Last week in my post I said I would write more about that topic which was the importance of good education for everyone. A few of you wrote “bring it on.” So here goes–one solution that is working for some kids. It’s only one, but it’s tossing a stone into the pool–it’s making some ripples.
Have you ever heard of the Homeboy Program? I had. But I didn’t know very much about it, until a friend from Chicago who worked with a volunteer group helping others,The Ignatian Volunteer Core, sent me an article which talked out it.
THE PERSONAL CONNECTION
While reading the piece, I immediately found a personal connection–this caused me to read every word. IT STARTED: …One of Saint Margaret of Scotland’s graduates, where I am an IVC volunteer, was gunned down and killed last year. He was only a Sophomore. ”What is the answer?” I asked the priest I was working with.
St. Margaret’s! The church I walked by every day when I attended The Academy of Our Lady High School, better known as Longwood on the southside of Chicago. Knowing that the story was about a place that I could claim as mine, made me more invested.
Our lives go on, some places in our lives feel static–but they are moving and changing just as we are. (In fact that’s a primary concept in the novel I am writing. PLACE defines us, digs in our hearts, brings up memories, but nothing is static. For better or for worse, we humans change and everything around us does also.)
I cherish the old house I was raised in and drive by it when I am back in Chicago. I often drive the roadways that took me to familiar places. I reminisce. So here is more of the story.
The priest admitted right off that the question as to why young men and women are dying on Chicago streets is complex. He stated clearly that such a problem cannot be solved with only surveillance cameras or even gun laws. He said: “That does not get to the root problem.”
That’s when he mentioned Father Greg Boyle who started Homeboy Industries.
THE FOUNDER OF HOMEBOY
Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. founded Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.
A Catholic prises and Jesuit, he has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Gonzaga University, a master’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity degree from the Weston School of Theology, and a Master of Sacred Theology degree from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.
He spent a year living and working with Christian base communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Then in 1986, he was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission Church in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA, the poorest Catholic parish in the city, located between two large public housing projects with the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles.
He witnessed the devastating impact of gang violence on his community during what he has called “the decade of death” that began in the late 1980’s. He witnessed suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence. (Which is what the current administration wants to do again.)
So Father Boyle and parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treating gang members as human beings.
“Gang violence is about a lethal absence of hope,” Father Boyle has said. “Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”
In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Jobs for a Future, a community-organizing project begun at Dolores Mission, launched their first social enterprise business in an abandoned bakery that Hollywood producer Ray Stark helped them purchase. They called it Homeboy Bakery. If you ever fly into LAX, you just might find yourself purchasing something at one of their kiosks.
Today, Homeboy Industries employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to 15,000 men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.
- Father Boyle is the author of the New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, which was named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly and received the PEN Center USA 2011 Creative Nonfiction Award.
- The book received that title because: Father Greg was talking to one of his Homeboys and he said something very profound. He said that ‘jobs stop bullets’. When the Homeboy heard that he responded ‘Damn G , I think I will tattoo that on my heart.’ Think about it. Jobs help attack poverty and idleness at the same time.”
- Father Boyle is the subject of Academy Award winner Freida Lee Mock’s 2012 documentary, G-Dog. He has received the California Peace Prize and been inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change. He received the 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation, the national culinary-arts organization.
The Things We Already Know Are Truly Right in Front of Our Eyes
My friend Tom, who sent me the article about Homeboy, recalled that his mother would say: ‘Idleness is the devil’s workshop.’ He decided that was why she always gave him lots of chores. My brothers and I can say the very same about our mother. Give kids a job and they feel pride. THEY FEEL HUMAN.
Another member of the Ignatian Volunteer Core probably said it best. “I think the key to making it work is what Father Boyle calls “exquisite mutuality”. There is no “them” and “us”; there is only “us”.”
Think about the pride you felt when you brought home your first paycheck. You were entering the adult world, taking on the mantel of responsibility, growing up!! Helping your family.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every small town, city and village across our country could see it that way?
PRIDE in WORK.
SUMMER JOBS or JOBS THROUGH THE YEAR: cleaning vacant lots; repairing run-down properties. A wonderful suggestion: statewide and national programs to begin to rebuild our infrastructure. With the right program, we could millions of jobs for our kids. Give them a good start for their lives.
Someone has suggested that doing this would be like starting a revolution. JOBS STOP BULLETS. We as citizens going about our daily jobs of parenting, grand-parenting, having talks with friends and co-workers can spread this message of ONLY US and JOBS STOP BULLETS.
So I just wanted to share this idea with you. Who knows? In conversation with someone looking for summer help or someone looking to help a community, there are ideas to consider, to expand on. Maybe on a small scale the revolution can start with each one of us.
My husband works with the Conejo Valley Youth Employment Services, helping homeless people and high school students find jobs. He talks with them, discovers their interests, what their skill set might be or is tending to. One person at a time he is making a difference. And so is my friend Tom, who sent me this article and has given freely of his medical expertise to people who need it.
One day at a time. One person at a time. One kid at a time–you can tattoo something wonderful on some kid’s heart.
For more about HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES go to http://www.homeboyindustries.org.
Thanks to Tom Essig. And of course, John.