I wrote Peace in the Streets: Breaking the Cycle of Gang Violence hoping to help those who work, teach and live with gang youth.
The book starts with the true story of a one room school house in South Central Los Angeles. We started this school with 10,000 dollars, and took in two entire gangs. We were free to experiment with unique strategies and interventions, and while the school existed, not a single student was arrested, dropped out of school, or engaged in violence.
Short, easy to read chapters tell the individual stories of gang members. And each chapter describes the intervention and teaching strategy that worked to change a particular gang youth.
The second half of the book answers the question "what can a serious community do to end gang involvement and juvenile delinquency." I answer this question in 8 lessons, and offer practical advice to those who work or live with gang youth.
The final section of Peace in the Streets was much influenced by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. 10 years ago, this reservation community embarked on a decision to gather all tribal children and find a way to succeed with its extensive gang problem. Using tribal philosophy to create powerful interventions in its schools and juvenile justice system, they have slowly transformed the life of gang youth on the reservation. I pass on much of what worked for them. (you can read about this tribal philosophy and an update on their progress by clicking this link)
Finally, I add the personal lessons gained from 25 years work as an inner-city teacher, gang worker and family therapist in Los Angeles, Boston, Oakland and with Sureno-Norteno gang members of the Salinas Valley.
Artwork for the cover is from Peter Tovar, an originator of the "Chicano Art" movement and founding member of "Self-Help Graphics" in East Los Angeles. He took 6 months to create the pastel which the cover is shot from. Every image is inspired by a story from the book. The boy in a white t-shirt with outstretched arms in the center was originally an image from a mural near Olvera Street entitled "the crucified immigrant." The city covered it during the McCarthy years. CLICK HERE To read more about Peter Tovar, the images on the book cover, and find links to other Chicano Artists,
"Happy," a student at El Santo Nino, and today a good husband, involved father of 3, and homeowner.
Pima-Maricopa boys in traditional singing. They performed at our first planning meeting for a gang redirection strategy on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
A few of the students at El Santo Nino. All were members or Clanton Street and Primera Flats, two of L.A.'s oldest gangs.
We found learning disabilities in almost all students; and using volunteers from the police, colleges, parents, churches , recreation and local business, we taught them, kept them busy, helped them get jobs and win competitions; and slowly, helped these kids believe in themselves.
I believe you will find this book helpful in your work with gang youth, and affirming of our power to guide the most difficult children toward a positive,contributing adulthood.