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Monday, 25 March 2019 07:49 pm

From the dark to the light

Former Black Power Vice President William Matangi

GONE GOOD: Former Black Power Vice President William Matangi

REFORMED GANG member William Henry Matangi III attributes God for bringing him out of the darkness and showing him the light.

Will is the former vice president of the Black Power Wellington chapter, wearing his patch for 24 years before leaving the life behind.

He has now traded his gang persona for one of a compassionate member of the community.

The Aro Valley resident now spends his time encouraging young children to stay away from gang life, coaching Wellington’s homeless soccer team and volunteering at St John’s Presbyterian Church.

“I think I’ve done a lot of good things,” he says

But when Will hoped to travel to Australia in 2010 with his football team to compete at the Homeless World Cup, his dreams were quickly crushed.

“I coached the first Wellington street football team but they wouldn’t let me out of the country.

“They said we don’t want him over here.”

Will was heartbroken he could not tour but says he understands it is a consequence of his past life.

“Fifteen years ago I was an ugly piece of work, I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life.”

Will’s journey to becoming the man he is today is shrouded in darkness.

“I was born in the dark,” he says.

Will grew up in Christchurch with 11 other siblings and returned home one day to find his house was empty.

His mother had moved his brothers and sisters to Wellington, leaving the 10-year-old with his abusive alcoholic father.

After moving to Picton Will was exposed to gang life for the first time through his father, a high ranking Mongrel Mob member.

He started to hang around the older members of the Mongrel Mob because their gang did not have a youth movement at the time.

Sick of his father’s beatings, Will jumped on the ferry and headed to the capital where he recalls being among the first “street people” in Wellington.

Avalon Studios approached him, wanting the 13 year old homeless boys’ story.

“They did a programme on me asking me why I live on the street because there weren’t street kids back then.

“I just told them I came home one day and there was nothing,” he says.

After being picked up by the police, Will was placed into a boy’s home where his parents found and once again left him.

After months of wandering the streets Will bonded with some young Black Power members.

He had already been seduced by the life and in 1977 spat in his father’s face by patching into the Mongrel Mob’s most notorious rival gang.

Due to Wills’ heritage and propensity for violence he quickly rose through the ranks to become vice president of the Wellington chapter at just 14.

“I knew I had power and I knew how to use it,” he says.

“I loved the culture of violence because I was super fit and when you are super fit you don’t need to know how to fight.”

Will also took to the drug dealing game and was soon reaping the rewards earning money the same way he earned respect – illegally.

Will has spent a total of 17 years behind bars where the violence intensified.

“I’ve been stabbed up three times in jail, including by my own people.”

His final time in prison came after a low point in life.

He lost his family, and his girlfriend got a new man.

“I was still that ugly person so I smashed him up and that got me arrested,” he says.

Will credits his rehabilitation to God and a powerful spiritual experience during his final stint inside.

“One night in jail I don’t know why but I couldn’t stop crying, and that’s when God came to me. God only comes to change,” he says.

Now 53, Will has also done voluntary work with mental health institutions and has even toured New Zealand with various organisations spreading his message.

“The last couple of years I’ve been going to the mental health outreach programme and doing a lot of mentoring work”.

Wills’ message to young budding gangsters is simple: Stay away.

“I hang with all the young fullas and they all know me, they give me respect.”

Will is affectionately known by Wellington youth as “the beloved”.

He was 38 when he finally left the gang and 15 years later is still helping deter youth from gang life.

“I want the young generation to hear my message,” Will says.

Will has been asked to be the subject of a book but has declined, saying his path is still being carved out.






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