Kinship in Practice: Father Greg Boyle

Kinship in Practice: Father Greg Boyle


[ Music ]>>Good evening everyone. Buena noches, good evening. Just a quick announcement. If you are with someone
or accompanying a friend who would benefit from
sign interpretation, then we would please invite
them to move towards this side of the audience where we have
our interpreter available. That having been said, my
name is Michaela Mares-Tamayo. I am the director of
student equity here at PCC and an instructor
for College One. And so it gives me great
honor to welcome you to our signature event,
which is Kinship in Practice: An Evening of Community
with Father Greg Boyle. To begin, I also want to respectfully acknowledge
the Tongva people who have stewarded this land
throughout the generations and very much welcome our
family and community members who are with us this evening. You know, again, the [ Foreign Language Spoken ] For our College One students,
we’re particularly excited for you to hear a different
interpretation of community and the idea of how one may work
with gangs and within community that goes very nicely in concert
with what you’ve been reading in Little Nation by
Alejandro Morales. But you’re not here to hear me. You’re here to hear many other
wonderful things this evening. And so one of the people who has
particularly wonderful things to say and frankly do here at our college is
our vice-president of student services,
Dr. Cynthia Olivo. So I would like to please
welcome her to the stage to give the college welcome. [ Applause ]>>Hello students,
faculty, staff and guests. Welcome to Kinship in Practice: an Evening with Father
Greg Boyle. I know many of you have been
reading the book Little Nation and Other Stories by
Alejandro Morales, and I’ve seen your golden
lines around campus. How many of you have
been reading the book? Raise your hands high so our
community members can see. Great. And yesterday I also
saw your research posters, and I just want to
say congratulations, you are in your first
semester of college and you’ve already done so much
to be actively involved in PCC. Give yourselves a round
of applause for that. [ Applause ] TO share a little bit
about my background, I am the first person in
my family to go to college, and I was raised by an amazing
single mom who made sure that we did everything possible to get the help needed
to go to college. And you know, I’m the third
generation born in this country, but in my family, you know, my grandparents were
born during an era where they were prohibited
by law from full participation
in society. And my mother was born
in the year that Brown versus Board of Education
passed. And so that law changed,
but the hearts and minds of people did not
catch up to that law. And so tonight, what
I’m so proud of is that our program Pathways
our course College One, and our book, you know, the
one book, one college program. What we try and do is create
a space for you students to explore these
types of issues. So I want to also give
our appreciation to all of our College One teachers and
our Pathways faculty and staff. Let’s give them a round
of applause again. [ Applause ] And finally, welcome
to Father Greg Boyle, and I want to say thank
you for helping us focus on how we can be supportive of
one another as we amplify ways that this college can help our
former incarcerated students, our LGBTQ students,
undocumented students, Latinx and black students,
as well as any student who at some point in their
life feels like another. My name is Dr. Cynthia Olivo. I’m the vice-president of
student services, and I’m here to say on behalf of the
president of the college, the board of trustees,
our faculty, staff and administration,
welcome. You belong. Thank you. [ Applause ] And it’s my great
privilege to introduce to you tonight Dr.
Anthony Francoso, a beloved faculty member here
from the department of sociology and ethnic studies who also
serves as a club advisor, which he doesn’t have to do. This is something he does
because he loves students. He’s a club advisor for
Third Wave Feminist Club, as well as Homeboy Scholars
and a co-advisor for MEChA. Please help me welcome
Dr. Anthony Francoso. [ Applause ]>>Good evening everybody. How you all doing tonight? For real. Is that all you got? Like how are you
all doing tonight? [ Cheering ] Okay, first off, right, we
are fortunate enough to have with us tonight a man
who has put in more work in our communities,
in my community, than potentially any
other person alive. I know that’s a very
bold statement to make, but the longevity and scope of this man’s work transcends
beyond the work of most, and dare do I say, all others. So before we do an introduction
of Father Greg Boyle, I want to talk a little
bit about logistics. I’m going to give
an introduction. Then Father Boyle will come out. Father Boyle will speak for
about 45 minutes to an hour. And then after Father
Boyle is done, there will be a question
and answer period. And we ask that each
and every one of you stay seated throughout
the duration of the event. So please do not leave after
Father Boyle does his talk. Also, before I go on, an event like this really could not
happen without the support of a number of individuals
and campus entities. The campus entities we need
to thank are PCC Pathways, Student Equity and ALE, the
Association of Latino Employees. We also want to thank a
number of staff, Shelagh Rose from Pathways, Yajaira De La
Paz from the Career Center, Dr. Michaela Mares-Tamayo from
Student Equity, Dr. Tony Juge, Dr. Nicholas Hatch and, of
course, Dr. Cynthia Olivo for her love and utmost support. There are a number of
students we need to also thank who were key in the
organizing of this event. Those students are Alex
Martinez, Gabriella [Inaudible], Hanna Keane and Laura
Electa [phonetic] Hayes. Without the help
of these students, none of this would
have really happened. We also want to give
a special [inaudible] to Adrian Conselas [phonetic]
who will be talking or speaking in a minute, because
it was Adrian who had the deep connection
to Father Boyle to be able to make this event
even possible. So, a few words about
Father Boyle. Since 1988, Father Greg
has been the founder and executive director
of Homeboy Industries. With hard work and
extreme dedication, Father Greg has built
Homeboy Industries into the nation’s
largest gang intervention, rehab and reentry program. He has done this by opening his
heart and soul to a community of individuals whom have endured
some of the harshest treatment by the very institutions
who were born to protect us. Every year, Homeboy
Industries welcomes over 10,000, over 10,000 formerly
gang-involved and previously incarcerated men
and women through their doors. Providing these individuals
with programming which includes tattoo
removal, workforce development, educational services, legal
services, mental health and a solar power
installation training program. Homeboy Industries also provides
jobs for its population. These jobs include
Working at Homegirl Café, The Homeboy Bakery, The
Homeboy Diner at City Hall, Homeboy Silk Screening, the selling of Homeboy
Industries merchandise and food at local farmer’s markets, as well as having an
electronics recycling program. Excuse me. Father Greg is also the author
of two bestselling books, the first being Tattoos
on the Heart, the Power of Boundless
Compassion, and more recently, Barking to the Choir, the
Power of Radical Kinship. In both books, Father Greg
shares his over 30 years of experience, his over 30
years of experience working in our communities,
sharing stories of hope, resilience, love
and empowerment. Over the years, I’ve
had the pleasure of hearing Father Greg
speak on multiple occasions. The first time was 15
years ago when he spoke to a class I was coteaching at
UCSB when I was getting my PhD. In this class, Father Greg
gave one of the most passionate and inspirational talks I have
ever seen, and he moved me in ways that I didn’t
know were possible. Since then, I have
been fortunate enough to hear Father Greg speak
at numerous engagements. Now, what I have taken from the
work of Father Greg is this. When working with
previously incarcerated and formerly gang-involved
folks, we have to show empathy and unconditional love. We need to show dignity
and respect. To actively listen, to be
consistent with our care, develop deep ties of solidarity,
and most importantly, we need to support folks based
upon the ways they feel is most important to them. I have used this understanding
of unconditional love and support in multiple
situations, and it has actually
allowed me to connect with incarcerated
students in men’s prisons, as well as connect
with incarcerated youth in youth detention camps. At the university level, it has
allowed me to connect deeply with previous incarcerated and
former and current gang youth. By showing consistent
love and deep support, I was able to break
through their exterior walls to see how beautiful of a
person they are on the inside. I also kind of want to share
a brief story, if I may. Listening to Father Boyle 15
years ago actually helped me work through some
of my own trauma. When I was eight, I moved
into, I moved to East L.A., and I quickly made friends
with these two knuckle heads that lived next door whose
names were Tommy and Manuel. The three of us, for the
next seven years, caused, I’ll just say ruckus,
trouble, and it’s amazed, I’m amazed actually that we, that none of the actions we
participated in ever stuck with any type of punishment. And I want to bring
up the story of Manuel and Tommy for this reason. Shortly after those seven years,
Manuel and Tommy had to move, and they moved deeper into
East L.A. and Boyle Heights. And I didn’t see them for about
another five to six years. After the sixth year I heard
that my friend Tommy died in a motorcycle accident. And I didn’t reach
out to the family. And these two young men
were literally my brothers. Then a few years
later, I was sitting in a fast food restaurant with
my soon-to-be brother-in-law, and these two young
men walked in. And they were tattooed
up, full arms, neck, face, and I didn’t take
any notice to them. Well, I did, because
I saw them obviously. They saw me, and
they approached me. And they said hey,
are you Anthony? My response was yeah, what’s up? And they said, it’s us,
fool, it’s Nicky and Richie. And Nicky and Richie are
Tommy’s and Manuel’s cousins. And I say hey, what’s going on? Like how you been? What you all up to? And then Richie proceeded to
tell me that Manuel was shot in the face by a local
or by another gang set. My initial reaction was to
jump up, ask where Manuel was, at the hospital, if I could go
and see him and see the family and make connections again. But I didn’t do that. I said, I’m really
sorry to hear that. Send my love to, you
know, to his parents. And that was it. And for years, I would kick
myself, I would punish myself for not taking the steps
to make a reconnection with Manuel before he passed. After that moment,
I swore to myself that I would never
turn my back on anyone who is in need ever again. But I didn’t really know
what that looked like. And it wasn’t until I heard
Father Greg speak at UCSB that I learned what that
actually looked like, what unconditional love,
what unconditional support, what that really means. Because hearing Father
Greg speak about his work in community really gave me
heart, really gave me insight, really gave me dedication,
really gave me passion to want to continue to move forward,
and he gave me tools to use that can empower me
to never turn my back on anyone who is in need. So, I have mad love for Father
Boyle for helping me work through those specific traumas. So, you know, I am just
honored and excited about him being here today
with all of us at PCC. To conclude, it is his
message I hope we all walk away with today. How each and every one of us has
the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life
by being there to listen and give support
unconditionally. To help develop their humanity
and draw out the best person that that individual
can possibly be. So, before we hear from Father
Boyle, we’re actually going to hear from two students
at PCC, Jesse Fernandez and Adrian Conselas, and
they are going to give kind of insight into what
unconditional love and support actually looks
like and what happens on a day-to-day basis
at Homeboy Industries. So I’m going to give
it up to them now. [ Applause ]>>Hey, how’s it going? Damn, I feel like a celebrity. So my name is Jesse Fernandez. I’m 25-years-old. I originate in Los Angeles,
downtown Los Angeles. That’s where I come from. Pretty much growing up,
I, my fondest memories was when I was young, like
around five, six-years-old. Because those were the times when my family was
really united. But it was until ten years, when I was ten-years-old
when I lost my mom. A few months after I lost
my second female role model which was my grandma. So growing up, I didn’t really
have a stable household. It only consisted of my,
my dad and my brothers. But everybody was always
doing their own thing. And I joined a gang,
and then from early age, it was just all downhill. I had to learn how to survive. It was not even living. It was just surviving, how
to navigate through life, how to move and just
how to get by. In 2015, I always talk about
it because 2015 was one of the roughest years
of my life. In 2015, in the beginning,
I lost one of my best and close friends and I consider
brother to gang violence. In the middle of 2015
I lost a lot of friends that I grew up to gang violence. In December 2015, I lost a
real close friend of mine, another best friend of
mine, to gang violence. And that is when I had
seen Father Greg in 2015, and I started Homeboy
Industries in 2016. And I did everything at
Homeboy Industries, maintenance, everything, but this time
around, I felt like I had to take it serious because I
felt like I was the next one that was probably
going to lose my life, because that’s what I learned
to glorify for a long time. It was either do a life
sentence in prison or end up dead in the street. And yeah, I started there,
and I had two goals I wanted to do was get my driver’s
license and go to college. I didn’t go to college
because I didn’t know how to do the placement
tests, financial aid, the classes and all that. I did know what to
do was surviving. That’s what I was
comfortable at. At Homeboy Industries,
they helped me out, and they got me to
enroll into PCC. And I passed both
of these classes, and they said you’re
pretty smart. You just don’t have
faith in yourself. We’re going to help you
out, so you just worry about your school, and we’ll
help out with the financial aid and how to do all that. And so before you know it,
I’m going on and doing school. And another goal
of mine was trying to get my driver’s license. I couldn’t get my driver’s
license because I had about $5,000 in tickets. And at Homeboy Industries,
they helped me out. So I eventually got my driver’s
license, but it was a tough road to get my driver’s license, but I ended up getting
my driver’s license. And I remember when I did good in school they said
have you ever thought about studying abroad. And I was like, what is that? My first thing, I don’t know if you guys have seen the movie
Taken, but I thought I was going to go somewhere, and I was
going to get kidnapped. So I was like dude, I’m
from L.A. I’ve got tattoos. It’s not going to happen. And through the help
of individuals at Homeboy Industries and an
individual named Brittany Morgan that works at Homeboy
Industries, they fundraised, and they gathered up $10,000, and they helped it become
a reality that I was going to study abroad in
Oxford, England. And it happened, I come
from a low-income household where typically these type
of things don’t happen. Today I could say I went
to the Eiffel Tower. I went to see the London Bridge. I’m not talking about
the ones in Las Vegas, I’m talking about
the actual London. So I got to do all these
things that an individual from my background
doesn’t really get to do. A lot of people try to fight for these things their
whole life just to get that opportunity, and
I could say I did that. And now what I do at
Homeboy Industries, I’m an educational intern,
so I help out individuals who are interested in
going into college and help out with application, the financial aid,
getting the classes. I also help out individuals
that are interested in getting their high school
diploma or getting their GED. So I help out in that nature,
and if they need any support, any mentoring, any advice as
far as school-related stuff or any other issues like
I help them out, you know, and that’s what I
currently do there now. And I’ll just end it with this. If I were to ask
everybody right now if you guys wanted
this $20 bill, who would say they wanted it? What if I were to fold this
$20 bill, who would want it? What if I were to throw it
on the floor and step on it, who would still want
this $20 bill? So no matter what,
after I crumbled it, I wrapped it around, you
guys still wanted this $20 because you guys still
see the worth of this $20. Homeboy Industries and
Father Greg they do there, they help me see
the worth in myself that today I’m not what
society perceived me to do. I’m a human being, and Homeboy
Industries gave me that chance. So thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Hi, good evening. My name is Adrian Conselas. I’ll start off real
quick sharing my story. I’m a first-generation
college student. So a little bit about
my background. I come from a background
where I grew up in a domestic violence
household setting, you know, from an early age. Man, I would see my father
inflict violence on my mother, and it got to that point
where I would rather get into the violence to prevent
my mother from getting hit. It got to the point where
I was taking in violence from both ends, so
eventually, growing up, I became an angry little kid. By the time I was
five, four-years-old, my dad walked out of my life. And from that point
forward, you know, my mother was a hardworking
mother that she was working all
the time to make ends meet. So that love and that attention
that I wanted from my mother and that I was seeking from
a father that was gone, I was getting it
from the streets. So I would always, I didn’t
just join the gang, you know, first I started getting high. And I started kicking
it with the little kids from the neighborhood. And eventually, you know, the
homies starting coming around, and that’s where I started
looking for the love, the empathy, the
acceptance that I lacked. So by the time I
was 12-years-old, I joined the neighborhood. And being part of the
neighborhood, I learned that one or two things was
going to happen. I was either going
to become a guppy, or I was going to
become a shark. So I decided to become a shark
because since a little kid, I was always fending
for myself, man. So I became a shark, man. I became a monster. I went from juvenile
halls to prison. I never stepped foot on
a regular high school. But every time I
was in prison, man, I would always try
to read books. I made it my priority to start
reading trying to just seek that homemade education,
you know, through books and
the dictionary. So I never thought about
college, but upon my release from prison, I had already heard
about Father Gregory Boyle. I heard of Father G when
I was in juvenile halls. Father G would go to a lot
of different juvenile halls, and he would talk,
he would share mass, but only when Father G
would go, when he would go to a juvenile hall, when
he would go to church, that would be the only
weekend that I would go to church just to
hear him speak. And every time he would go, I
would show up and I would listen to his stories, and that
would be the only time I would pay attention. Other than that, I
would go to church just to either gang bang
or get in fights. Because I grew up
with all that anger, with all that animosity,
with all that hatred. And when I got released from
prison in 2013, I got out and I was part of the
California hunger strikes. So when I got out,
man I was skinny. I was sucked up. And right away, I didn’t
went straight to Homeboys, by the way I meant I went
back to my neighborhood, except this time I went
to my neighborhood. I was homeless, I didn’t have
that support that I needed. I didn’t have nowhere to go. And after I hit my
personal rock bottom, I talked to my probation
officer, because I had a warrant, and
I was already on the run. I had a warrant. I was absconding. I wasn’t checking in because
I had already tested dirty. And I called my PO one day and
I told her, you know, what, like I’m ready to
turn myself in. Man, I’m tired. So, she told me look, man,
I’m not going to violate you. I’m not going to send you
to jail, but I’m going to send you to treatment. And when I went to
treatment, I started thinking about all the times when I was a
little kid, man, how I had heard about Homeboy Industries. So, I took it upon myself, I
went to Homeboy Industries, and I remember my
first time, you know. I was scared because
walking in through the doors, I didn’t know what
to expect, man. I didn’t know what I was
going to come across, a bunch of homies and homegirls. And like I said,
I was either going to be the guppy or a shark. So going in with my shark
instincts, just ready, just waiting for something
to happen, it was a trip, because I was met with love,
with empathy, with compassion. So I sat there in the
lobby, and finally, Father G calls me to
his office, right. So I’m walking in, and
I remember at that time, I had my face, I had
tattoos on my face. So at that time, Father G tells
me, you know, are you clean? And I told him yeah, I’m clean. All right. He tells me, so you want a job? And I looked at him and I’m
like, yeah, like I want a job. Mind you, I don’t
have no skills. I never had a job before. I never, I didn’t even
know what a resume was. So I remember sitting across the
desk from Father G, and he looks at me and he tells me,
you’ll do anything for me, you’ll do anything for your job? And I looked at him, and I’m like yeah [inaudible] I’ll
do anything for a job. And then he tells me, would you
take that tattoo off your face? And I looked at him, and I
told him, yes, I would take that tattoo off my face, but all
along in the back of my head, I’m thinking like, I’m
going to bullshit him. Like I’m not going to get it
off, because I wasn’t ready. That was at a fast pace. You know, we talked about
change, but I wasn’t ready to jump the gun that
fast, you know. So I remember, all right, I’m going to bullshit Father
G. I’m going to tell him yeah, but when the time goes to go to my apartment,
I’m going to lag it. So here I am thinking
I’m sly, slick. So Father G puts me
through a process. I tested clean. He tells me, he looks at me and
tells me, for tattoo removal, we have a list anywhere
to 900 to 1,000 people on a monthly basis, but
today’s your lucky day. Guess why? And I looked at him,
and I’m like why? He was like, because
you’re up next. And when he told me that,
when he shared that with me, my heart just froze, you know. I froze because it was like he
was reading through my head. Like he was just like he
was inside my thoughts. Here I was thinking I was
going to bullshit him, but I should have
known better, you know. Father Greg’s been dealing
with gang members from the 80s, and I’m fourth, right. So here I am thinking I’m
slick, and he looked at me, and as we’re walking to tattoo
removal, he seen that I paused. And then he tells me, you
say you’ll do anything for me, and I said yeah. So from that point forward,
man, I had my first session. And from that point
forward, man, they helped me with
tattoo removal. I got the basic skills as far as
like how to do janitorial work, how I went through their
bakery program where I was able to add more stuff to my resume. And eventually, I transitioned
to VOA, but all along, when I went to Homeboy
Industries, what I loved about Homeboy Industries
is that they were loving. They were compassionate,
you know. It didn’t matter if I was
going through the program or anybody was going through
the program, you made a mistake, you went back to jail, or you
got fired right then and there from your job, Father
G he didn’t, he wouldn’t kick you out, man. Father G, he strongly believes
in restorative justice. What he would do if you would
test positive along the way or you would get fired, he
would send you to treatment. If you were serious about
your job, he’ll hold your job, send you to treatment. By the time you got
out of treatment, many, he’ll greet you with open arms. He’ll never see you less than. So I would always think, here goes this man that’s
not even part of my family, not even my own family is
loving and compassionate, so why is this stranger so
loving, so compassionate and so empathetic with an
individual like myself? And from that point
forward, man, like I started working
on myself. And it’s been a lifelong
process. I know that I’m not perfect
today, but I know for them, sure I’m not the man that
I used to be, you know. And I know that it is going
to be, it’s going to be, it’s going to be a long
process, because like I said, I’m still learning how
to take off that mask, learning that I don’t always
have to be on the defense. Learning that I no longer
have to be that shark. So, with that said, that’s
a little bit about my story. I want to introduce the man
that has changed thousands of gang members’ lives,
individuals like ourselves, to Father Gregory Boyle. [ Applause ]>>Thank you very much. It’s a privilege to be with
you, and thank you Adrian and thank you Jesse,
and thank you, Anthony. You can’t bullshit a
bullshitter, you know. That’s kind of sort of
how that works, I guess. That’s the moral of that story. It’s a privilege of my life
for 30 years to have worked with gang members, and
the day won’t ever come when I am more noble or have
more courage, or I am closer to God than those two men
who just, they’re my heroes. So for 30 years, the homies
have taught me so much, and I’m grateful to them. There was a homie named
Lewis who was kind of running the place for like
ten years, and a gang member, a shock collar, a heroin addict
and been to prison and so, he was kind of a
force of nature. And he was also a
public speaker. So he was always being called,
because he liked doing that. And schools would
ask for him by name. And we went out to
dinner the two of us, and he was giving me tips
on how to speak publicly, and he says you know, you
got to pepper your talk with self-defecating humor,
and I said yeah, no shit. That’s good advice there. So, you know, what
Martin Luther King says about church could
well be said about PCC. It’s not the place
you’ve come to, it’s the place you will go from. And you go from here
to reimagine the world to look differently
than it currently looks. Mother Teresa diagnosed
the world’s ills correctly when she suggested that
the problem in the world is that we’ve just forgotten
that we belong to each other. So how do we stand
against forgetting that? How do we imagine a
circle of compassion and then imagine nobody
standing outside that circle? You go from PCC to dismantle
the barriers that exclude. That’s the whole point. Somehow you want to widen and make more spacious
our sense of welcome. And so you go to the
margins, because if you stand at the margins, you’ll
look under your feet, the margins are getting erased because you chose
to stand there. And you stand in a
particular way with the poor and the powerless and the
voiceless, and you stand with those whose dignity has
been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens
are more than they can bear. And every once in a while you
get this exquisite privilege and ability to stand
with the easily despised and the readily left out. You get to stand
with the demonized so that the demonizing will
stop, and you go from here to stand with the disposable
so that the day will come when we stop throwing
people away. And I suspect if kindship and
the creation of a community of kindship happened
to be our goal, we would no longer
be promoting justice. We’d be celebrating it. For no kinship, no peace. No kinship, no justice. No kinship, no equality. And so we’re invited
to go from this place and to create this place where
we stand against forgetting that we belong to each other. And so the homies have
taught me everything of value in that pursuit of creating
a community of kinship. I know what it looks
like because of people like Adrian and Jesse. And the homies have taught me a
host of things over the years. But it mainly in the past few
years they’ve taught me how to text, and I’m
so grateful to them because I find it
sure beats the heck of actually talking to people. And I’m pretty good at, you
know, lol and omg and btw, and the homies have
taught me a new one, ohn, which apparently
stands for oh hell no. Which I’ve been using
quite a bit lately. And oh I can’t bea
alone in being vexed by this stupid autocorrect
thing, you know, because I had a homegirl
named Bertha, tough cookie, been to prison and
was a tough cookie. And she worked at Homeboy. And on a Sunday she
texted me, where you at? So I texted her back,
I am about to speak to a room full of monjas. And monjas, you know, is nuns,
sisters, I’m about to speak to a room full of
mojas, and I pushed send and autocorrect told her
that I was about to speak to a room full of ninjas. Which she thought was
pretty darn interesting. And you know, the homies, like all day long today,
their hair’s on fire. They’re going to
cut off my lights. And they’re always
asking for feria, and I don’t always
have the feria. And some homey texted me, I just
need $100 to [foreign language]. And I said [inaudible]. I wrote him back, I
said, just very simply, I didn’t have the money. And so I wrote, things are
tight, and I pushed send, and autocorrect told
him thongs are tight. And he wrote back,
sorry to hear that. What about my rent, you know? So there I am in a car with
two older [foreign language], Manuel and Pancho, and they’re
going to help me give a talk in Palm Desert at a high school,
and we have our morning meeting at ten minutes to nine and
thought for the day and prayer and announcements, and we sing
Happy Birthday to each other. So we finished the
morning meeting. We get in the car. Manuel’s in shotgun and
Pancho is in the back and we’re 15 minutes on the road when Manuel gets an
incoming text, and he reads to himself and he chuckles. And I said well what is it? And he goes, oh, it’s dumb. It’s from Snoopy
back at the office. Well I just seen Snoopy. You know, Snoopy gave me a big
abrazo as the day was beginning. Snoopy and Manuel work
together in the clock-in room where they clock-in
hundreds and hundreds of our workers all gang members. It’s a tough job. I wouldn’t want it, because
occasionally, you know, a gang member becomes
attitudinal. And so I says, so
what’s he saying? Ah, it’s dumb. Hang on, let me find it. Here it is. Hey Dog, it’s me Snoops. Yeah, they got my ass
locked up at county jail. They’re charging me with being
the ugliest vato in America. You have to come down right now, show them they got
the wrong guy. Well, I nearly drove into
oncoming traffic we laughed so damn hard, the three of us. And then I realized that
Manuel and Snoopy are enemies. They’re from rival gangs. They used to shoot
bullets at each other, now they shoot text messages. And there’s a word for that,
and the word in kinship. How do we obliterate once
and for all the illusion that we are separate, that
there is an us and a them? Now you go from here,
from PCP and to the world, and you also, what
did I say, PCP? [ Laughter ] PCC. How do you know PCP? To brace yourself to go into the
real world, you will need PCP, especially the current
world in which we exist. It’s late. I’m usually in bed at this hour. So, but you go from here,
and part of the thing is, service is a good
place to start. And my sense of all of you
already is that you’re kind of connected to service,
you know. And that’s good. That’s a good place to begin,
but you don’t want to end there. Service is the hallway. You want to get to the
ballroom, which is the place of kinship and connection. At Homeboy Industries, I’m not
the great healer, and Adrian and Jesse are in need
of my exquisite healing. The truth be told, we’re
all a cry for help. We’re all in need of healing. It’s one of the things
that joins us together as members of the human family. And so you want to inch your
way out to the margins and kind of approach it in
a different way. You don’t want the
distance that comes from service provider-service
recipient. You want to bridge that
distance, and so you go to the margins with a
different kind of perspective, a different kind of attitude. And you brace yourselves,
because people will accuse you of wasting your time when
you go to the margins. But the prophet Jeremiah
writes in this place of which you say it is a waste, there will be heard again the
voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voices
of those who sing. So you want to go out to the
margins in a different way, not to save the day
and to rescue people. But you want other
voices to get heard. That’s why you go. I was in Houston giving
a talk in a very earnest, hardcore gang intervention
worker, former gang member himself,
comes up to me after a talk, and he’s working with gang
members in the streets, you know, and he says,
pleading with me, how do you reach them,
meaning gang members. And I found myself saying
to him, for starters, stop trying to reach them. Can you be reached by them? And that’s a whole
different thing. Can you receive people? And that turns service
on its head. One of the great privileges of my life was knowing Cessa
Javes [phonetic] as a friend, and he was the best
listener I’ve ever been in the presence of. If you were talking to
him, nobody else existed. He was laser beam-focused
listening to you. He was never looking
over your shoulder to see if someone more important
was on the approach, like here comes the mayor. No, he was just talking to you. And once quite famously, a
reporter had commented to him and said, wow, these
farmworkers, they sure love you. And Cessa just shrugged
and smiled and said, the feeling’s mutual. And that’s exactly
what we hope for. You go to the margin so there
is no distance that separates between service provider-service
recipient. You want to bridge even
that so there is no daylight separating us. One of the homies
had found more jobs in our entire 30-year
history with more attempts than anybody else was a
guy we all called Dreamer. He lived in the housing
projects. I knew him since he was a
little mocosito [phonetic]. And his older brother has gotten to the [inaudible],
and he got in. And one of the smartest
homies I’ve ever known, though I don’t recall that he
ever actually went to school. But you know, he’s in his
40s now and doing well. Married, kids, house,
construction work. But in his early 20s
he was kind of a yo-yo. He was always in and
out of being locked up. I find him a [foreign language],
a job in the private sector or at Homeboy, and I
kept doing that over and over and over again. And always before too long, he’d
gravitate to vague criminality, usually something
involving drugs, the sale of or the use of. And then he’s wander back to me. So it was a pattern that was
really quite frustrating. So this one time he
finished a four-month stretch in county jail, a
probation violation, and there he is sitting
in front of my desk. And he says what gang
members often say, this time, it’ll be different. And I go, all right. So with him sitting
there, I pick up the phone, I call a friend of
mine named Gary who is, runs a vending machine
company in Alhambra, and he’s hired homies
in the past. So I’m crossing my
fingers hoping against hope maybe
he’ll do it again. And sure enough, he does. He says, you tell that
guy he can start tomorrow. That’s a holy man right there. So Dreamer began
work the next day at the vending machine company. Well two weeks later, there he
is again in front of my desk. I couldn’t even believe
my damn eyeballs. I said, [foreign language]
here we go all over again. But this time he
reaches into his pocket and he waves very proudly
his very first paycheck. And he says, damn G, this
paycheck makes me feel proper. I mean my feta [phonetic],
she’s proud of me. And my moritos [phonetic]
they’re not ashamed of me. And you know who I have
to thank for this job. And I said, well, who? And he looked at me strangely and he said, well,
God, of course. I said sure, no, that’s right. That would be God. You thought I was
going to say you. I said no, gosh,
God’s number one. He said, you know, you are so lucky we aren’t living
in them Genesis days. I’m sorry, those Genesis days? He goes yeah. Because God would have been had, struck down your
ass already by now. Well, the thing I most
remember was the two of us. We just fell out of our
chairs howling with laughter. And I defy you to identify
who’s the service provider, who’s the service recipient. It’s mutual. So as Anthony mentioned
in his kind introduction, Homeboy was born a long
time when I was pastor of the poorest parish in
the city of Los Angeles, Dolores Mission nestled
in the middle of the two public
housing projects, Pico Gardens and Aliso Village. At the time, it was
the largest grouping of public housing west
of the Mississippi. We had eight gangs at
war with each other, which is not typical
public housing. And making it according
to the L.A. PD, the place of highest
concentration of gang activity anywhere in
Los Angeles was my parish. I didn’t know that
when I drove up. I buried my first young person
killed because of the sadness in 1988, and I buried my
226th human being killed because of gang violence
three Saturdays ago. Not all from that community,
but I know a lot of gang members that get asked to do this. So, the first thing we did
was we started a school, because there were
so many junior high and middle school-aged
gang members who had been given the
bota from school, the boot. And, you know, they were
wreaking havoc in the middle of the day in the
housing projects. And they were writing
on the walls. They were selling drugs. They were violent. So I walked out to them, and I kind of isolate
them one at a time. I say, hey, you know,
if I found a school that would take you,
would you go? And to my surprise, every
single one said yeah, you know, I would. And then I couldn’t find a
school that would take them. So, that kind of forced my hand. So right across the street from the church is our parochial
school, our elementary school, grades K to eight, which
occupied the first two floors. But the entire third floor of
the building was the convent where the ninjas lived. And so I gathered all the nuns,
there were nine Belgian nuns, and I gathered them
in the living room, and I sat them down, and
I said hey, you know, would you guys mind,
you know, moving out, and we could turn the convent
into a school for gang members. And they looked at each
other, and they said sure. And that was the extent of their
entire discernment process. And so gang members
came in large numbers to the church property, and
that created a disconnect. People in the parish started
to say hey, wait a minute, aren’t churches supposed to be
hermetically sealed, you know, good people in and
bad people out? And I thought that was
a good gospel challenge. And then the gang
members started to say if only we had jobs. So myself and the women in the
projects, there were only women with children, we marched
around the factories that surrounded the
housing projects trying to find felony-friendly
employers. And that wasn’t so forthcoming. So we invented things, you
know, maintenance crew, landscaping crew, a crew to
build our childcare center. All made up of rival enemy gang
members from the eight gangs. And then in 1992, after
the Rodney King verdict, the whole city exploded,
if those of you were around to experience that. And every pocket of poverty
ignited except not my parish, which was probably one of
the most likely to implode. So the L.A. Times wanted to
know why, and I said well, maybe it’s because we had 60
strategically hired gang members who, enemies, who had a reason
to get up in the morning and a reason not to
gangbang the night before, and more to the point of this
woman’s question, a reason not to torch their own community. Well, the next day, the article
appears, and the following day, I’m invited, summoned to
a movie producer’s office in Beverly Hills. His name was Ray Stark, and he
happened to have $500 million. And so he summoned me, and he
says, how should I use my money? Well, I look back on that now, and I see I woefully
undershot my request. But I was young. So I said, hey, why don’t you
buy this abandoned bakery. It’s right across the
street from the school. It’s got ovens. It’s all tore up. We could fix it up, and
we could put hairnets on rival enemy gang members. They could bake bread. I don’t know, we could
call it Homeboy Bakery. And that was the extent of
my entire business plan. And he said sure. And so we were off and running. So we baked bread. And a month later, we
started Homeboy Tortillas and the Grand Central Market. Once we had plural, we
changed our name from Jobs for our Future to
Homeboy Industries, as if there was any industry
involved in this project, and not everything worked. Homeboy Plumbing really
was not hugely successful. Who knew? People didn’t want
gang members in their homes. I did not see that coming. And nobody ever intends
to do such a thing, but we backed our way,
we’ve evolved our way now into becoming the largest
gang intervention rehab and reentry program
on the planet. We didn’t set out to do
that, but there you have it. So 15,000 folks a year
walk through our doors, and the centerpiece is the
training program that Adrian and Jesse both participated in. Because it’s a paid gig. And it’s more about
healing than anything else. One thing we discovered
kind of 15 years into this, even after we printed
the tee shirts that says nothing stops
a bullet like a job. We discovered that an
educated inmate may or may not, or gang member, may or
may not go back to prison. Or an employed one may or
may not But we discovered with a certainty that a healed
gang member won’t ever go back to prison, period. He won’t reoffend, ever. And so we’ve moved from job
centric to [inaudible] form to now healing-centered. And so it’s a community of
tenderness that holds folks so that they can find rest from
their own chronic toxic stress, and they can find a
sanctuary and Homeboy. And then they become
the sanctuary that they sought there. And then they go
home and present that sanctuary to their kids. And suddenly, for the first
time, you’ve broken a cycle. And so we have therapy,
everybody’s in therapy. And we have case managers
and navigators, classes, all sorts of classes, like
60 classes at any given time in a course of a month. We have free tattoo removal, no place on the planet Earth
removes more tattoos than we do. We have a designated
clinic, three laser machines, one paid physician assistant,
but like 42 volunteer doctors. And it was all started
because of a guy named Frank who wandered into my office. I’d never met him
before, a gang member, two days out of Corcoran
State Prison, and he’s sitting in
front of my desk. And tattooed on his forehead
filling the whole space, big black block letters,
like a damn billboard, it said Fuck the World. And he looked at me
and he said, you know, I am having a hard
time finding a job. And I said well, Frank, maybe
we could put our heads together on this one, you know. In my mind I’m thinking,
where do I send him, you know, to McDonald’s? Do you want fries with that? No, I don’t want fries. Mothers clutching their kids
running out of the store. So, naturally, I hired him. And he bagged bread for a while. And I found a doctor at
White Memorial Hospital who chipped away
at his forehead. And a handful of others. And the doctor had donated
one hour a month to do this. And pretty soon, I had a waiting
list of 3,000 gang members who wanted this treatment. So we couldn’t stay
with that arrangement. Parentheses, Frank is
currently a security guard at a movie studio in Hollywood,
and there is no trace left of the anger, the dumbest thing
he had ever done, proving once and for all, that each one
of us is a whole lot more than the worst things
we’ve ever done. And so then we have
all our businesses, as Anthony mentioned,
café, we have the bakery. We have Homeboy Grocery,
which is where we sell chips and salsas and guacamole
and all the Ralph Stores in Southern California, and now
all the Stop and Shop Stores in five states on
the East Coast. Silkscreen merchandise. We have a restaurant at
the airport, Homeboy Diner, the only place you can
get food at City Hall, Homeboy Recycling,
Farmer’s markets. And Homegirl Café where women
with records, young ladies from rival gangs, waitresses with attitude will
gladly take your order. And they cater. It’s kind of a who’s who if you
go there for breakfast or lunch, you’re going to run into celebs
or stars or elected officials. Vice-President Joe Biden came
once with two hours’ notice. And Jim Carey is
there often enough. Actress Jane Fonda
was there last week. And Forest Whitaker
and Jack Black. And once famously, Diane
Keaton showed up for lunch. She’s won Academy Award
and big movie star, Godfather movies, Annie Hall. So her waitress is Glenda,
and Glenda’s a big girl. Been there, done that. Tattooed, felon,
parolee, gang member. She has no idea who Diane Keaton
is, so she’s taking her order, and Diane Keaton says,
well what do you recommend? And Glenda rattles off
the three [foreign word] that she particularly likes. And Diane Keaton lands
on the second one, I’ll have that second one. That one sounds good. And it’s at that moment
something dawns on Glenda. She looks at Diane Keaton,
she says, wait a minute. I feel like I know
you from somewhere, you know, like maybe we’ve met. And Diane Keaton sort of
tries to deflect it, humbly. Oh gosh, I suppose maybe
I have one of those faces that people think
they’ve seen before. And then Glenda goes,
no, now I know. We were locked together. [ Laughter ] Yeah, that just took
my breath away. And I don’t believe we’ve
had any further Diane Keaton sightings now that
I think of it. But suddenly kinship so quickly. Oscar-winning actress,
attitudinal waitress, exactly what God had in mind. And if you’ll permit me, Jesus
looks out at the gathered, and He said that you may be one. It’s about us that there be
no distance separating us. That there be no us
and them, just us. You go from PCC to choose to
become enlightened witnesses, people who through your
kindness and tenderness and focused attentive love
return people to themselves. There’s that line in the
Christmas carol O Holy Night that says long lay the world
in sin and error pining. ‘Til He appeared and
the soul felt its worth. Well yeah, it’s about Jesus
and it’s about Christmas, but how is it not the job
description of everyone who goes from this auditorium? You appear, and the
soul feels its worth. Almost every Buddhist text
begins with these sweet words, oh nobly born, remember
who you really are. I think that’s what
happens at Homeboy more than just about anything. You choose to be
enlightened witnesses. And you return people
to themselves. At Homeboy, we’re allergic to
the notion of holding the bar up and asking folks to measure up. Instead, we hold the mirror up
and we tell people the truth. That they are exactly what God
had in mind when God made them. And then you watch them oh
nobly born inhabiting the truth of who they are, and the
soul feels its worth. They become that truth, and
no bullet can pierce it. No four prison walls
can keep it out and death can’t touch
it because it’s huge. But at Homeboy we know you
have to reach in, and you have to dismantle messages of
shame and disgrace that get in the way, that keep people
from seeing their truth. For the principal suffering of the poor throughout
history is shame and disgrace. And it says in the acts of the
apostles this odd sentence. It says simply, and
awe came upon everyone. It suggests that the measure
of health of any community at all including this one here, the measure of health may well
reside in our ability to stand in awe at what the poor have
to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how
they carry it. So I get invited to give talks,
and some years ago I was invited to speak to 600 social
workers in Richmond, Virginia. And it was what they
call a gang in-service. So they do this for social
workers a lot where they’ll nine to five and like
a hotel ballroom. And they do different, you know,
aspects and workshops of gangs and how are you to
help them and see them. And so I said yes. And I figured, you know,
probably maybe give the keynote or maybe I’ll speak at
lunch or I’ll close the day. So I said yes, and
I bought my ticket. Well a week before I was to
fly, I pulled out the letter, and to my horror, I
discovered that I was to be the only speaker all
damn day, nine to five. And I said to myself,
oh hell no. So I invited two homies and
trainees, like Adrian and Jesse, and named Andre and Jose. And they were like in
their ninth month or so in our 18-month program. I sat them down and I said
look, at the end of the week, you’re flying with
me to Richmond, Virginia, 600 social workers. I’d like you to get up
and tell your stories. Take your time. Because we’ve got a
long-ass day to fill. But I had never heard
their stories. So Jose gets up first, and
he’s like 25-years-old, and gang member, been
to prison, tattooed. But in his time, even the
brief time at Homeboy, he had sort of gravitated as
one of his phases, we call it, to becoming a very valued member
of our substance abuse team. A man solid in his own recovery. And now he’s helping
younger homies with their addiction issues. And apart from being in
prison for a long stretch, he also had a long stretch
of time as a homeless man and an even longer
stretch as a heroin addict. So he gets up in front of 600
social workers, and he says, I guess you could say my mom and
me, we didn’t get along so good. I think I was six when she
looked at me and she said, why don’t you just
kill yourself? You’re such a burden to me. Well, 600 social
workers audibly gasped. And Jose says, it sounds
way worser Spanish. And we got damn whiplash
going back and forth. And then he continued. I guess I was nine
when my mom drove me down to the deepest part
of Baja, California, and she walks me up to an
orphanage and she knocks on the door, and the
guy comes to the door, and she says, I found this kid. And she left me there
for 90 days, until my grandmother
could get out of her where she had dumped me. And my grandmother rescued me. My mom beat me every single day
of my elementary school years with things you could
imagine and a lot of things you couldn’t. Every day my back was
bloody then scarred. In fact, I had to wear three
tee shirts to school each day. First tee shirt because the
blood would seep through. And second tee shirt
you could still see it. Finally, the third tee shirt,
you couldn’t see any blood. Kids at school, they
make fun of me. Hey fool, it’s 100 degrees. Why you wearing three
tee shirts? And then he stopped speaking
so overwhelmed with emotion, and he seemed to be staring
at a piece of his story that only he could see. And when he could
recover his speech he said through his tears, I wore
three tee shirts well into my adult years because
I was ashamed of my wounds. I didn’t want anybody
to see them. But now I welcome my wounds. I run my fingers over my scars. My wounds are my friends. Because after all, how can
I help heal the wounded if I don’t welcome
my own wounds. And awe came upon everyone. The measure of our compassion
lies not in our service of those on the margins but
only in our willingness to see ourselves in
kinship with them. For the truth of the matter is, if we don’t welcome our own
wounds, we may well be tempted to despise the wounded. A nobly born, remember
who you really are. And the soul felt its worth. I’m going to end with this
story, and then I’m going to invite Jesse and Adrian
out here, and the three of us will answer some
questions for you. It occurs to people sometimes,
you know, universities, to force their students to read
my books against their will. I’m not complaining. So one such university,
Gonzaga University in Spokane, my alma mater, forced their
incoming freshman class to read Tattoos on the Heart. And they said would
you come and speak, we’re going to have a big venue,
1,000 people on a Tuesday night. Could you come up? And I said sure. Can you bring two
homies with you? And I always say yes, if
people are going to pay for it. I always pick homies
in the same way. I always pick rivals, enemies
from different enemy gangs who work at Homeboy,
just to force them to share a hotel room together
just to mess with them. And I always homies who
have never flown before just for the thrill of seeing gang
members panicked in the sky. It wasn’t that long
ago I was at LAX with two older [foreign
language], and we were flying to D.C., and one of them
dead serious said, A.G., are we flying Virgin Airlines
because it’s our first time? I said, well, you know,
actually it’s a requirement, but we’ll be coming
home on American. So I picked two homies,
and I’ve done this my gosh, a thousand times easily,
with men and women, and so I pick Bobby, and
African-American gang member who works, who worked at the
time in the bakery and Mario, who at the time worked
in our merchandise store. I’ve done this so
many times, you know, but I’ve never picked anymore
more absolutely petrified to the bone [foreign
language] than this guy, Mario. I mean it was starting to
freak me out a little bit. He was hyperventilating,
you know, like, and we hadn’t even
boarded the plane yet. You know, and so we were at
Burbank Airport, small airport, big bay windows, Southwest
Airlines mainly and big planes. But they don’t have that
hermetically sealed chute where you board the plane. You have to walk out on
the tarmac, you know, like you’re the president, and
you climb the stairs that are at the front of the plane, and the big feature
there are there’s steps at the back of the plane. So, I’m sitting there
with Mario, and Bobby’s off walking
somewhere. And our plane arrives. It’s early morning, and
people are deplaning. I said Mario, that’s our plane. And he looks at the plane and
he says, [labored breathing], and I’m like oh my God, he may die before we
actually climb those steps. You know, and so I see our
flight crew arrive, the pilot, and there are two flight
attendants, females, and both of them have very
large cups of Starbucks coffee. And they’re schlepping up
the steps to board the plane. And Mario goes, when are we
going to board the plane? I said, well as soon as
they sober up the pilots. There they go now. Perhaps I shouldn’t
have said that. I should tell you in
our 30-years history, I think Mario’s probably the
most tattooed individual who’s ever worked there,
which is saying a lot. You know, he’s all
sleeved out, neck blackened with the name of his gang. Head shaved, covered in tattoos. Forehead, cheeks, chin,
eyelids that say the end. So that when he’s
lying in his coffin, there won’t be any doubt. So I’m walking him through the
airport trying to calm him down and people are like this, and mothers are clutching
their kids. I’m going wow, that’s
interesting, because if you were to go to Homeboy tomorrow and ask anybody there who’s the
kindest, most gentle tender soul who works here, they
won’t say me. They’ll think for half a
second, they’ll go Mario. Yeah, Mario is. He works I the café now. Mario is proof that only the
soul that ventilates the world with tenderness has any
chance at changing the world. So we get to Gonzaga, and they
have the big talk Tuesday night, but what they don’t
tell you is they have like a thousand other talks
all damn day on Tuesday. In this class, this
class, this meeting, this lunch, all damn day. And so I tell these two
guys, look, I’m not going to speak at any of these. I’m going to sit in the
back of the classroom. You get up and talk. Well, they’re nervous,
especially Mario, but they do a good job. They tell stories of torture and
terror and violence and abuse of every imaginable kind. And honest to God, if their
stories had been flames, you’d have to keep
your distance, otherwise, you’d get scorched. I would not have
survived a single day of either or their childhoods. So, we get to the nighttime
venue, and just like Adrian and Jesse, the two
of them spoke before. Mario, in particular,
was quite terrified. I do my thing. And then I invite
them out as I’m about to do with these two guys. And I go yeah, you have
a question, yes mam, it was a bigger place than this. And I, yeah. And so she stands. Yeah, I got a question,
it’s for Mario. First question out
the gate is for Mario. And Mario’s a tall,
skinny drink of water, and he clutches the microphone
and he’s just trembling, yes. And he’s just terrified. And she says, well,
you say you’re a father and you have a son and daughter, they’re about to enter
their teenage years. What wisdom do you
impart to them? You know, what advice
do you give them? And Mario closes his eyes, and
he’s clutching the microphone, and he’s a frigging
hernia trying to come up with whatever the
hell he’s going to say. And when suddenly he
blurts out, I just, as soon as he says those
two words he rushes back to his closed-eye
microphone clutching refuge, and he’s trembling, and now
I know he’s losing the battle with is tears. But he wants to get
the whole sentence out. I just don’t want my kids
to turn out to be like me. And there’s silence. Until the woman who asked
the question stands, and now it’s her turn to cry. Why wouldn’t you want your kids
to turn out to be like you? You are loving. You are kind. You are gentle. You are wise. I hope your kids turn
out to be like you. And a thousand total
perfect strangers stand, and they will not stop clapping, and all Mario can do is
hold his face in his hands, so overwhelmed that
this room full of strangers had
returned him to himself. And everyone standing and
clapping, they were returned to themselves, which
shouldn’t surprise us. Because it’s mutual. And the soul felt its worth. Oh nobly born. Remember who you really are. And so you go from this
auditorium eventually, and from this school,
eventually. And you create a community
of kinship such that God, in fact, might recognize it. Where there is no us and them. There is no daylight
that separates us. And we stand against forgetting
that we belong to each other. And pretty soon, you will cease to care whether anyone accuses
you of wasting your time. For in this place of which
you say it is a waste, there will be heard again the
voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voices
of those who sing. You don’t go to the margins
to make a difference. You go to the margins
so that the folks at the margins make
you different. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] Oh, there you are. You’re down there. All right, so, we
won’t keep you. I feel badly that you’re here
as long as you’ve been here. And so Jesse and
Adrian and I will, and I guess they have
microphones there. Hold there.>>So if anyone has
any questions, if anyone has any questions, please come to the
microphones –>>Well just use this. Yes, go ahead.>>Adrian and Jesse. This question is for
Adrian and Jesse. Can you share what your
plans for after PCC?>>As for me, I’m getting
ready to transfer out, and I’m pretty hopeful
I’ll end up at UC Berkley. [ Applause ] So yeah, that’s, that’s
what I want to do, you know. I’ve always liked school. I never thought that
today I’ve got a 3.6 GPA. But yeah, that’s
what I want to do. And major in sociology. And be an agent of change. [ Applause ]>>As for myself, I’m in
the same boat as Jesse. I just submitted my
application to UC Santa Cruz. [ Applause ] I’m going not apply, like I’m
striving to go to universities like Berkley, Santa Cruz,
Santa Barbara, [inaudible], but at the same time, like
I want to challenge myself and to apply to institutions
like Princeton private, you know, like USC Stanford. Why not? So, we’ll
see what’s next. [ Applause ]>>This question kind of
goes out to all three of you. I’m beginning to wonder
throughout the entire talk, like I can’t imagine like the
hardships you guys went through, also with the other
homeboys and girls. Like how do you get back
from like a really a hardship or like a big obstacle? Like basically, what
motivates you guys like get back up and fight?>>Like when your
friends were killed. What [inaudible] to
let you back up again?>>As for me, like I
always knew that I was more than just a criminal,
more than just a person that was causing harm, you know. And I guess when my two
best friends passed away, I felt like I was the third one. And then I’m just tired of
trying to survive, you know. I just want to live. I want to live. I want to do it for those in
my family that never really got to the chance to do the
things I have done, you know. I just want to pave the way
for others to be an example that it’s possible, you know. And it just takes
a day at a time. You know, I’ve been through
so much things, I still deal with this on a day-to-day basis. But like Father Greg said, it’s
about healing and really tapping in and sending yourself. So yeah, I just want to live. [ Applause ]>>I think, you know, like
an individual like myself. Like I’m not supposed
to be here, you know. Statistically-wise, I’m supposed to be either serving
life in prison or dead. And being an individual
that constantly, you know, make mistakes after mistakes, like I don’t ever
look [inaudible] because I always think about the
next, you know, incoming homey and homegirl that are in the
process changing their lives. You know if I give up, if
I just continue to throw in the towel just
by my first failure, then what example am I
paving the path for them. But experiencing failure
after failure and still being, not giving up, so being
stubborn, you know, that’s what motivates me
and gives me that drive. [ Applause ]>>This question goes to Father
G. There has been documentaries about you, but have
you ever thought about having a reality show,
like Pit Bulls and Parolees? Okay [inaudible], I mean.>>A reality show like what?>>Pit Bulls and Parolees.>>Oh Pit Bulls and Parolees.>>Yeah.>>I don’t know that one.>>So it’s like a dog
sanctuary of pit bulls, and she only hires parolees.>>Oh, okay, I’ll
have to watch that. Yeah, you know, we’ve been
approached, I never want to do the reality show thing.>>Not a reality show
but just like, a show.>>Yeah, yeah, because, yeah. Well, with a documentary, you
can kind of, it’s in the can, and then it’s in
the world, you know. But if you have kind
of a show that’s kind of on a continuing basis
like that, then it’s sort of, I don’t know, I always
have said no. We’ve been approached
many times.>>Really?>>Yeah, like for example, the
Homegirl Café, I don’t know if you guys know this,
they wanted to do, you know, Homegirl Café. And here’s what they
hoped for, obviously. They already know
what they want. You know, they want the
homegirls to be in the kitchen, look bitch and grab
their hair and –>>Wow.>>You know, that’s
what they want. And literally, they kind of
thought, well, we’d kind of like to film them as they have
conflict in the kitchen. I said oh hell no. So, and I think it kind of –>>Or a cooking show?>>It promotes the mischief
a little bit, you know. So, but there’s a
show that’s sort of being developed
at the moment, so –>>Oh really?>>Yeah, but they tried to do
this for 25 years, you know. They tried to do like a
feature film, you know. But then it’s kind of, you know, the arc of that story
doesn’t make any sense to me, which is sort of the great white
hope kind of a story, you know, priest saving the day. So this current iteration is
kind of more interesting to me. And we’ll see if
somebody does it. I mean I have, there’s a
team of writers and stuff who are writing this
kind of little thing. And it’s like a series,
like a Netflix thing.>>Well, that’s cool.>>But fictionalized. You know what I mean? It’s not a documentary,
but it’s, you know.>>Yeah.>>Like Sean Connery
would play me. And Brad Pitt would play Jesse. And on and on like that. Yes.>>This is to Jesse and Adrian. Do you guys ever have moments
where you feel like giving up? And if you do, what do you
do in those situations, and what advice can you give
to people, even in this crowd, that feel like giving
up themselves. Maybe, you know, in
a different aspect.>>You know, just, by my
personal experience, you know, a man like lately I’ve
been thinking about. Like I’ve been dealing with it. Like I deal with it
all the time, you know, always thinking about giving up. I ask myself like why
am I here, you know? What’s my purpose? Why do I continue to try
despite hitting failure after failure after failure? And every time I’m ready
to throw in the towel, every time I’m ready to just
block everything and everyone out of my life, I just get
deep in prayer, personally. And I tell myself,
you know what, don’t give up yet, you know. It’s just that hope. Like I went from being
homeless to going to president, to being on higher education and despite hitting
setback after setback. I haven’t given up. I don’t know what’s the reason
behind it, but I do know that no matter what, I continue
to go, because like I said, when I walk into places
like Homeboy Industries, there was an older homeboy or
older homegirl that greeted me. And I want to be able
to pass on that legacy. But I’m going through that
journey of sort of discovery. But for me, it’s a journey
I just continue to fight against those feelings and
have that whole, you know. So I always think about the
generation that’s coming up ahead. [ Applause ]>>As for me, man, I deal
with that all the time, exams, applications, I want to
give up all the time. I think about this constantly. You know, I think about, man,
like I could just go back to drug dealing, what
I was really good at. You know, but it’s
taking it a day at a time. If you start trying to push
too forward or get ahead of yourself, then you start
feeling overwhelmed, you know, and then it starts to
become a ripple effect. And it’s just taking
it a day at a time and really centering
yourself and really meditating and taking a deep
breath, you know. And I know personally, like
I said, when I was young, that’s when I was
like eight-years-old, those were like my fondest
moments, and I couldn’t recall, as if my mom was still in
front of me, and she told me like I want you to be a
lawyer, a doctor, you know. And I just look back and I just
want to fulfill that, you know. And I just think it’s just
little things like that where I just take
it a day at a time. If I can make it
there, I belong there. And that’s just how I
feel, a day at a time. [ Applause ]>>Obviously, I’m
not a student here. I’m with the East Los Angeles
Women’s Center, and everyone in East L.A. and Boyle Heights
recognizes Homeboy Industry and the work that you’re done. I want to commend the two young
men for finding yourselves and finding, and hopefully, you
know, creating paths for others, because that’s how when you talk about kinship, one
helps another. But just really wanted
to commend you, Father G, for creating, using
social enterprise and the business model
to create these programs. I know many of us that are
in this field use grants, and you know, we
struggle with funding, but you have really paved the
way for many of us to look at social enterprise
for businesses to really create a
way out of poverty. And we, and I really thank you. I just want to thank you for
the work that you’ve done. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>I think a misconception,
though, that we’re a $20
million annual operation. So, half of that money
in our budget comes from our nine social
enterprises. But there’s a kind of a
notion that somehow all of our budget is provided by
our nine social enterprises. And it’s not true. So we have to raise $10 million
a year, and it’s a heavy lift. And we’re struggling
at the moment. And at the moment, we get
exactly zero government funding, which is outrageous, because
we’re in the county of L.A. and there isn’t another place where more gang members
go to get help. And so, you know, we should
be getting $5 million a year from the $935 million
annual probation budget. And that wouldn’t
be commensurate with the services we deliver. But we’ll take it. And that’s frustrating,
you know, because if we were a shelter
for abandoned puppies, we would have been, had
been endowed already. We would have had enough
money, seriously we would. And you know that’s true. Even though I get angry
letters from puppy owners. I just think that sort of
says something about us, that we ought not
to be very proud of. That, you know, because
they’re tattooed and they’re a whole lot more than the worst things they ever
did, but it’s a tough sell. But it’s a safe bet. I think Homeboy has
had a singular impact on public safety in L.A. County. Gang-related homicides
were at 1,000 in 1992. And since then, they’ve been
cut in half and cut half again, and the last two sheriffs
and the last five chiefs of police recognize that
Homeboy has had, obviously, an impact on that
number decreasing. Because we’re an exit
ramp for homies to kind of move beyond the violence. So, I don’t know,
it’s frustrating. It’s the only thing that keeps
me awake at night is trying to meet payroll, and it’s tough. But one day we’ll
reverse that, you know. [ Applause ]>>I think you already covered
the question I’m going to ask. I want to ask what you think
is the biggest challenge in the prison structure system
from incarceration and more about rehabbing individuals
instead of just locking them up?>>Solutions to mass
incarceration.>>One of those solutions
is education. You know, I remember
when I was in prison, a lot of the times I was in
prisons like High Desert, [inaudible] and because I was
in a maximum security or I was in segregated confinement, that
means that I wasn’t entitled to an education because
of maximum security. What I remember, like, when I
would be escorted to medical, like I would see other
individuals with their books on their hands, and every
time we would try to petition to seek an education, the people
in charge of the prison system, they wouldn’t grant us access
because we were high risk. The only way we would be
entitled to an education was if we debrief and went
to a special needs yard. Or that’s where our
points dropped within time. Years pass by and eventually
when we went to a less of a high risk yard where we
were able to get an education. But, other than that, we didn’t
have access to an education. And, you know, therapy,
man, therapy worked out. That’s one of the things
that helped me out the most when I was at Homeboy
Industries, when I was working there, and
I started seeking therapy. But in prison, you know, you
won’t have access to therapy, let alone and education,
you know, unless you’re of
minimum security. And I think when you start
taking classes like psychology, sociology, it opens up your
mind to your neighborhood, but at the same time, to reflect
internally, you know, self-help. You start growing within. So. [ Applause ]>>Thank you.>>Sure.>>This’ll be one last question.>>Hi. My question is
for Adrian and Jesse. I was actually just curious,
do, if you do sometimes like maybe keep in contact from
the neighborhoods that you grew up in and you see
that those people, they are headed towards
the gang route or they are gang-affiliated, do
you ever try to get them to go into Homeboy Industries, try
to steer them more towards that past, or is that
something that needs to be chosen for themselves. And if you do mention it
to them or try to help them out with information
regarding Homeboy Industries, are they receptive to
that information, or?>>A crazy thing is, one of, an
individual that we’re associated from the neighborhood, he
passed away in December. And there is a lot
of individuals, we’re all from the
same neighborhood, and they pulled me off to
the side, and I kind of felt like I got in trouble
or something. And they told me hey, we
heard you’re going to college. And I was like yeah. What are you planning
on transferring to? And I told them Berkley. He was like hey, Bear
wants to talk to you. And I was like what? Come to find out that
he’s actually a graduate from UC Berkley, and
he wants to help me out to make sure I get there. You know, and nobody wants
to be gangbanging every day. If they could get a job or
they could go to school, if they could have stability,
that’s what they want, you know. And a lot of these individuals,
they feel like they’re hopeless and nobody’s willing
to give them a chance. And sometimes I tell
them, and they grasp it, you know, but life hits. They got to pay the bills. They’ve got to take
care of their kids. And you know, and some people,
they want to take that chance, and they really want
to go forth. And it might just be for the
smallest thing, tattoo removal, you know, checking
out the classes. But it’s taking that step and
just getting there, you know. So a lot of people do, that I
know, that do want the help, you know, it’s just at times
it is a personal choice. You know, but as long as
you’re there and not giving up and telling them that, you know,
you believe in them, then slowly but surely they start
believing in themselves. Yeah. [ Applause ]>>You know, similar
to Jesse, you know, when I joined the gang I was 12. Within time, you know, I pursued
that pass of juvenile halls and prison and whatnot. So when I decided to take a
step back and work on myself, one thing that my homeboys told
me, if you can work on yourself, you don’t have to,
don’t be a hypocrite. If you’re going to do it,
do it all the way, you know. So, as I started my
journey throughout time, now when they see me
and they see the things that I’m doing, they get happy. But I had one individual,
you know, that was my homeboy [inaudible],
and I remember it was a Friday, and he reached out to me
and he was talking to me and he was like,
you know what, man, I’m tired of this lifestyle. Like I want something
different, you know. I see you doing it. Can you help me out? And I’m like all right. Let’s meet up on Monday. I’m going to come, I’m
going to pick you up. But if I’m going to pick you up, just make sure you’re
consistent. I’m going to take
you to Homeboy’s. He was like all right. So he never made to that Monday. That Sunday he got arrested,
and he was charged for murder, and he got 60 years to life. So, that’s a little
bit about my story. But when I do come across some
of the places like Homeboys or whenever I go to a
barbershop and cut my hair, when they see me, a lot
of them, they get happy because they see like, you know, like you’re still
keeping your word. You’re still doing the things that you said you
were going to do. [ Applause ]>>So thank you very
much for coming. I hope you all have been
inspired by this talk and by the experiences
of both Adrian and Jesse. Thank you for your energy. Thank you for staying. And I want to give a huge
thanks to Jesse and Adrian, and of course, to Father Boyle. [ Applause ] [ Music ]

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