Documentary Week: G-Dawg

G-Dawg. That’s what the young
Latinos of East Los Angeles affectionately call Father Greg Boyle. Jesuit
priests are usually found in the many colleges they founded in America,
mulling over weighty theological questions. Greg Boyle is a Jesuit in the mean
streets of the barrio, working with gangbangers. Sooner or later, the young
people realize they can’t continue in the gang life and that their luck in
staying alive might someday run out. Others get married, have children, and
want to leave the gangs and meet their new responsibilities. That’s not so easy
if have a spotty education, no job experience and little family support
(indeed, the gang is often the only family some of them know). This is where
Father Greg steps in. His slogan is “Jobs, not jails.” If he can’t
find a job for some kids, he tries to employ them at Homeboy Industries, a
group of companies he started–then turned over to the former gang members.
Homeboy Industries includes a bakery, a silk-screening business, a landscaping
service and the Homegirl Cafe, where young Latinas plan the menu, cook, and
serve the food. G-Dawg also has ten volunteer doctors removing the tattoos that
mark these young people with gang signs–making them targets for assassination
by a rival gang. Father Greg told me that the LAPD has given up on the
gangbangers and want them all in jail. A priest, however, believes in
redemption and Greg Boyle shows it can happen. He’s not saving souls, he’s
saving lives.

Producer Andy Danyo was
the one who told me about Greg Boyle and she produced the 2005 interview which
we’re airing again on Friday. The interview had a couple of other things going
for it. Father Greg happens to be a superb story-teller who knows exactly how
to build drama and deliver a great snappy closing sentence. He is also a
cancer survivor and the concern his young people had for him is a big part of
the story. I’ve spent 40 years doing 30,000 interviews—THIS one is my


Leave a Reply