Thursday, October 11, 2012

Meet Marcus

Marcus currently oversees our chips and salsa demo team. He and his team venture to over a hundred Ralphs and Food 4 Less locations across Southern California to share with the public their stories, Homeboy’s mission and of course, our tasty salsas. He recently took his first trip outside of Los Angeles to speak on behalf of Homeboy in Philadelphia.

Marcus pictured with our chips and salsa team at our annual fundraiser, Lo Maximo.

Marcus didn't know what to expect when asked to travel to the East Coast for the first time in his life. “I was just anxious. I remember once I was on the plane, that I just wanted to be in Philadelphia already.”

Once in Philly, the City of Brotherly Love quickly made an impression on Marcus. The different culture and feeling of the east coast exposed him to the idea that not everywhere in the United States is similar to things back home. Sure, people look the same, but it was their speech and attitude that stood out to him. He had expected everyone to be mobster or a character from the TV show The Sopranos.

Marcus will never forget the feeling he had right before he took the stage to share his story to an audience of a thousand supporters who came to listen to him. “I was nervous until I realized that the folks were so welcoming.” Many came up to Marcus when he was done speaking to ask for autographs. He was astonished that these complete strangers were touched by his story.

“It was a humbling experience to travel so far from home, to another state, to meet people for the first time and have them accept me for who I am, for whom I am becoming, and not judging me for my past.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Victories define the woman I am today.”

Last week, the Homeboy community was excited to share a special moment with one of our trainees. Rasheena’s determination paid off when she graduated with an AA in business, and it was an honor to watch her hold up the diploma that arrived in the mail. 

Rasheena was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her parents were drug addicts and career criminals, in and out of prison for as long as she could remember. Her grandmother raised Rasheena and her ten siblings. Rasheena’s grandmother was the only person she could rely on, and when she passed away unexpectedly three days before Christmas, Rasheena was left with nowhere to go and a whirlwind of emotions. Rasheena reluctantly went to live with her parents. Living there, she was exposed to their dangerous lifestyles and for the most part, left home alone, a place where she started experimenting with drugs at age twelve. In this unsupervised environment, Rasheena was also sexually abused by one of her brothers. She spent the next years in a cycle of manipulation and abuse. 

Though supportive family members moved in and out of her life, the instability and trauma in Rasheena’s life caused mental instability and bouts of depression. She turned to the streets, began to skip school daily to get high, trying to numb the pain and disgust she felt. She got involved with gangs because there she felt loved and protected.

Rasheena’s mother, whom she had become close with again after high school, passed away suddenly after Rasheena recovered from a devastating car accident. This sent Rasheena’s world spinning, and she participated in a crime that led to her incarceration. Rasheena was sentenced to 6 years and 8 months in prison, leaving her daughter alone just as her mother had done to her. Realizing the error of her ways and having grown tired of running from her past, Rasheena vowed to be stronger, no longer falling victim to others around her.

In March of 2012, Rasheena paroled. Her history and background caused doors to shut everywhere. She lost all hope because she could not find a job and did not know what direction her life would take. Finally, she found Homeboy, which she refers to as the “extraordinary place of chances”. 

The moment she walked through the doors she felt at peace as learned more about all of the services they offer. She began attending the majority of the self help classes offered, and became a part of the 18 month trainee program.
While at Homeboy Rasheesa is able to work on herself while also gaining employment skills, helping her to become a more productive member of society. Homeboy Industries has given her a chance to start a new life, with great opportunities that “are hers for the taking.”

Rasheena received the diploma she earned in the Spring last week. She plans to continue furthering her education. She has found a true safe-haven in Homeboy Industries and has developed the courage to finally speak out, hoping to reach out and help victims of abuse everywhere. Rasheena wants to share this advice: “when faced with life’s difficulties, always remember you’re not alone, your life is a precious gift, you too can achieve anything as long as you keep an open mind to life’s countless possibilities. Always remember no matter the hardship life throws our way, I am a living witness that time heals all wounds. Never again will I allow the horrors of my past to define me. I’ve broken through my barriers victoriously and these victories define the woman I am today.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

anthony's license

Anthony just got his Driver's License.  He proudly announced at morning meeting, "Finally, at 38, I got my license.  It's never too late.  I passed the test in the Homeboy van."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ya 'Stuvo Tattoo Removal

A team of 25 volunteer doctors with 3 laser machines perform over 850 tattoo removal treatments every month at Homeboy Industries.  All for free.  Welcome to Ya 'Stuvo Tattoo Removal...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Homeboy Museum

Small, perfect things happen every day at Homeboy. Amazing little happenings, human interactions that touch the soul. These moments are what makes this a place of healing and hope. Today at “the well” in the front lobby at Homeboy Industries, Daniel showed a drawing to Juan. As they looked at the drawing, other people came over to check out the picture. It was a beautiful drawing, with incredible detail, telling a bit of Daniel’s story. Daniel drew the images while in jail. He now carries the images with him and has the drawing neatly tucked into his GED binder.

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.