Friday, September 12, 2008

Homeboy Industries

A few weeks ago, Father Greg, founder of Homeboy Industries (a company comprised of former gang members, which runs silk-screening, maintenance, merchandising, and cafe operations around L.A. county) and Treyvon, one such former gang member, came to speak to our medical school class. Father Greg's speech was one of those laugh-and-cry moments (the kind I won't attempt to recount in detail, as literary justice will not be served- but I do recommend that you hear him speak. I warn conservatives that they may have to ignore some angry non-sequiturs directed at Bush Jr.). Treyvon's speech was equally brilliant, and he told his story with a mixture of precise detail, worldly insights, and sage advice. One story he recounted addressed the day he sat in his car with a friend, when the friend was gunned down by a passer-bye. Random brain tissue was left splattered on Treyvon's lap. The friend wasn't in a gang. The hit was meant for Treyvon.

In front of the class, Treyvon asked me directly what I imagined gang members were like. I gave some stammering, incoherent answer. What was I to say?- "Um, According to 'The Wire,' people like D'angelo and Wallace seem to have some heart." The truth is, I know nothing about gang-members, what motivates most of them to join crime groups, or how they feel about what they do. Treyvon's journey involved a drug-addicted mom, an absent dad, a crappy school, little hope for the future, and more convincing images of neighborly brotherhood through gangs than of Ivy league lawns or frat parties. Treyvon now mentors hundreds of kids, is studying to become and audio engineer, and is all-around great guy. He also stated that most gang members, like him, joined the groups because they were desperate to be loved. Mind you, this is a tough-talking 23-year-old with plenty of swagger and bling. Very few med school neurotics would admit that they want to feel loved, although I'd say that it's pretty much a universal human sentiment. Treyvon is a brave guy.

No comments: