May 21, 2019 — A new photo book, “Walking in Grace,” by Alison Fogg Carlson, commemorates 30 years of Homeboy Industries, founded by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ. Homeboy Industries is currently the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.
With photographs by Michael Collopy accompanied by intimate stories and poetry written by former gang members, the book gives a look into the services Homeboy Industries provides, including tattoo removal, job training, substance abuse treatment, mental health care and legal assistance.
“In our current culture where dehumanizing speech about gang members is being normalized, the compassion and empathy of which they are so deserving is withheld from them,” said Fr. Boyle. “And that's why Alison Fogg Carlson's book is a precious gift, one that illuminates the dignity, the nobility of their souls. Michael Collopy's stunningly beautiful photographs tenderly capture the humanity of these homies and homegirls, leaving us with no doubt of their unshakeable goodness.”
Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984. From 1986 to 1992, he was the pastor of Dolores Mission in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood of East Los Angeles. In 1988, while gang life in Los Angeles ran rampant, Fr. Boyle walked and bicycled through the corridors of East Los Angeles attempting to convince gang members to leave gang life behind. Where others saw common criminals, Fr. Boyle saw individuals who were bereft of any hope or vision for a better life. This inspired him to create Homeboy Industries, a safe haven where gang members are welcomed unconditionally, where they can unpack years of pain, grief, guilt and shame and remold their lives through counseling and job training.
Johanna, now 23-years-old, has walked through the doors of Homeboy Industries five times. Her first time was at 15-years-old, but she wasn’t yet ready to change. In her own words: “The tattoos on my face were there just because I just didn’t like nobody. It was my face and I could do whatever I wanted with it. If I could keep them forever, I would have, but I guess society sees me differently. I had a high school diploma and went to culinary college. I had to put makeup on all the time and they always asked about my record. People judge so much. I have a responsible job as Tom’s executive assistant, the CEO of Homeboy.”
At age 20, Richard faced a life sentence for shooting a man. The man survived, and Richard served time for assault with a deadly weapon. At age 25, he was released from prison with no outside work experience and desperate to change his life. Through Homeboy, he was introduced to Central Casting and got his first role in the TV show “CSI Miami,” portraying a Cuban Gangster. That appearance led to speaking roles, followed by the film “A Better Life.” He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role in “American Crime,” a show in which he felt the importance of representing his personal reality. As he described it, “It was showing the pain we go through … I really had to go to a deep, dark, place.”
Homegirl Cafe offers an extensive training program empowering women and men to undertake what is often their first "real job" in the restaurant industry and urban farming. As trainees learn to grow, prep and serve local and organic food, they grow self-understanding and prepare themselves to serve as leaders in their families and communities.
The Daily Morning Meeting includes a rotating cast of homeboys and homegirls who share a “thought of the day” based on their personal experience. This true life sharing causes all who are present to realize that there is indeed hope, that within each of them are the inherent qualities of goodness, wholeness, and the capacity to express them in their everyday lives.
Read more about Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, and Homeboy Industries:
White House “Champions of Change” Program Honors Jesuit Father Greg Boyle
Jesuit Father Greg Boyle Named James Beard Humanitarian of the Year
Jose Osuna: A Homeboy Finds a Seat at the Table