Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Homeboy Industries - Support Required

If you are even remotely interested in social justice and haven't heard of Homeboy Industries, and its slogan "Jobs not jails", well, I think perhaps there's a rock you've been under for quite some time. Father Greg Boyle has been one of the preeminent speakers and activists arguing for employment opportunities for former gang members for years. He's got a new book out Tattoos on the Heart (that I HIGHLY recommend) and his stories are both intensely inspiring and will simultaneously bring you to tears.

So, what's up? Insufficient funding WHILE the city takes advantage of its services (without paying for them). This is essentially a rallying cry.

Homeboy Industries' businesses (including Homegirl Cafe) are thriving. That's the great part. But, the comprehensive services the non-profit offers are still funded primarily through grants and donations. That's where we come it. They are short the funding they need and have had to make some drastic cuts that, if left to stay in place, will radically alter the lives of hundreds of people who are still in need of hope and support. (I have friends working there - disclaimer - but this means I also know what I'm talking about.)

There are three important things to do:

1) Read the editorial in the LA Times, Homeboy: What price hope?, and then tell me you don't think this is an essential group to support. Not possible.

2) Get out your credit cards or check books and get on the Homeboys website to become a supporter. I've just sent in my check and I really ask you to do the same.

3) If you are in LA (or not), make some noise at the Mayor who is happy to use his funding to hire gang interventionists who go out and get people to COME AND USE the Homeboys services, but then won't actually FUND Homeboy Industries itself for all the services it provides. Ridiculous and embarrassing!

Our city is better than this, and I think it's time the public allocates its own resources into the programs we know are effective.

Unlike my usual posts, this isn't just something to ponder. This requires action...as much as is possible for each of us. Since individual Homies are standing on street corners to do bake sales and car washes, the least we can do is stand in solidarity with them and contribute what we can to the effort.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May Day march in Los Angeles: May 1, 2010

As protests and boycotts surrounding Arizona's newly passed legislation continues, I'm reflecting on last Saturday's May Day march. Not much of a street demonstrator myself, I decided to venture out this year to stand (too crowded to really march) in solidarity with the working people of Los Angeles. Here's what happened for me:

Within 15 minutes of my arrival I found myself standing on a street corner holding a sign that read "White folks for immigrant rights" along with other AWARE-LA members who held various other messages lending support to the collective effort of the day. (See the LA TIMES article linked below where one of our AWARE members is mentioned toward the end. His sign said "Gringos for immigrant rights".)

Soon after taking up the sign, other marchers began to ask if they could take our picture as they thanked us for being there. Admittedly, the white contingent out that day was rather sparse. But, white folks were there, and they weren't just with AWARE. We found some Unitarian Universalists collected, many white folks allied with other community groups, as well as some sole white folks who simply came out on their own. Two of them ended up talking with us to find out about our group and asked if they could be part of our AWARE group for the day.

As we stood out there together, one of our members began videotaping and asking us to name why we'd come out. While I didn't go on video at the time, here's what was in my head...I was out there to show support for the millions of undocumented people in this country who are striving for a better life, who want desperately to improve conditions for their family, who contribute to our country, and who have suffered the kind of economic difficulty that is often made worse by governmental failings (on all sides of borders). I thought of the quote I'd heard earlier that week attributed to the recently departed Dorothy Height wherein she said that although we may have come to this country on different boats, that we're all in this boat together.

I know that not all people come to this country by boat, and I know that there are debates regarding newly arrived people's "choices" in that regard. But even for a middle-class white girl like me, I already knew as a young teen that when Jean Valjean stole the bread in Les Miserables to feed his family, that his resulting imprisonment was unjust. I truly question how others who've experienced such privilege (whether it be race, class, or citizenship status) cannot imagine themselves into people's situations and recognize the lack of viable alternatives many face (and how our international treaties often make predicaments worse).

In the end, it was a lovely day. The families with strollers waiving flags and signs were a joy to see. And when I got back in my car to call a friend, his question to me was this..."So, how were the crazies today?"

My reply was this: The marchers by and large, basically hard-working, quite reasonable people. The only crazies I saw were the few tiny groups we passed along the side of the road offering a counter-protest telling us all that we were all going to hell.

Any other reflections from the day you'd like to share?