Yesterday, I received some good news, no, some great news! … I was chosen to be a Youth Squad Supervisor for this years Summer Night Lights program in Los Angeles!! I am very excited about this program for several reasons. Firstly, the process has been in the works since March, so I have been waiting for a while. Secondly, it is in line with my ideal career and what better way to start off then to work with the Mayor’s office? And finally, I get to further my knowledge and experience of working with juvenile and at-risk youth… my favorite part! Thanks Caitlin for telling me about this!! :]

summer night lights 2010.

The program was first introduced in the summer of 2008 with the idea that if kids had an alternative place to hang out and spend their long, restless summer days/nights, then gang activity would decrease; the program proved to be a success.

Beginning with 8 parks, Summer Night Lights have expanded to 16 participating neighborhoods that have dangerous levels of gang activity. One way to engage the youth of the surrounding area, the Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development [GRYD] hire youth to be come Youth Squad Leaders. In this position, they are given the responsibility of a maintaining the program and to enjoy the summer themselves. According to research, youth usually commit crimes between 4 p.m. to midnight, and with the lack of school and the long days, crime rates peak even higher during the summer.

I am very excited to see what comes from this summer. I will no doubt enjoy the summer nights along with the hard work set out for me. Check this video out from last summer to see what it’s all about:

[[Mercc]]

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"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]]

I’m currently watching a documentary directed by Ice Cube, Straight Outta L.A. on ESPN’s 30 for 30.  This documentary is the first story that I have heard tying the Raider and gang culture together. I must say so far, very interesting…

NWA sporting their Raider "Uniform"

Starting with the move of the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982 as well as the beginning of the gangsta rap group, NWA, the Raider Nation culture was born. The link between the music that NWA produced and the “violent” football group, almost seems like they were made for each other. However, the two franchises sprung up independently, yet ultimately came together. The idea behind the colors and logo caught the attention of NWA as well as the gangsta culture all together. According to Ice Cube:

“[The Raiders] represented the L.A. I knew… It wasn’t the ‘Showtime’ Lakers, where people saw the glitz and the glamour. It wasn’t the ’84 Olympics. It was a little more grimy, and the Raiders represented that, in South Central [where they played]. They had the whole city on lock. To me, [this project] is the true representation of music and sports.”


You can catch a replay of the documentary Tonight @ 8pm on ESPN; Thursday @ 11pm on ESPN Classic; Saturday @ 3pm on ESPN or Sunday @ 6pm on ESPN 2.


[[Mercc]]

P.S. Go Chargers!!!