For a moment today, before morning meeting started, the lobby at Homeboy was like a Museum gallery. The curator and artist Daniel, talking to Juan and Gabriel about his drawing, explaining the images and telling the story of the picture. If you look closely at Daniel’s drawing, you can see in the images, six hands. They spell out “I love you”, sitting atop Mayan inspired pedestals. Off over in the top right corner of the drawing, is an image of an hourglass. Daniel spoke of the time he knew he was wasting while in prison and that the hourglass symbolized that wasted time.
Daniel recently spoke at Homeboy’s annual gala, Lo Maximo. He told his story to the over 800 guests in attendance.
He grew up the youngest of seven kids and his father died when he was four years old, leaving his mother to raise all of her children as a single parent. Daniel started hanging out on the street at an early age, drinking and doing drugs. He was incarcerated for the first time when he was 15. In jail was the first --- and still only time --- that Daniel has ever slept in a bed.
As Daniel reflects on this time, he says that he tried to always look for a way to get back into jail. He was good at this fighting and gang-lifestyle thing. Daniel decided to change his life when his daughter was born. The instant he saw her, he wanted nothing to do with the violent life he had been living.
Daniel came to Homeboy in January this year for tattoo removal. He had no idea he could get a job, and he applied right away once he found out. He is now on our janitorial/maintenance crew. He says, “Homeboy is more than a job, or a class or a tattoo removal. It has helped me change into the person I want to be.”
Daniel is working right now to gain shared custody of his daughter. With help at Homeboy from his therapist, case manager, and the legal services department, Daniel has the help and the tools necessary to go through this process in family court. Daniel is forthcoming that at first, “The judge didn’t like me, but who could blame her, with my rap sheet?” But Daniel also says, “I’m growing on her.”
Daniel now has unsupervised weekend visits with his daughter. Daniel never thinks he will lose the fighter in himself, but now he does it the right way and fights for the important things in his life, like being a dad. Homeboy has brought Daniel hope.
When Daniel shares his story, his drawings, parts of his life and his past, he is helping others. He is helping others find hope, encouraging them to make that first tattoo removal appointment, to go to an addiction class, to sign up for GED tutoring, to come to Homeboy and apply for a job.