The Rev. Gregory Boyle of Los Angeles' Homeboy Industries has almost 30 years of experience helping others heal through the power of love and compassion. In a pre-recorded interview with "Father G," the Truthdig team sat down with the Jesuit priest, who shared his story of working in the margins of society and discussed how compassion can bridge the political divide in the United States.
As the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, the "largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world," Boyle has helped transform the Boyle Heights neighborhood in East Los Angeles. That neighborhood had the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles County when the Jesuit priest began his work in 1988. Boyle sought to replace the absence of hope with a sense of community in a place overrun with violence and despair.
Boyle's "homies" at Homeboy Industries looked to the priest for comforting words after election day, he said. On Nov. 9, Boyle received numerous text messages and phone calls asking, "Are they going to shut us down?" "The language and the tenor and the meanness and the hate, all that stuff, seemed to be ultimately embraced in this election. So yeah, it worried people," Boyle explained. But as someone who works closely with people who are largely worried about how to go forward with a President Trump, Fr. Boyle has experience with imparting advice and finding a silver lining.
"This is actually a time of great loss," Boyle said. "It's not the los of a candidate. Loss will always be a teacher, and it's always going to teach you what you care about. ... Cherish your broken heart and locate your heart because it's broken."
There must be a middle ground between normalizing our president-elect and demonizing Donald Trump and his supporters, Boyle said. "You don't give an inch, and you stand where you ought to stand," he said.
Demonizing is always untruth. Always, no exceptions. If I demonize Donald Trump, that is equally an untruth... or those who voted for him. It's not about normalizing. You don't have to demonize; you stand against that notion: 'I won't ever do it.' And if you know that the answer to every question is compassion to begin with, then all of a sudden you're gonna go, 'Ah, people carry a lot. I want to be respectful about what people carry.'
You want to be clear about things; you don't want to give an inch, and you don't want to somehow lose your sense of integrity and what is purposeful and right and just and good.
Watch the whole conversation below:
Homeboy Industries—which includes Homegirl Cafe, Homeboy Bakery and Homeboyfoods.com—takes what was then a radical approach: treating gang members as human beings. This involves employing former gang members after training them in an 18-month program. Homeboy Industries creates opportunities for jobs, education, legal help and counseling for 15,000 men and women every year.
“If there is a fundamental challenge within these [people's] stories, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives," Boyle wrote in his 2011 book, "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion."
Earlier this year, Truthdig featured poetry by former gang members and at-risk youths in Homeboy Industries' creative writing class. The series was called "Homeboy Creative."
You can watch past editions of “Live at Truthdig” here.
—Posted by KiMi Robinson