Tuhoe Isaac was in Cromwell today and I was able to talk with him and get a copy of his book, ‘True Red : The Life of an ex-Mongrel Mob Gang Leader’ which is the story of his journey from darkness into the light. ‘True Red’ explores the gang life and what it took for him to leave that environment and find a new life.
In his biography Tuhoe explains that the Mongrel Mob gave him a total sense of belonging at a crucial time in his life, “Here I found true acceptance and comradeship amongst a common brotherhood; I was willing to die for them,” he says. For Tuhoe, “The Mob became everything to me: it was my life and it was also to be my death.”
The title comes from the patch Tuhoe wore. He said that by wearing the colour red, living by the ‘law of lawlessness’ and having the patch was being True Red. He explains, “Because all levels of society hated us we created a new society of hatred symbolised by the bulldog. Its ferocious habits were engraved on our hearts,” Tuhoe says, “If you weren’t a mobster you weren’t worth knowing.” He lived this way for 17 years.
Eventually, Tuhoe wanted more from life. However, for Tuhoe leaving the Mob was hard as he faced discrimination from society and he had to face up to his past. Tuhoe explains, “Coming out of the Mongrel Mob gang was a hard ask. Sometimes I felt suffocated by the public’s labels – a leopard never changes its spots, once a gang member always a gang member – those sentiments bound me to the curse of the ‘dog’. How was I ever going to move myself out of deprivation and paint myself on to a new canvas? I lived a life of extremes and it was going to take another ‘extreme’ to replace it….”
‘True Red’ shows the harsh reality of gang life in New Zealand society but it is also a true story of hope and redemption. It would work well with all of our senior school themes.