Archive for the ‘Personal Thoughts’ Category

Have you ever been at a loss for words when it comes to something that you are passionate about? The feeling is so overwhelming that you just can’t find the exact words to describe it? Well, if you have, that is where I am at when trying to describe my summer so far… There is no words to really describe how it is working as a Youth Squad Supervisor for Summer Night Lights – unless you experience it yourself, of course.

The morning of July 7th, I had no idea how the summer was going to be like. However, I did know that it was going to be challenging to me and help me grow – through what experiences though, I would have never imagined. I have stressed over big problems involving the safety of the community to small ones such as running out of buns for the night; all in all, I learned from the obstacles I was faced with each night. Now, with a week left of the program, I can honestly say that I am very sad to know that I only have a little while longer at the park. In my last post, I had tons of energy promising that I was going to post and keep my blog updated of SNL events and happenings. Little did I know that I wasn’t going to have time or energy to post about it, so for that, I apologize. Another thing that also hindered my posting was that my camera was stolen from the park. Lucky me right? But that is only a minor setback in blogging about my summer. I wish that there were more pictures to document my summer but here are a few.

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Summer Night Lights was a great experience for me. It has definitely entered into my heart as Homeboy Industries has… ::Quick Sidestory: The most recent winner of Last Comic Standing, Felipe Esparza comes from Boyle Heights and is associated with Homeboy Inds. Word up! Congratulations to him!:: … I am definitely proud to be a part it and continue on with the work that I love doing.

P.S. Anyone know of a job opening? I’m now unemployed again 😐

[[Mercc]]

"Chance"? 

A criminal is going to jail – what does that mean to you? To most of society, it is great news because the ‘dangerous’ are kept off the streets. Yet, let us really think about this one: When it is someone’s first time going jail they are introduced to a whole other world that most of us cannot comprehend. There is another set of rules in prison that does not apply to the outside world. From stories, reading books and watching documentaries, I know you have to comply not only with the guards but also the gangs within the jail, or else you are in hot water. Gangs inside the walls of prison have essentially become the control centers for street gangs. Police thought of breaking up gangs by jailing gang members and their leaders; however, this only united them and made them stronger. Now, rather than having hundreds of different gangs, prisons have been a place where ethnic groups band together. Here, they share their experiences and learn from one another on the workings of gang life on the streets.

Now, let’s go back to our friend that is about to have his first visit to the “big house”. I have heard many different ways of coping with hearing that a juvenile is going to adult prison for the first time: ‘It’s better that they are going to be kept off and away from the dangers of the streets’, ‘At least they are kept away from their friends who influence them in a negative way’, ‘This way, he/she will learn the hard way of their actions producing negative consequences’ and ‘My baby is too young for adult jail’. All in all, it is very hard to hear a parent of an 18-year-old whose child is going to adult jail for the first time; and, as a counselor [Miss Smith, not myself] what do you say to the parents? “Sorry to tell you, but your child will come back knowing more and more influenced than they were on the outs”…? What purpose does jail do for a juvenile? Does it save them from harm; act as a safe house? Does it school them in the newest tricks of the streets, a schoolhouse? Or does it “do its job” and jail them keeping them away from society, jailhouse?

As Hagedorn states in his book:

Rather than prison being a place to send gang members in an attempt to break up the gang, gangs have adapted and have used prison to advance their interests.

With institutionalization, gangs adapt to such change as losing their leader to being imprisoned rather than breaking apart.

Our criminal system needs a makeover! I’m not blaming Law Enforcement at all, but I believe we really need to think of and start talking about rehabilitation rather than just throwing everyone is jail that breaks a law. To finish, back to the first question, when we send another young adult to prison for the first time for a crime, what say you? All we know, they might be learning another way of thinking, a more dangerous set of ideals to follow… Maybe not, maybe that is exactly what they deserve… who really knows?

[[Mercc]]

Parenting is a job that no one can really understand until they are put in the position; as my mom says: “You’ll understand when you have your own kids”. So when it comes to parenting, who knows best? When caring for a newborn/toddler there are general tips and rules to follow, books to read, classes to take, but as children grow older, where are the tips? Who do you turn to for advice?

Parenting

As I come to speak and get to know some parents of juvenile offenders, I often wonder how much influence home life, such as parenting, has on the behaviors of these young adults. Granted, all families that I have met through my journey all come from the same socioeconomic background – they all share that. Yet, what they also share is the heartbreak and anguish over their children and their decisions. How much can you really parent a child coming into his/her young adult age? I know that teenagers are known for their lack of compliance with their parent’s wishes. And when they have an extremely hard personality to work with, how much more can the parents do?

Situation:

You are a parent of a juvenile offender. They are coming up on their 18th birthday and is still is getting caught up by police. What do you do? What can you possibly say to your child to have them understand that being an adult has its different set of consequences? Jail and prisons are not the easy camps they go through as children; it’s a different atmosphere, different set of rules.

Do you:

  • Become an over-bearing parent? Monitor their every move, set a stricter curfew, restrict who they are able to hang out with?
  • Become an easier, more laid-back parent? Let them “learn from their mistakes”, “whatever happens, happens”?
  • Balance the line between? Take care of them as much as you can until you cannot any longer?

If you think of these options [not the only ones, but have been the most standard options] there are clear pros and cons to each bullet point. What is a parent to do, especially when you do not have enough resources to support your family? As I have mentioned earlier, most of these families share the same lower socioeconomic class. When you can’t pay the bills of the house, have hardly enough food for the family, how can a parent post bail for their child? Or just have enough energy, time, and effort to look after them as much as they’d have to?

After reading this, just think of your parents and all that they have done for you. A simple, random ‘thank you’ will leave a smile on their heart :]


[[Mercc]]

I cannot even believe that I am even writing this in the first place, yet, I HAVE to get the news out…

homeboy industries needs your help!


Late last night, I saw a post on my friend’s Facebook saying that Homeboy Industries was closing its doors today. To quote:

“by now, if you have not heard, on friday, at 5 pm, homeboy industries shuts its doors after 23 years of service to the city of Los Angeles. We have had to lay off 300 people, senior staff included. the businesses – silkscreen, cafe, bakery and our school remain open. We need your help. send your donations now. $10, $20, $50. send your checks to Mona Hobson, 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012”

I could NOT believe that after opening its doors in 2001 – well, essentially in 1988 with the “Jobs For a Future” – Homeboy Industries had to layoff around 300 of its employees. Unfortunately, the horrible condition of the economy does not discriminate from great organizations like this and money-hungry businesses. With the slowing down of donations, Homeboy Industries and Father G [Greg Boyle] cannot afford to sustain the hundreds of amazing people that they employee everyday.

Sadly, this means a lot more than just a regular employee layoff; this means a huge risk for those former gang members that were employed by this organization. The motto of H.I. says it all: “Jobs not Jail” / “Nothing stops a bullet like a Job”. Without employment at Homeboy Industries, many of these former gang members aren’t very likely to find a job someplace else. As I have stated in a previous post, much of our society are not as open-minded to give a tattoo-filled man the opportunity for employment. What options do they have now?

For the moment, the silkscreen, cafe, bakery, and school remain open, however, everyone going back to work, go back as volunteers, not employees. And, as a huge supporter of this organization, I ,too,will try to dedicate my time to Homeboy Industries – whatever service I can lend. Please visit their site: http://www.homeboy-industries.org/donate.php and donate whatever you can to help them out. However, if you are as broke as I am, please help out by spreading the word! I, as well as thousands of others, would greatly appreciate any help. I am now in the works of trying to set up a fundraiser to help the cause… more of that to come later.

Lastly, here is another account from one of my best friends, who incidentally was the one who introduced me to Homeboy Industries back in 2006. Read up and be informed: http://gloriabosborne.blogspot.com/2010/05/homeboy-industries.html

[[Mercc]]

To begin…  my greatest apologies for going on a blogging break for the past few months. However, I am back and with much material to write about! Re-joining forces with the BEP team, I’m very excited about the new additions and changes in the program [more about BEP will be updated in another post]. I also recently have decided that I need to read more about this topic on my own and gather as much information as I can – not just psychological articles but whatever I can find. On that note, I have just purchased a book by John M. Hagedorn titled A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture.

For the more than a billion people who now live in urban slums, gangs are ubiquitous features of daily life. Though still most closely associated with American cities, gangs are an entrenched, worldwide phenomenon that play a significant role in a wide range of activities, from drug dealing to extortion to religious and political violence. In A World of Gangs, John Hagedorn explores this international proliferation of the urban gang as a consequence of the ravages of globalization. Looking closely at gang formation in three world cities-Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, and Capetown-he discovers that some gangs have institutionalized as a strategy to confront a hopeless cycle of poverty, racism, and oppression. In particular, Hagedorn reveals, the nihilistic appeal of gangsta rap and its street ethic of survival “by any means necessary” provides vital insights into the ideology and persistence of gangs around the world. This groundbreaking work concludes on a hopeful note. Proposing ways in which gangs might be encouraged to overcome their violent tendencies, Hagedorn appeals to community leaders to use the urgency, outrage, and resistance common to both gang life and hip-hop in order to bring gangs into broader movements for social justice.

Professor and author Hagedorn offers an interesting view on gangs and gang life. I am very interested in what the book has to offer; no doubt you will be reading several posts about what I learn from this book as well.

[[Mercc]]