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Posts Tagged ‘los angeles’


Photo: Homeboy Industries
The Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.

I recently heard Terry Gross interview this amazing priest, founder of the world’s largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program, on her radio show Fresh Air. This is a man who lives his religion, ministering to the outcasts of society.

“GROSS: My guest, Father Greg Boyle, has worked with former gang members in LA for over 30 years. He’s the founder of Homeboy Industries, which was created to help former gang members and people transitioning out of prison create stable lives and stay out of gangs. Instead of Father Greg trying to convince business owners to hire young people who are at risk, he created jobs for them through Homeboy Industries.

“Homeboy is a series of businesses including a restaurant, a bakery, cafe, farmers markets created with the purpose of hiring these young people so they can have on-the-job training. The employers come from rival gangs so they have to put aside their distrust and hatred of each other. Homeboy also provides other job training and social service programs. …

“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Father Greg spent a lot of time on the streets. He’s witnessed shootings, he’s buried over 200 young people and he’s kept on with the work in spite of being diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia about 15 years ago. He started working with gangs in 1986 when he became the pastor of the Dolores Mission Church in East LA, which was then the city’s poorest Catholic parish. He’s just written his second book, called, Barking To The Choir: The Power Of Radical Kinship.

“Father Greg Boyle … you say that employment isn’t necessarily going to totally change someone’s life. They might end up back in prison. But if somebody’s healed, that will change their life possibly forever. What’s the distinction you make between [the employment] opportunity that you’re giving them and healing?

“BOYLE: Thirty years ago when we started Homeboy Industries, you know, the motto was nothing stops a bullet like a job, and that was a response to gang members saying if only we had work. And that was essential, but then when we discovered that, you know, we would dispatch gang members to jobs. But the minute any kind of monkey wrench was tossed into the mix, they would unravel, you know, that there was no resilience.

“There was no healing. And they would go right back to gang life or go back to prison. So it was then that we kind of, probably 15 years ago, we said, you know, healing is probably more necessary along with the fact that people need to have a reason to get up in the morning and a place to go and a reason not to gang bang. …

“So we altered our [stance] from just finding a job for every gang member or employing them with us but also trying to have them come to terms with whatever suffering they’ve been through and trauma. …

“GROSS: You talk about people whose parent would put their head in the toilet and flush the toilet and nearly drown them. … So when people have been brought up like this, and they’re also poor and they have no real future prospects, how do you heal them? …

“BOYLE: Well, part of what we have at Homeboy is this irresistible culture of tenderness, you know, where people kind of hold each other. …

“We don’t get tripped up so much by behavior. Even gang violence itself is a language. … What language is it speaking? You know, it’s not about the flying of bullets. It’s about a lethal absence of hope. So let’s address the despair. And the same thing is with behavior.

“I mean, we bring it up, and at some point we say, we think you’re telling us that you’re not ready to be here. We love you. We think you’re great. Come back when you’re ready. So that’s the thing we do often enough. And we drug test because we don’t want anyone to numb their pain as they do the work. …

“They’re not going to be able to transform their pain if they’re inebriated or if they’re constantly smoking marijuana. … They’re used to self-medicating. They’re used to escape. They want to find that place where they can’t see their pain from. And the antidote, really, is to hold them in a place where they feel cherished, and that’s really compelling.”

There’s so much food for thought in this long interview. Read it at NPR, here.

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Photo: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times
Lining up for tacos outside the Islamic Center of Santa Ana.  The ‘Taco Truck at Every Mosque’ event for iftar (evening meal that breaks the fast during Ramadan) promotes solidarity and understanding.

Community organizers are getting creative with ways to pull different groups together. Consider this California example.

Anh Do writes at the Los Angeles Times: “Activists Rida Hamida and Ben Vazquez wanted to find a way to promote unity among the region’s Muslim and Latino communities, so they came up with a novel idea.

“After daily fasting as part of the holy month of Ramadan, dozens of local Muslims joined their Latino neighbors Saturday night in the parking lot of the new Islamic Center of Santa Ana, taking part in the inaugural event of the campaign dubbed Taco Trucks at Every Mosque.

“Organizers said the idea is to demystify Islam through the sharing of food and to unite two groups, Muslims and Latinos, facing increasing discrimination. …

” ‘This is perfect timing. The purpose of this month is to give charity, to grow our character and our inner lives and to nourish our soul through service. What better way to do that than by learning from one another?’ asked coordinator Hamida, whose goal is to host food trucks that will serve halal tacos at every mosque in Orange County. …

“Even young participants such as Idrees Alomari, 13, were encouraged by Saturday’s event, which he said was a good way to show how people can appreciate their differences and similarities. …

” ‘All the way from the parking entrance to inside, everyone’s been like, “Welcome, welcome, we’re so glad to have you here,” ‘ said Dulce Saavedra, 24, [a] youth organizer for Resilience OC, a nonprofit created from the merging of Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color and Raiz, a group pushing for partnerships between law enforcement and immigrants.” More at the Los Angeles Times, here.

This initiative reminds me of an annual event that took place in Lowell, Mass. It was a gigantic soccer tournament with teams from the scores of immigrant groups in the city. I always admired the ONELowell initiative because it can be hard to get minorities to band together and realize they can collaborate to promote common needs. Sharing a sport loved by many nationalities seemed like a good place to start.

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Photo: Los Angeles Times
Jackie DesRosier conducts a YOLA at HOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at Heart of Los Angeles) youth orchestra spring concert.

The arts have a mysterious capacity to touch people in ways that nothing else does. It’s as if most of what we do or even think about every day is on the surface of things, involving the small part of our brains that is conscious. The arts, however, can reach into the unconscious part and make hidden flowers bloom.

Read how, in Los Angeles, an arts program is helping students flourish.

Jessica Gelt writes at the Los Angeles Times, “It is one of the most densely populated areas west of the Mississippi. The poverty rate is over 35%, and more than a quarter of all households earns less than $15,000 per year. At least 30 gangs roam the streets, recruiting children as young as 9. The high school graduation rate is around 50%.

“That’s the state of affairs in Westlake, Pico Union and Koreatown, according to the organization Heart of Los Angeles. The group reaches more than 2,000 kids in those neighborhoods every year through after-school arts and athletics programs, but its crowning achievement is its partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic: Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at Heart of Los Angeles, or YOLA at HOLA. …

“The program provides intensive orchestral instruction, including classes on music creativity, singing and ensemble rehearsals, to 250 students in 1st through 12th grades. Classes take place daily. An hour of academic tutoring is thrown in each afternoon for good measure. …

“More than 350 families land on the waiting list for programs at HOLA every quarter, so Brown said HOLA wants to build a recreation center to serve more people. The statistics coming out of the HOLA’s academic enrichment, visual arts and music programs speak to why demand is so high.

“Of the 63 students in those programs who were high school seniors in 2015, 100% of them graduated, and 97% went on to college. …

“[HOLA Executive Director Tony] Brown and his staff are aggressive in preventing kids from falling between the cracks. They sometimes attend parent-teacher conferences to find out what support a child needs, and when a student disappears from their programs, a staff member might make a house call to help bring that student back. …

“Brown likes to tell the success story of a boy named Raymond who came through the program as a troubled middle-school student. His grandmother brought him to YOLA at HOLA because he was failing in school and in danger of joining a gang.

“ ‘This young man started playing the clarinet, and he played the heck out of it. Next thing you know he’s earned his way to playing in London with YOLA at HOLA and Dudamel,’ Brown said, referring to the youth orchestra’s 2013 trip overseas. Raymond is now attending UC Santa Cruz.”

Read why National Endowment for the Arts is crucial to this program, here.

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What is going on with the oceans? Warming trends are bringing sea creatures further north and for longer periods.

In January, Oliver Milman reported at the Guardian about a sea snake with a suggestive name (“Why you yellow-bellied sea snake, you …!”) that has suddenly shown up in California.

“California beachgoers have been urged to steer clear of a species of highly venomous sea snake following a third, and unprecedented, instance of an aquatic serpent washing up on to the state’s beaches.

“A 20-inch yellow-bellied sea snake was discovered on a beach near San Diego … The sighting was the third reported instance since October of the species, which prefers the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans, washing up on California’s beaches.

“The only previous verified sighting of a washed-up yellow-bellied sea snake was in 1972. Experts believe the snakes have ridden a warm current of water, fueled by the exceptionally strong El Niño climatic event, farther north than they have ever previously ventured. …

“ ‘It’s been an incredibly interesting year for southern California. We’ve seen tuna and marlin and tropical bird species such as red-footed boobies,’ said Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. …

“Yellow-bellied sea snakes are fully aquatic snakes capable of swimming vast distances. Although they are highly venomous, their targets are small fish and it’s thought they have yet to cause a recorded human death. However, Pauly said people should keep their distance if they encounter another washed-up snake.

“ ‘They are fairly docile and it’s unlikely for someone to be envenomated,’ he said. ‘It’s rare for them to bite people, it’s usually fishermen who are carelessly pulling up fishing nets.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Carolyn Larcombe/Wandiyali Images
Seen in California after el Niño, yellow-bellied sea snakes usually live in the deep waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. 

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Green sea turtles are being seen farther north these days, thanks to a very warm river in California.

Sanden Totten has the story at National Public Radio. “The green sea turtle typically lives in tropical waters, like the shores of Mexico or Hawaii. But recently, scientists have discovered a population swimming year-round in a river just south of Los Angeles. It’s the northernmost group of these turtles known to science. …

” ‘The small turtles have heads about the size of a golf ball or even a small lime, and the large turtles, their heads are about the size of a softball or grapefruit,’ [Cassandra Davis of the Aquarium of the Pacific] says.

“Her group has been carrying out this sea turtle census for about three years. She estimates there are between 30 and 100 turtles in the area. But why these large tropical creatures chose this place to settle down is a mystery. It’s a river sometimes mired in trash next to a busy road and a military base. …

“Dan Lawson, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration … says the river is a mix of salt and fresh water, which is good for sea turtles. It seems to have plenty of food. And it has another thing going for it.

“There are two power plants — one on each side of the river. They both suck in cold ocean water and use it to cool their generating systems. This process ends up heating the water before it’s dumped back into the river. This warm outflow results in a sort of turtle Jacuzzi. …

“But, he says, there’s a catch. Over the next decade or so, the plants will phase out this method of using ocean water as a cooling mechanism. That means, eventually, no Jacuzzi. It’s unclear how this will affect the federally protected turtles.” More here.

Reading about warm water from power plants reminds me that when we lived in Rochester, New York, we heard that there was good fishing near a power plant on Lake Ontario. But the unnatural heating of the water is really not considered good for the environment.

Photo: Sanden Totten/Southern California Public Radio/KPCC
A recently rescued sea turtle recovering on the banks of the San Gabriel River.

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It was good to have a little lawn when Suzanne and John were kids, but we gave up the hassle after they grew up. In place of a lawn we have a lovely ground cover called vinca. In spring the yard is entirely purple.

On the East Coast as fall approaches, many homeowners are thinking about taking advantage of cooler weather to rev up their lawns. But in the Southwest there’s a concerted effort to move away from the green carpet.

Ian Lovett writes at the NY Times that since 2009, Los Angeles “has paid $1.4 million to homeowners willing to rip out their front lawns and plant less thirsty landscaping.

“At least the lawns are still legal [there]. Grass front yards are banned at new developments in Las Vegas, where even the grass medians on the Strip have been replaced with synthetic turf.

“In Austin, Tex., lawns are allowed; watering them, however, is not — at least not before sunset. Police units cruise through middle-class neighborhoods hunting for sprinklers running in daylight and issuing $475 fines to their owners.”

In Las Vegas “in the last decade, 9.2 billion gallons of water have been saved through turf removal, and water use in Southern Nevada has been cut by a third, even as the population has continued to grow. …

“The idea that extensive grass lawns are wasteful has now taken hold with many people in this region, especially the young and environmentally conscious.

“And municipalities, hoping [the] savings can be expanded, have tried to entice more residents to dig up their lawns by offering more money. Last month, Los Angeles raised its rebate to $2 from $1.50 a square foot of grass removed. Long Beach now offers $3 a square foot.” Read more here.

Photos: Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Top, Flowering artichoke plants in Mitch and Leslie Aiken’s drought-tolerant yard in Pasadena, Calif. Below, the couple survey the effect of desert plantings.

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Just a quick post to say that there are some lovely blogs on WordPress, where Suzanne’s Mom’s blog is housed. I recently noticed two in particular I wanted to share.

The first features the Modern Museum of Glass Art in Copenhagen.

The second has photos of cool cut-paper art. Enjoy.

 

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