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Tickets Selling for Fr. Greg Boyle Speech and Book Reading to Benefit Homeboy Industries

Posted on | September 13, 2010 | Comments Off

Tickets are selling fast for the Fr. Greg Boyle speech and book reading at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21. at the United Church of Christ in Claremont, 322 W. Harrison.

(Update: There will be tickets available at the door.)

The UCC in Claremont is co-sponsoring the event along with a group of volunteers, The Claremont Friends of Homeboy Industries.

Here is the vital information:

  • Tickets are on sale for $20 (less if you need to.  We would be pleased to support groups of high school students who would like to hear from those who have given up the gang life.)
  • If you can afford a $100 contribution, please join us at a reception for Fr. Greg before the book reading.
  • Tickets are on sale at the UCC church office, at the Claremont Presbyterian Church, and at the Folk Music Center, 220 N. Yale Ave., Claremont.
  • (Posted at 3:30 pm. Tuesday:  Please come to the UCC Church before 7.  Tickets will be available at the door.)
  • We now can take cash, check, or credit card.

Fr. Greg will read from his best-selling book Tattoos on the Heart, the story of his remarkable ministry and the young men and women who have left the gang life to join Homeboy.

For more about Homeboy:

Fr. Boyle, more commonly know as Fr. Greg, Greg, or just G., founded Homeboy Industries in 1988, with the notion that the cycle of gang violence could best be broken with real jobs.  Or as the organization’s motto says it, “nothing stops a bullet like a job.”

Homeboy has become the largest gang intervention program in the country, serving more than 12,000 former gang members per year from more than half of the 800 gangs in Los Angeles County.  Those hired at Homeboy work side-by-side with former rivals in four enterprises: the famous Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, which has sold original designs for two decades, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise store, and Homegirl Café & Catering.  (The Homegirl chefs and staff will also be catering an event at the Claremont United Church of Christ on October 2, when the church celebrates its annual harvest festival, this year, Fiesta de al Luna.)

For Fr. Boyle, Homeboy is not just an enterprise, it’s a ministry.  Tattoos on the Heart, offers up the story of how a young man from a large Irish-American family in middle class Los Angeles found himself riding a bicycle through the Pico Aliso housing projects trying to broker peace among young men intent on killing each other.  There are tears in this book.  Families sob at the funerals of their gang-slain homies.  Fr. Boyle cries, too; he’s buried 168 of these kids.  But there are tears, also, for those who persevered and beat the odds: the former gangster and now successful family man who wants his old counselor to bless his daughter before she goes to college.

One can read Tattoos as a collection of poignant and humorous stories: like the title story of Sharkey, a particularly exasperating homie, who Fr. Boyle decides to praise rather than criticize for his all too apparent shortcomings.  The priest tells Sharkey that throwing off the gang life has made him a “giant among men.”  Sharkey is stunned, stares at Fr. Boyle for a while, and then says, “Damn, G…I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”  But the stories are the basis of homilies, straightforward tales that make God’s love palpable.  As Fr. Richard Rohr said in review of the book, “Sometimes we are allowed to see in our own lifetimes what we were supposed to see in the life and ministry of Jesus.”

It’s also a public policy story.  Homeboy Industries is now a national model, as a gang intervention project.  Jobs not jails provide the way out of the costly and vicious cycle of incarceration.  Homeboy provides those who have just been released from prison their first jobs.  They get occupational experience and also the necessary soft skills, like showing up on time and taking orders from disagreeable supervisors.  It offers mental health counseling, free tattoo removal (just try getting a job with devil horns inked into your skull), a charter high school, anger management training, and parenting classes, among others.

Fr. Boyle and Homeboy have been widely recognized for their work, including a trip to the White House, and this May with an honorary doctorate from Claremont Graduate University.  But national recognition has not yielded fiscal success.

The Homeboy story is also being played out in the newspapers and on television.  The recession has hit hard, and although Homeboy has made it through the immediate financial emergency, only 40 of 260 work-readiness youth were rehired after an initial lay off of over 300 workers.  Just to be clear, all four of the businesses remain open and employing 80 youth in job training positions.  Fr. Boyle, staff and volunteers, have moved into a concerted fundraising campaign to keep the doors open and hope alive.

Tickets for the Sept. 21st event are being offered for a suggested donation of $20. Buy tickets by check at the Claremont UCC office, the Claremont Presbyterian Church (1111 N. Mountain Ave.), or at the Folk Music Center (220 N. Yale Ave).  Checks payable to Homeboy Industries. Reservations can also be made by email at www.mindworkers.com.  Those who can consider making a larger contribution to support Homeboy Industries and Fr. Boyle’s work, please contact Jacek Kugler at 909-624-3061.

About Homeboy Industries

Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and former gang involved youth to become contributing members of our community through a variety of services in response to their multiple needs. Free programs – including counseling, education, tattoo removal, job training and job placement – enable young people to redirect their lives and provide them with hope for their futures. For 22 years, Homeboy Industries has offered unconditional community in the face of the conditional community of gangs, and has offered the possibility of a future among young people often suffering from a lethal absence of hope. A symbol of pride in a region recognized as having the largest and most complex gang problem in the country, Homeboy has successfully developed innovative programs and business ventures that have given at-risk youth and former gang members the ability to build their own future, right in the heart of the city. More information is available at www.homeboy-industries.org.

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Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'

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