Gang mentor Gregory Boyle to speak at Hanna Boys Center

Homeboy Industries founder promotes inclusivity|

Father Greg Boyle, writer, teacher, and founder of gang-intervention program Homeboy Industries, is bringing his philosophy of “radical kinship” to Hannah Boys Center on Dec. 5.

Hannah Boys Center special events manager Leslie Peterson said many of the staff have been devotees of Boyle over the years, but when Hanna chaplain Father Greg McGivern, saw him speak at the University of San Francisco, he knew he had to find a way to get Boyle to Sonoma.

“It was a natural fit to bring Father Boyle to Hanna,” Peterson said.

The seeds of Boyle’s Homeboy Industries were planted in 1988 after Boyle was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission Church in East Los Angeles.

The parish was located between two large public housing projects, and had the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles. Mass incarceration was the state’s go-to management model, but Boyle thought he had a better idea: treat gang members as human beings.

Working off the premise that gang violence is predicated on the absence of hope, Boyle started an alternative school, developed day care for working parishioners, and created “Jobs for a Future,” a program designed to build a bridge to legitimate employment for a population that had long been marginalized.

Kathy Witkowicki, co-founder of Sonoma Speaker Series, which is hosting Boyle’s presentation at Hanna, expects Boyle to inspire his audience.

“We are all very used to the term, ‘making a difference.’ But the difference Father Boyle is making is truly life-changing for thousands of young men (and now women) who are trying to rebuild their lives after being involved in gangs,” said Witkowicki. “He believes in them until they start to believe in themselves.”

In 1992, four years after arriving in L.A., Boyle expanded his reach with Homeboy Bakery, a program where former gang rivals bake bread together. In 2001 he established Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit which now includes a diner, café and restaurant, catering, electronics recycling, solar panel training and certification, silk-screening and groceries. Additionally, Homeboy Industries provides continuing education, therapy, tattoo removal, substance-abuse treatment, legal counsel and job placement assistance to participants.

Boyle is the author of the 2010 book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion,” and the recent, “Barking To the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.” He is also the subject of the 2012 documentary, “G-Dog.”

For his Sonoma Speaker Series talk, Boyle will key in on the guiding principles of his ministry but, ultimately, the content of his presentation remains a matter of faith.

“We will not restrict anything Father Boyle wants to talk about,” Peterson said. “Hanna has no agenda. We are very excited to have him speak.”

Father Boyle is speaking at Hanna Boys Center Auditorium, Dec. 5 at 6:15 p.m. The event is sold out.

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