I was born in 1980, and my formative years occurred primarily in the 1990s. The (sometimes) poetic lyrics of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. comprised the soundtrack of my middle school and high school years. The United States was transfixed and concerned about NWA’s F*** the Police, then the Los Angeles race riots, and ongoing gang violence remained in the news for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, my middle class, Caucasian self was completely clueless to the true struggles occurring in the inner city outside of the rap lyrics filling my ears.
I recently picked up a book called “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle. In the 1980s, Father Gregory Boyle began his ministry at the Dolores Mission church, located in one of the poorest parts of the city of Los Angeles. Boyle, a Jesuit priest, witnessed the extent of the gang violence in LA. The book serves as Boyle’s memoir and is structured around the stories of young people with whom he’s interacted over the years. Each chapter discusses different gang members and ex-gang members Boyle meets, as well as the lessons they taught one another.
Boyle decided that he would use his religious training to address the terrifying problems plaguing their community. He started by allowing and welcoming all people, gang members or not, to Mass. He also began a school program for gang members who’d been kicked out of the public school system. Finally, he founded a nonprofit called Homeboy Industries. The organization was created to provide employment, tattoo removal, psychiatric counseling, and other services for ex-gang members looking to change their lives. Homeboy Industries is still running to this day.
- Read the book, Tattoos on the Heart.
- Father Gregory’s 2018 Commencement Speech at Pepperdine and a lengthy interview with the Jesuit Review on radical kinship.
- Father Gregory Boyle believes radical kinship can solve many of society’s issues. How might you spark radical kinship in your sphere of influence?**