A novel summer job program took place this summer at the Pico-Aliso housing project in Boyle Heights: Six youths were hired to document life in the predominantly Latino project through photographs, videos and interviews. Some of their scores of photographs and excerpts from interviews are presented this week in City Times.
Gang conflicts in the 4,800-resident project are a dominant theme of the material, although the collection also reflects efforts in the community to confront gang violence and other social problems.
Participating in the program were Grace Campos, 17; Joe Diaz, 21; Becky Garcia, 19; Larry Nguyen, 16; Erica Parra, 19; and Johnny Saldana, 22. The program was organized by the Proyecto Pastoral at the Dolores Mission Church and funded by $15,000 from the Liberty Hill Foundation's Fund for a New L.A. and $3,000 from the city's L.A. Arts Recovery Fund.
This fall, an exhibit of the work is to be displayed in three different places within Pico-Aliso so that some young residents concerned about crossing into another gang's territory can view the show.
Organizers also hope the exhibit can be displayed in other parts of Los Angeles.
"If I had the opportunity to leave these projects, I would, but not forever. I like everything about these projects. I've been in a gang for about four years. . . . I almost lost my life for being in a gang. They shot me near my heart, I was hospitalized for a few months. Before I got out, the hospital said I was going to stop 'banging. But look at me, I haven't changed." --Bandit, 17
"If I had any kids I wouldn't want them to follow my footsteps. I want them to succeed. I want to make life worth living for them." --Snoopy, 20
"There's often this fear and prejudice built in about people who happen to live on another side of the street. Yet when I'm able to cross the street back and forth I see the same problems, the same issues, the same dress, the same language." --Father Jerry, associate pastor, Dolores Mission Church
"At the beginning, it bugged me to work with guys from another gang, another neighborhood. But now it's like work. . . . Everybody gets along, playing around like nothing. As long as nobody mention the gangs, everything is all right." --Alfonso "Green", about working at Homeboy Bakery
"Dear God, I am tired and frightened of this violence and hatred. May my prayer from my heart reach up to your throne and put in my homeboys hand a Bible instead of a stone." --La Silly Girl (in memory of Triste, June 28, 1975-May 15, 1993)
"It was not long ago when all my homeboys were playing with toys but now they find pleasure in guns. Those are the toys." --La Silly Girl (in memory of Triste, June 28, 1975-May 15, 1993)