By Matthew Schwartz:
Although the day started out early, it paid off. Leaving Las Vegas (pretty much an adult playground) for the City of Angels was exciting. The drive through the spacious desert was unique and filled with cacti.
Along the way, we stopped at Peggy Sue’s, a 1950s-themed diner. The food and atmosphere were incredible! Following brunch, we jumped back on the road. Within a few hours the skyline of Downtown L.A. appeared in the distance.
Our first stop in L.A. was at Homeboy Industries in Chinatown. Walking into the lobby area was eye-opening. There were tons of people walking around and offices with see-through glass panels. As a result, it was a bit overwhelming. Then, we split into two groups to learn about the history, process, and goals of the organization. My tour-guide explained how Father Greg Boyle established Homeboy Industries by starting a bakery where rival gang members would be forced to work together. Here the mentality of Homeboy Industries was created. “Father G” wanted to create an environment to rehabilitate former prisoners, gang members, or troubled members of society. This assistance is an eighteen-month program, in which these people learn to become productive members of the community and train for jobs. Some of their slogans include “Jobs not jails” and “Nothing stops a bullet like a job”. The organization offers free therapy, training, detox, tattoo removal, and more to help lead these people to success. Some jobs the members obtain are through the many businesses run by Homeboy Industries, such as Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy/Girl Merchandise, Homeboy Farmers Markets, The Homeboy Diner at City Hall, Homeboy Silkscreen & Embroidery, Homeboy Grocery and Homeboy Cafe & Bakery at LAX. It was a very powerful tour and moved all of us.
From there we headed to The Grove and Farmer’s Market. At The Grove there were dozens of stores and a beautiful environment. Just one street over was the Farmer’s Market, where we ate dinner. The food ranged from Indonesian to Brazilian to Italian. There were so many options that it seemed endless!
At night we went to a poetry slam that was a new experience for many in the group. The atmosphere was energetic and the audience (including us) was eager to hear the stories written by the poets. Many of the performers took a different approach by using a soundtrack, while others just rhymed without any guidance. The poems were incredibly powerful; as the first person stated in theirs, “Words can be weapons.” Poetry Slam demonstrates that anger, frustration, and many other emotions can be channeled creatively into poetic strength.