KIND partnered with the Plywood Presents conference in Atlanta, Georgia in mid-August to gather a group of pioneers in business and social entrepreneurship. Presenters were chosen to “instigate dialogue as doers of unthinkable action.” Here we share a few of their powerful messages. This presentation was reported and written by Deborah Lubbe of Plywood.
Occasionally, life offers up the opportunity to bump into individuals who not only inspire you, but who also make you want to jump out of your seat and go DO something. They not only call us to action, they sober our minds with the reality of what could be. They are curators of hope and Father Gregory Boyle is one such individual.
Father Greg has been the visionary and driving force behind Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles since 1988, which serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women with a continuum of free services and programs and seven social enterprises that serve as job-training sites. Today, Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the United States, providing services each year to former gang members and gang-impacted individuals based in the highest concentrated areas of gang violence in LA.
Originally, Father Greg was charged with the task of finding educational institutions that would allow gang members re-entry into the education system. He met dead end after dead end. So in true entrepreneurial fashion, he crafted a new vision, replacing the motto of “Tough on Crime” with “Love on People.”
After listening to Father Greg for five minutes, he begins to drill down to what Homeboy Industries’ vision is; a community focused on kinship. He says, “Kinship does not see color or gang origin.” It sees common ground. It sees family. He stands with those whose dignity has been stolen. He says, “If kinship was our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice, we would be celebrating it.”
As Father Greg shared success stories, my understanding of the value, and need for kinship grew. The trainees in his program work alongside former enemies, individuals who once would have shot at each other in an alley, stand side-by-side. Now they work toward common goals and in a common space. Eventually, barriers will come down, and new bonds will be built. As Father Greg says, “It is hard to demoralize someone you work with, and do life with each day.”
In the face of hopelessness and potential failure, Father Greg kindly reminded us that it was Mother Teresa who said, “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful to the vision.”
I could attempt to recount the numerous stories Father Gregory shared; however, I would not do them justice. Instead, I would encourage you to take a few minutes and visit the Homeboy Industries Blog, which is filled with incredible stories of the lives impacted by Homeboy Industries. Check his Plywood Presents talk. Follow Father Greg, and potentially glean more wisdom, as he shares the transformations taking place firsthand on Twitter at @homeboyind.