activist.
I am offering my story in the hope that it will give inspiration to anyone who fears that it is impossible for bad people to turn good and redeem thmselves. If Kenji Gallo can turn his life around, then anyone can.
Continue with my story to learn how I went to life within Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel and the American Mafia to a Daily Kos poster agitating for universal tolerance.
On the streets, I was known by many names – Kenneth Gallo, Kenny Gallo, 健児, Kenny G., Kenji Kodama, Ramon Gomez, Ramon Gonzalez, Kenji Kodama, Ken Calo, and finally "BREAKSHOT", my code name as an undercover FBI operative — but most people knew me simply as "Kenji." As you may be able to tell from my nickname, I’m Japanese. I was an Asian-American gangster in the American Mafia and Colombian cocaine cartels.
I grossed millions as a drug smuggler, led my own crew of drug dealers and stickup kids, orchestrated drive-by shootings and car bombings to terrorize my competitors, and started my own porno company -- all before I could legally drink.
My rapsheet was terrifying: I was arrested for everything from carrying a military issue AK-47, to drug possession, to "assault with a deadly weapon", to running over a teenager with my car. I was even arrested for the murder of my best friend, a crime which I did not commit and for which another close friend was convicted. During my two decades on the streets as a merciless gangster, I worked with everyone from the cocaine cowboys of Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel to the crack dealers of LA's Crip street gangs to the bosses of New York's Colombo Mafia Family. I was a very bad man -- a predator, an exploiter, a racketeer who preyed on the weak.
Shortly before my 30th birthday, I ran into the love of my life, the high-school girlfriend who I abandoned to pursue a playboy lifestyle as a coke dealer, porn producer, and jet-setting mafioso. Years before, I had broken her heart, and now, as I faced her beautiful face and the man she introduced as her husband-to-be, she broke mine. I realized that my life was bankrupt, a moral catastrophe and a waking nightmare. I realized that I had wasted my life and used all of my gifts to do harm. Spiritually and professionally sick of the criminal life, I resolved to do good.
For the next eight years, from 1997-2005, I sought to make amends for my crimes by voluntarily working with the FBI and NYPD as a clandestine undercover operative against organized crime across America. I risked my life by wearing a wire against some of the most dangerous criminals in the world and infiltrated countless crime families.
I hoped that my work to imprison remorseless gangsters, murderers, and cop-killers would free me of the guilt I felt for my own sins. In 2005, I was relocated under a new name as a federally protected witness, and ever since I have lived as a law-abiding white-collar professional by day and a semi-professional mixed-martial artist by night.
Still, I felt ashamed of myself; I needed to do more to be able to live with myself. For years I had lived as a predator preying on the weak and exploiting the defenseless -- now I need to do something to protect the weak and defend the defenseless. I had taken the cowardly road for too many years; I needed to be courageous. I asked myself: 'Who in American society are the most victimized, defenseless, and unfairly persecuted people? Who would an ex-gangster receive the most opposition for supporting?'
Once I thought about it this way, the answer was obvious: LGBT Americans. No one suffers more, and no one's suffering is more condoned. There is someone very close to me who is LGBT and who has suffered incredible pain due to the intolerance of American society -- yet his/her pain is not considered "legitimate" by many people. It is something he/she did to themselves.
Once I thought about that person, I felt like I had no choice but to take a stand. This cause is personal to me, and I'm willing to take all of the ridicule and criticism I will get as "tough guy" who embraces gay rights.
The love of one person saved me from a life of violence and cruelty, and her love also saved hundreds of people who would have otherwise been the victims of my criminal schemes. It is appalling to me that anyone should be mistreated, abused, and hated simply for how they choose to express love to another person.
Being homophobic or intolerant has nothing to do with being tough. In fact, take it from a guy who has gone to war against Colombian drug dealers on the street, bedded world-famous porn stars, and fights world champion martial artists on a daily basis: hating someone on the basis of their sexuality has nothing to do with being tough or straight.
Homophobia is a sign of weakness, insecurity, self-loathing, and straight-up stupidity. Anyone who preys on the vulnerable and the easily victimized is a weak, sad person; very few of these homophobic "tough guys" would call a guy like me "a fag" to my face. A real tough guy is secure enough in himself that he is happy for anyone else who is happy, is cool with however anyone else chooses to express themselves.
So, now I am a gangster turned gay rights activist looking to freely volunteer his time, his hard-won experience, and his hard work to any organization fighting for full equality for all Americans. I feel like I have a special place in the LGBT Civil Rights Movement. As an infamous gangster and a member of a world-class mixed martial arts fight team, I have the toughness and street-cred to reach the most dangerously homophobic elements of society: criminalized teens, ex-cons, men with troubled backgrounds and violent tendencies.
As a Japanese-American from a very conservative, traditional immigrant background, I can reach out to young Asian-Americans struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and to Asian-American parents struggling with integrating LGBT tolerance into their traditional cultures. I will speak to anyone, anywhere for free; I simply want to help.
Anyone who is interested in helping me achieve these goals can find my contact information at Street Tolerance or by contacting me through Facebook. I will make time to respond in the comments of this diary, as well.