Author and founder of Homeboy Industries Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., spoke about his experiences with the program, which assists former gang members, the recently incarcerated, and high-risk youth, on Tuesday. Boyle described the inspiration behind the work he does and shared the testimonies of two colleagues working at Homeboy during the event, which was sponsored by the Courage to Know program as part of the “Conversation Partners” speaker series.
The genesis of Homeboy Industries came when Boyle was working as the pastor of Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles, which is located in an area with high gang activity. What first started as a school for at-risk youth evolved into multiple enterprises employing recovering gang members, as well as offering social services and training programs.
Boyle accredits Homeboy’s success with his generous and welcoming ideology of helping marginalized communities through personal connection and mutual interest, bridging the gap between service providers and service receivers. He challenged the typical narrative of generosity, saying people too often focus on reaching out instead of asking how they can be reached by others.
“You actually don’t go to the margins to make a difference—you go to the margins so that the folks at the margins make you different,” he said.
The idea of mutual transformation and mutual influence was a common theme within both Boyle’s words and the stories shared by his two colleagues. Omar and Francisco, two former gang members who now work at Homeboy, accompanied Boyle at the event. They shared their testimonies of how they came to work at Homeboy and how their lives have changed since becoming a part of that community.
The word Omar and Francisco expressed most during their testimonies was “open,” conveying not only the environment and community at Homeboy but also the lens through which they came to view their situation and experiences.
“Being at Homeboy, it really opened my eyes to what I needed to fix and what I needed to address so I won’t repeat the same cycle for the next generation, for my children,” said Francisco.
Boyle parted by sharing a sentiment that had been repeated throughout the talk—empowering those listening to take the values and compassion they learned at BC out into their careers and lives following graduation.
“BC is not the place you come to. It is the place you go from,” he said. “You go from here to imagine a circle of compassion, and then to imagine that nobody is standing outside of that circle. You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude.”
Katelyn Zilke / Heights Staff