Father Greg Boyle’s work with former gang members at Homeboy Industries might not seem to fit to a week of lectures focused on boys, but he and his “homies” would beg to differ.
“There’s no question that we do a certain thing,” Boyle said. “We intervene and help formerly gang-involved individuals. But every single man here was a boy at some point, so they can speak to what might have helped them.”
Boyle will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. He will be joined by friends Javier Chavez and Germaine Smith, former gang members who have been rehabilitated by Homeboy Industries. The trio will deliver a program titled “Standing in Awe: Compassion, Redemption, and Boys Reaching Manhood in the Barrio.”
Chavez and Smith will share their experiences with the audience before Boyle joins in to offer comments about Homeboy Industries and to answer questions.
Boyle said that Chavez’s and Smith’s testimony will help to highlight how childhood problems can become much larger issues in adulthood.
“In telling their stories, they’ll be able to identify what those junctures and obstacles and things are that people could have addressed as a society, as a community, but didn’t,” Boyle said. “We don’t solve the gang problem, but we help gang members and folks who get out of prison redirect their lives. But society needs to do lots of things. They need to address issues early on so folks don’t go to prison in the first place.”
When those issues are not addressed, Homeboy Industries steps in to provide support, classes, training and jobs to help former gang members and prisoners reestablish themselves in society.
Boyle said that the program grew out of violence between eight rival gangs that were active in Dolores Mission, the parish he ran in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, in 1988. Since then, Homeboy Industries has grown to serve all of Los Angeles County and assists more than 10,000 people each year.
“We foster a sense of community here,” Boyle said. “So if love is the answer, community is the context and tenderness is the methodology. So you want to be able to create a community of kinship, where people feel like they belong.”
Boyle said that although many in his Chautauqua audience may have little experience with the kind of gang culture that exists in Los Angeles, the message of Homeboy Industries is still relevant to their lives.
“The more hands on deck the better,” Boyle said. “The more people that can have kind of an aerial view of a very complex social dilemma and then they can apply their own wisdom to how they respond in their own given communities. The more you can foster a sense of kinship and connection where people are joined together, our country and our society is obviously better off.”