You see Jauhar Abraham, you see Ronald "Mo" Moten. Nothing doing without the other.
For weeks now, the two founders of Peaceoholics -- a program that mentors about 150 teenagers in the Washington area -- have each sported a T-shirt with an X on it. The T-shirt comes in black, gray and white, but the X is red on all three. It's a big red X on a scene from Grand Theft Auto, the hit video-game series.
Ronald Moten at a Best Buy, where he led a group of teenagers in a protest against the sale of a video game.
(Lauren Victoria Burke For The Washington Post)
It's a big, red, personal X, the men will tell you. Though neither has played San Andreas, the series' latest installment, its stereotypical "gangbanging," "hate-inducing," "fear-creating" black and Latino characters drive them up the wall.
And, on a recent Saturday, they drove the men to the front of the Best Buy in Northwest Washington. Megaphone in hand, Moten led a picket line of teenagers carrying flimsy posters that read: "Best Buy is selling San Andreas! Best Buy is selling poison to our children!"
Several weeks ago, their aversion drove them to hold a meeting at the Bellevue Resource Center in Southwest Washington, where they lectured a dozen or so teenagers. "This game makes y'all look like garbage, and you sit around and laugh about it and play it like some fools," Moten said. "If you play San Andreas, you a fool. I'm telling you."
Still, it raises the question: How can Moten attack a game -- last year's best-selling title, pulling in more than $230 million in its first week -- that he never played?
Moten pauses, then answers the question with a question: "Why would I play a game that lets me kill police officers? Kill pregnant women? Rob banks?" He pauses again. "You don't have to commit a crime to know that you'll go to jail for it."
To the duo, the line between fantasy (what happens on PlayStation2) and reality (what happens on Benning Road) is simply too blurry.
At a news conference at First Rock Baptist Church last month, Moten, 35, and Abraham, 36, stood alongside community activists, church leaders and D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty (D-Ward 4) as he announced a bill to ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. It's a move that seems to be popular among legislators this year. (Maryland, Illinois and Georgia are among the states with similar pending legislation.) Moten and Abraham, Fenty says, came up with the idea for the District -- they approached him in January, telling him that 11- and 12-year-old kids who are caught "joyriding" in stolen cars are influenced by Grand Theft Auto.
"In this game, you can steal cars, you can use drugs," Moten said at the news conference. "It's horrific what our children are exposed to in this game."