On July 13, the author of ‘Forgive Everyone Everything,” Rev. Gregory Boyle will visit Oak Park’s St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy Church, 38 N. Austin Blvd, for a conversation about gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry.
Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries, a program he started in the Dolores Mission Church in Los Angeles to reduce gang violence in his community in the 1980s, the so-called “decade of death.” It peaked with 1,000 gang-related killings in 1992.
In 1988 Boyle and his parish started what would become Homeboy Industries, a program dedicated to providing a second chance to former gang members. Today, Homeboy Industries is a nonprofit that trains and employs former gang members and formerly incarcerated people in a dozen social enterprises, including a bakery, café and diner, food retail, catering, apparel and embroidery and electronics recycling. Yearly, it serves over 10,000 former gang members from across Los Angeles, not only through its job placement program but through services like case management, education, legal services, mental health services, substance abuse and tattoo removal.
His book “Forgive Everyone Everything” compiles stories from his over 30 years of working with former gang members, whom he calls the homies and homegirls, and their families.
“There’s no denying how difficult things can be,” Boyle wrote in his book. “But the way out to the place of resilience, the place of restoration, the place of not allowing your heart to be hardened by resentment, relies on one thing: forgive everyone everything.”
Marshall Hatch Jr., founder of the MAAFA Redemption Project will lead the conversation. Patricia Banks, executive director of SisterHouse Chicago, a faith-based residential program for women recovering from substance use, will also join the discussion.
The MAAFA Redemption Project, based in West Garfield Park is a faith-based residential institute for at-risk adult men of color where they receive wraparound services, residential support, workforce training and spiritual development.
Hatch Jr. is the son of Pastor Marshall Hatch Sr. of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, a renowned West Side civil rights activist and faith leader. Hatch Jr. met Jack Crowe, who is co-organizing the event, in his younger years, when Crowe was a mentor and leader who helped Hatch Jr. “get back on track.” When Hatch Jr. started his organization, the MAAFA Redemption Project, they stayed in touch and Crowe introduced Hatch Jr. to Boyle’s work.
“We took maybe 18 of our young man and I just remember being inspired myself, but they were [also] inspired by Father Boyle and his approach to the work,” Hatch Jr. said.
Hatch Jr., staff members and other justice-involved individuals would later participate in a silent retreat with Boyle, where Hatch Jr. says he learned the art of listening and the power of silence. Boyle also taught Hatch Jr. the depth and spirituality of the work he’s doing through MAAFA Redemption Project, what some would call violence prevention work, but what he calls “ministry.”
“We’re at the crossroads when it comes to gun violence, and I think the political rancor, it’s not helpful,” Hatch Jr. said, adding he follows a similar approach as Boyle. “I think this is a spiritual problem. It’s a problem of culture, it’s a problem of wellness, it’s a problem with community and I think what needs to be done is work at the individual level.”
Hatch Jr. hopes the July 13 conversation will “share new light” and pave the way forward to addressing the issues that affect the West Side of Chicago and western suburbs. This approach is encapsulated in the MAAFA Redemption Project’s mission statement that young male participants recite every day.
“We are the men of the MAAFA Redemption Project. We recognize that we cannot redeem our families and communities until we first redeem ourselves. Therefore, our mission is to invest in the mind, body and spirit. So that we may repair and rebuild our city one life at a time.”
The community conversation with Boyle will take place Thursday, July 13 at 3 p.m. at the St. Catherine-St. Lucy Gym, 38 N. Austin Blvd. RSVP is required and donations are encouraged.