We had just parked on an industrial side street in East Los Angeles. This was my
group’s next stop after a day working with students at a local Catholic elementary
school. The buildings on each side of the street had beautiful graffiti-esque murals
and the street itself was in desperate need of repaving. We looked for the Homeboy
Industries sign and when we found it, we walked towards the building we knew
must be their silk screen shop.
The Homeboy Industries silk screen shop is part of the non profit organization
founded by Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. that provides jobs for former gang members.
We were greeted by a man named Anthony. He introduced himself as a Sales
Manager at Homeboy Industries’ silk screening business. He started by telling us his
Anthony was pulled into a gang at the age of seven by his father’s side of the family.
Hearing this after spending a day with children at an elementary school really
brought this to life for me. I struggled to imagine one of the second graders I had
just been playing with out on the blacktop, participating in gang activity. Anthony
told us that had his first child at the age of fifteen and became a heavy drug user.
After spending four years in prison, Anthony realized he needed a change in his life.
His mom, who had met Fr. Greg while he was in prison, referred him to Homeboy
Anthony told us about how his job acts as a lifeline for him just as it does for all of
his colleagues by keeping them away from the harmful practices and people they
were once associated with, as well as providing a new family and the resources to
live a positive life. He shared with us that many of his former fellow gang members
were not supportive of the fact that he had left the gang to work at Homeboy, but
that it really doesn’t matter anymore. He has a new community.
Since our tour was during normal business hours, the shop was in the middle of
production. Anthony told us they’ve been known to fill an order for 3000 shirts
in half a day. They work together like a family. We made our way over to the silk
screen machines and were so excited to see that the shirts they were working on
were for “SCU Sustainability.” I already knew what Homebody Industries does
and that many organizations at Santa Clara University use them to print shirts, but
meeting the people who do the silk screening, seeing them in action, and hearing
about how this job has made such a difference for them and their families was
really powerful. I always see students wearing these shirts on campus. I’m excited
because now I know that whenever I wear one of my shirts or see somebody else
wearing a shirt from a Search retreat, or other on campus organization, I will
remember the stories from Anthony and the other homies, and how much their jobs
mean to them.