A New Life for Gangs


One of the workers at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.
BBC World Service, via Flickr

Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at the work of Father Gregory Boyle. He works in the most dangerous parts of Los Angeles sharing an important message with gangs there.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Liz Waid.

Voice 2

And I'm Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Father Gregory Boyle lives in one of the most dangerous places in the United States. He lives in an area of Los Angeles called Boyle Heights. And Boyle Heights has one of the highest gang violence rates in Los Angeles. Most people stay away from Boyle Heights. They are afraid. However, the danger has not scared Father Greg away. In fact, for over 20 years he has chosen to live and work in Boyle Heights. So why does Father Greg stay?

Voice 2

Today's Spotlight is on Father Greg and his work with gang members is Los Angeles. Father Greg is a Jesuit Christian priest. And as part of his work, he has started an organization called "HomeBoy Industries."

Voice 1

A gang is a group of people who have something in common. Criminal gangs are often known for gun violence and illegal drugs. Many criminal gang members have little hope for a future life outside of the gang. Often, they do not know how to live a normal life.

Voice 2

In 1988, Father Greg decided to do something about this problem. He started a program called "Jobs for the Future". This program began slowly providing jobs to gang members.

Voice 1

But in 1992, Father Greg saw that there was a need for faster change. In this year, Los Angeles experienced a great amount of conflict. Many things caused this terrible violence – police violence, race conflict, a lack of jobs and a culture of gang violence. In many parts of the city there was rioting and violence. 53 people were killed and many buildings were destroyed.

Voice 2

These events caused Father Greg to react. And he started the Homeboy Bakery. Homeboy is a word that gang members use. It means something like "friend" or "brother." The Homeboy Bakery sells pies, cakes and bread. And the people who make these foods are former gang members. The bakery provides them with job experience and skills.

Voice 1

Former gang members who work at the Homeboy Bakery often work with members of other enemy gangs. This is very difficult at first. It is hard for gang members to work with people they used to fight. But when gang members work together they learn to value each other. They also learn how to make peace and how to deal with their problems.

Voice 2

In 1999, the Homeboy Bakery burned down. It was a difficult time for the bakery. It had been a place of hope for many people. Father Greg wrote about this time:

Voice 3

"The next day we were able to inform all the bakers about what happened. But we could not find one of them, a young man named Lencho. So when it was time for him to begin working, Lencho steps off the bus wearing his perfect white baker's clothes. His step is light as he walks into the car lot. But once he enters, he sees that the building has burned down. No one needs to explain. He stands there frozen, puts his head in his hands and begins to cry.

The bakery was Lencho's reason to get up in the morning. Just as important, it was his reason not to go out with his gang the night before. His relationship with his co-workers, his former enemies, was deeper than anything he had ever known in his family. It was stronger than the friendship he knew in his gang. All we could do was surround him with love and the promise of rebuilding."

Voice 1

In 2001, Homeboy Bakery became Homeboy Industries. And today, Homeboy Industries includes many other programs. There is a school and day care program for young area children. There are also many programs to find good jobs for young people. All the gang members go through a job training program. This program gives them the skills that they need to be able to work. Some of the gang members work in the building industry, some in the Homeboy businesses.

Voice 2

One favourite saying of Homeboy Industries is "Jobs not Jails." A good job provides a way of making money that does not harm other people. It also gives people a sense of value. If a person is working, he feels that he is worth something. It is more difficult for other people to take advantage of him. He can provide for himself and even for his family. But a job is not the most important thing that gang members receive from Homeboy Industries. The most important thing is love.

Voice 1

In 2010, Father Greg wrote a book called "Tattoos on the Heart." In it, he writes about his experiences working with gang members. Many gang members mark their skin with permanent pictures or words. These tattoos often show which gang a person belongs to. These are tattoos on the body. However, Father Greg writes about "Tattoos on the Heart." His book is mainly about love. He writes about the love of Jesus Christ. Father Greg believes that God loves every person. He writes that there is no shame or guilt that is too big for God. And Father Greg writes that God accepts each person just as he or she already is. This is the idea behind all of Father Greg's work.

Voice 2

This kind of love is unconditional. And for many gang members, this kind of love seems too good to be true. Gangs give their members only conditional love. A gang member must always earn their love by performing duties. If a member does not do what they are told, they are punished, removed from the gang or even killed. At Homeboy Industries, Father Greg wants to change the way gang member understand love. He wants to share a love that is unconditional – a love that requires nothing. It is this kind of love that gives people hope and a sense of value.

Voice 1

Today, Father Greg spends some of his time travelling. He meets with people and tells the stories of his Homeboys. He wants to make people aware of what is happening in his community. But he also wants to share his message of unconditional love. He believes that every person needs to hear this message - the message that God accepts and loves them just as they are.

Voice 2

The writer of today's program was Rena Dam. The producer was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. Computer users can visit our website at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called "A New Life for Gangs."

Voice 1

You can also visit our website to talk to other English learners on our discussion boards. If you have a comment or question about this program you can leave a comment on the script page. Or you can email us. Our email address is radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. Just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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Question:

Are there gangs in your area? Are there organizations who work with gangs?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Narath
said on May 15, 2012

My parents have been providing me an unconditional love so I love them forever. I think love is really beautiful . Education and Training are very important and I would like people around the world are able to receive a free education .

From Cambodia

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kenhieuloilam
said on February 13, 2020

We love beautiful good thingsl. Beautiful good things are durable. We keep away from not-good things. Not-good things are not durable. Beautiful good things may be very big things and beautiful good things may be very small things. Happiness may be very big things and happiness may be very simple things. We experience difficulties. We experience sufferings. We love beautiful good things. Beautiful good things are durable. We respect beautiful good things. We build for beautiful good things.

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Honneur
said on February 14, 2020

There are gangs in all places of the world. In poor places they are more violent and territorialist, but in rich comunities they are more sophisticated. I do not see how society accepts gangs. If I work hard for to make my money, it is not fair other people live and eat at my expenses. I would rather put a bullet in their heads…