Chapter 35: Samoa (Winter 2008)
Interview: Mister Cartoon
Photos courtesy of: UCE Car Club
Founded in 1992 by Kita S. Lealao Jr., UCE Car Club has grown from a LA-based group to a movement that encompasses over thirty chapters around the world. Who better to talk lowriding and car culture with Kita S. Lealao Jr. than Frank Book Chapter 29 guest curator and SA Studios co-founder Mister Cartoon.
Mister Cartoon: One thing with this interview, I wanna let these guys know, is the feeling of growing up in the Harbor area and lowriding and gang culture and family, and maybe the misunderstandings. A lot of people think that low riding is strictly for gang members. We look at it a lot of times like, well, some of the homies are gang members, or we were gang members when we were younger, but we’re older now and we’re doing this lowrider thing. It seems to me that lowriding is one of the things that brings everybody together. So you see Samoans, you see Black, you see Latinos, you see White people and Asians all in the center, kicking it. But you go into a county jail and everyone separates. But rarely do they ever do any TV commercials or shows on the unity of lowriding. They love to do Fox News on gangbanging, race riots in schools…
Kita S. Lealao Junior: They glorify it. We look at it as something simple, but they dramatize it, even when it’s not severe. You feel me, uce? And that’s the part that hurts us. I just think that, man, we got a long hill, ‘cause that shit started back in the ‘50s. You can’t help it if lowriding is the choice of a dope dealer, or a gangster...a negative element. That’s the kind of cars they want to drive. We can’t help that. You feel me, uso? They grew up looking at them kind of cars and wanting to be a part of that. It makes us look bad because when they get caught up and they pull them over in the lolo...that’s our stereotype right there, you know, pullin’ pistols out the back seat, that’s what it is.
Because in Sacramento right now, ‘Toon, I got together with Kevin Johnson. You know KJ? He’s going to be the next mayor of Sacramento. So I’m having a meeting with him and I said, “Hey man, I’ll give you the support of the low riding community in Sacramento, but you gotta give us something in return, like a spot where we can go kick it, a park where we can go hit our switches and not be harassed and everything. And now I got another meeting with the councilmen of Sacramento. So it looks good that we’re gonna get a spot, maybe, where we can hit our switches and they don’t fuck with us. But the OG niggas, we have to set the guidelines and give out the garbage bags, give out the rules and regulations when they come inside. I said, “Hey folks, this is what you gotta do. If you don’t wanna comply, I suggest you turn around right now, ‘cause we ain’t gonna go through that shit. You’re not gonna get us chased out for your bullshit.
MC: Leave the beer bottles and…
KSLJ: Yeah exactly. We have the plastic bags and each club is responsible to tie their shit up and then the city just comes back and picks up the bags and throws them away and we cool. That’s the little things that we need to do to help out the community.
Plus you know there’s a lot of positive things that are helping our movement right now. Ever since I started my car club, that’s what I wanted. I wanted my car club to be able to go anywhere. Go into Black neighborhoods, Mexican neighborhoods, White neighborhoods…they can go anywhere, without no funk, uso. You know that’s all I wanted. That’s why I taught my club nothing but love. That might be a sissy way but that shit work for me, you feel me.
MC: It’s the right way. It’s the adult way. But, you know, a lot of people reading this, they from the East Coast. I’m gonna ask you something like, let everyone know what “uso” means and why you chose that for a car club name.
KSLJ: Well I could have chose all kinds of names, but me and [my brother] Daniel sat down and said, “Man, that’s a good fuckin’ name ‘cause it’s also the card that they have in the pen’, the usos, you know what I mean? That’s not why we chose that name. We just thought it was a good name, because an uso can mean anything. Just like, “Ey, wassup nigga,” or, “Wassup, hamo.”
KSLJ: Exactly. That’s what it is. That’s all it is. And I just thought it would be a name to have instead of like…nothin’ against all the other names, but, I mean, I just thought it had a little heart.
MC: And it actually evolved into “UCE.”
KSLJ: Yeah. Well, what happened is a couple guys in the club kind of went behind my back and tried to trademark the name over some stupid shit, which is a long story. And when I went to trademark it, that’s when I got caught up, ‘Toons, because the United States Organization already had established that. So what it did, is like, you know nobody in the United States Organization would ever check us in depth, not unless you’ve been a lowrider and you worked for the government, you wouldn’t know what lowriding is all about. They wrote me a real mean-ass letter from Washington telling me that, “Hey, if you don’t stop using that name, we’re going to sue you for everything you have.” So I stopped and changed it, you know what I mean? And I lost a lot of members over that, too. ‘Cause they were down with the USO thing, even though I kind of tried to explain to them, “You know, UCE, same thing…”
MC: They had it tattooed on ‘em…
KSLJ: Some niggas is just stubborn, bro. So…
MC: So some heads still have that on their cars?
KSLJ: Yeah, I love that. Because it shows what status they have with the club. They’re one of the originals. You know what I mean, uso? That’s who I look at, ‘cause… we did USO ten years. We did that name proud. Now we’re working on UCE, and we’re doing that name proud. I think in a couple more years we’re gonna go back to USO. We’re gonna bring it back because now, everything’s died down. There won’t be everything hanging over our heads no more, you know.
To read the whole article, cop Chapter 35: Samoa.